In a recent update, BattleTech developers Harebrained Schemes made an announcement regarding a partnership with Paradox Interactive. The terms of the partnership are laid out in full, including additional funding for play-testing, localization, and marketing. In exchange, Paradox is receiving a “cut of the game’s sales,” though how much is not disclosed.
Essentially, Paradox is acting as a publisher for BattleTech, which wouldn’t be anything new for a Kickstarter game.
Many backers are not taking the news well, though.
“Glad I only paid the bare minimum for this project,” backer ‘some furf’ posted. “Paradox is a bad joke and now they own you, don’t you ever try to suggest that they won’t have the game done their way.”
“I’m glad everything was essentially done before Paradox got involved, because that company has a horrible reputation. I’ve bought their games in the past, and they are a buggy mess on day one,” says Eric Loken. “They will release three patches, no more, within the first year, and if the game is good after that time, good for you, and if not, sucks to be you.” He continues:
“Personally I think their reputation will hurt post release sales as many people will see Paradox and think ‘buggy mess, I’ll wait until it’s patched’, and probably wonder what mods will be necessary so it will actually be BattleTech and not some Paradox facsimile of BT.”
That’s quite an extreme view, and a bold prediction.
It’s hard not to blame them. Between numerous high profile Kickstarter failures as of late such as Mighty No. 9 and Yooka-Laylee, it’s not hard to see why the average backer’s confidence is at an all-time low. Paradox Interactive was once a shining light of immaculate games, such as Crusader Kings II and Europa Universalis. But a lot of fans feel like the company has turned into Metallica: their new stuff isn’t as good as their old stuff. Since the early 2010’s, their games developed a reputation as buggy mess. The studio even went so far as to apologize, and promise to do better in the future. Since then, their games have generally been more stable, though the overall quality of their titles is still in flux.
Too many of these backers only focus on Paradox Interactive as a developer. In fact, Paradox Interactive isn’t a developer at all, that would be their offshoot Paradox Development Studios. Paradox Interactive, the publishing arm of the company, has always had a fantastic track record with third party developers. They published recent smash hits such as Cities: Skylines, and the crowdfunded games Pillars of Eternity and mobile port of Prison Architect.
As the update states, they don’t have any input on the game whatsoever. A lot of backers seemed to be concerned about the amount of DLC Paradox’s games get, but again, that’s just the games they also develop. All Paradox is doing is helping with marketing and paying for extra play-testing. Harebrained vaguely said that they’d be foolish not to at least listen to some of Paradox’s advice, but they’re right. Listening to advice, especially from someone as experienced as Paradox, is always a good thing, whether you take it or not.
As someone who didn’t back BattleTech, I can only speak from an outsiders perspective. People are making too big a deal about this partnership. Paradox is acting as little more than a publisher, they won’t have any creative input on the game, and they can’t force bugs or DLC into Battletech. In fact, Harebrained Schemes has already said, and re-iterated in this update, that they plan on providing expansion packs, and not “small pieces of DLC.”
We don’t yet know of a release date for the game, other than sometime this year. It could be possible that Paradox can influence the final date, but unlikely. This doesn’t sound like a typical publishing deal, which might be why they aren’t calling it one.
This does make one wonder how this will change the perception of the final product. If it isn’t any good, it’s likely that Paradox will take on all, if not a lot of the blame, regardless of whether or not they had anything to do with the issues. It would give backers a good scapegoat, so they wouldn’t have to blame a developer they like, or themselves for backing a bad game. But maybe that’s my cynical side talking.
For now, we must all play the waiting game. There is potential for disaster in this deal, as there is with any deal. Patience is a virtue however. Paradox is hardly EA or Ubisoft, and they’re responsible for some great games. They’ve proven they’re capable of publishing a good crowdfunded game with Pillars of Eternity. They at least deserve the benefit of the doubt, if nothing else.