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Paradox scrambles to roll back prices after backlash

CEO accepts blame, ends the month-long standoff with fans

Concept art for Crusader Kings 2.
Paradox Interactive
Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Paradox Interactive, the Swedish developer and publisher known for its strategy games, is scrambling to roll back recent price hikes on a number of titles internationally. CEO Fredrik Wester himself took to the official forums to apologize and promise to attempt refunds.

“I have promised myself never to give in to mob mentality,” Wester wrote after spending a solid day reading through the company’s forums. “It's one of the worst things I know and a terrible way to convince me. In fact, being a pig-headed CEO of a company that has grown from 7 people to 225 during time I have had the privilege to run it, I have probably from time to time been more prone to say ‘no’ than ‘yes’ when people gang up on me/us to make us change our minds.

“In this case, my change of stance has been made from communicating with people who have been active in our community for 10+ years, people who spent thousands of hours in our games and coming to the conclusions you find above.”

Word of the price increases, which affected several international regions differently, kicked in around May 17 without much prior notice. A thread went up on the official Paradox forums noting the change, and a moderator who goes by the handle TinyWiking quickly jumped on the grenade.

“The reason for this is to make our prices match the purchasing power of those areas,” they wrote, “as well as create a more equal price point for our products across the globe. Our prices have remained pretty much the same for several years and it's only natural for us to re-evaluate price points at regular intervals based on the strength of various currencies, fluctuations in world markets and many other factors. This is something that all publishers do and we are no exception.”

That comment received nearly 270 hits from those who “respectfully disagree” with it and only 39 who agree.

The fallout on Steam was much worse. Fans used the new review system, which gives added weight to more recent entries, to cause a precipitous drop in the score of many of Paradox’s marquee franchises. One roundup by a Paradox forum-goer found Europa Universalis 4 downgraded to “mostly negative” with only 29 percent positive reviews and Crusader Kings 2 showing as “mixed” with only 40 percent positive reviews.

The decision to roll back the price changes came just hours after the start of the Steam Summer Sale, where many of Paradox’s games are heavily discounted. Wester assures customers that he will honor the pre-May pricing, even though Steam is unable to change it in their system.

“You deserve more transparency and better communication from Paradox when it comes to changing of our prices and pricing policy,” Wester wrote. “Therefore I have decided to roll back all price changes made. ... I just came off the phone with Steam and they say we can't do the roll-back before the Summer Sale is over (otherwise it would mean we have to take all Paradox products off the Summer Sale) but it will be done right after.

“For anyone who bought any of the games during this time (including during the Summer Sale) we will try to refund (if possible in the Steam platform) or reimburse with games of a value exceeding the difference. If none of this is possible (I do not in detail know the limits to the Steam platform) we will internally calculate the difference in revenue before and after the price change, double the value, and donate the money to the UNHCR [The United Nations Refugee Agency].”

Wester signed the forum post with his full email address. He also took the opportunity to shoot down what he called a “conspiracy theory” that held that Tencent, the Chinese investing company which recently purchased a five percent stake in Paradox, was responsible for the price increases.

“The whole ‘Tencent bought 5% of Paradox and now they're all greedy’ and ‘They're now a publicly traded company and therefore do things the market wish for’ is below the level of intelligence of this community,” Wester said. “I still hold 33.3% in Paradox, I am still CEO, board member and avid gamer. All you need to know is that the buck stops here. All problems/feedback can easily be sent my way, I will not always agree but I promise to listen.”

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