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Shall we go again, your Majesty?

July 3rd, 2007 by Troy Goodfellow · 14 Comments · Paradox, RTS

I just got an email from Paradox PR stating that they have acquired the IP rights to Majesty, the creative but underperforming 1998 RTS from Cyberlore. In Majesty, you controlled your kingdom indirectly, giving incentives for many units to take actions but not necessarily giving orders.

Apparently, Paradox has an interest in reviving this franchise, or at least that’s what a Cyberloe exec thinks.

“We strongly feel that Majesty deserves to be revitalized and there are few gaming companies out there capable of taking this franchise to the next level”, said Lester Humphreys, Founder of Cyberlore Studios. “There is no question in our minds that Paradox Interactive is the right company to do just that.”

Now, I ask this as an admirer of Majesty. For the love of God, why?

Majesty is one of those games that has earned more retrospective respect than actual love. It is not a success story. It is not a recognizable name to masses of gamers. It is not a license to print money.

So why acquire a name that you can’t do a lot with anyway? I guess you could call Majesty a cult hit, but this isn’t Fallout we’re talking about. This isn’t even Sacrifice. And nothing could keep Paradox from developing a game similar to Majesty without owning the title; this is an industry full of clones, derivatives and “spiritual successors”.

It could be that Paradox wants to do more than make historical simulations, though that’s where there audience is. Their adaptation of the boardgame Diplomacy was a train wreck. So, for design credibility, they need a credible name. I’m sure Majesty wasn’t expensive and it has that geeky insider thing going for it. You know what I mean. The whole “You can’t call yourself a gamer until…”

Watch this space for more news as it becomes available.


14 Comments so far ↓

  • Scott R. Krol

    “It is not a license to print money.”

    Which is of course the big difference between corporate mainstream gaming and indie gaming. While obviously no one wants to lose money for a lot of folks if they get a game out that there’s an audience for, even a small one, then they’ll do it. After all, gaming should be about the games, not putting seven Ferraris in your garage. Wargaming (in all forms) would be long since extinct if folks were in it for monetary rewards.

    I think there is a sizable audience out there for it, but definitely not at retail levels. There’s also a good chance that since Cyberlore has been sitting on code for the sequel for several years now (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/strategy/majesty2/index.html) they’ve finally decided to do something with it, but the big boys aren’t interested anymore.

  • Troy

    I love the idea of a Majesty game, but I would happy if it was called Viceroy. I hope they bought the name for cheap, because I can’t see it earning more than a few hundred extra sales.

    I absolutely agree that gaming shouldn’t be about the money, but we know that it is to some extent. And this isn’t a wargame, after all, where it’s all indie because no one else will really touch it. This is a Real Time Strategy game that has to grab eyeballs from a very different group, conditioned to think in different terms with different expectations.

    To compete at all in the crowded RTS environment will take an outlay of cash. How many indie RTS games are there? And the disappointing performance of Take Command 2 shows that P’dox has some issues selling games that aren’t aimed at their core demographic. (Same with Diplomacy, but it was a bad game.)

    Remember that HoI and EU are huge hits internationally – they may not register on American sales lists, but are quite far from the HPS or ProSim situtation. The one big similarity is the recycling of an engine – the Paradox strategy games ran on the same engine for almost five years and most wargame companies can put new paint on old code. This can’t be done with a RTS if you haven’t made one before. They could, of course, license someone else’s engine, and probably should.

    If the code is already mostly done, that’s another thing altogether, but that Gamespot story is four years old. Who knows what’s left of that.

  • Alan

    Ah, the joys of branding; don’t underestimate the power of a name. Assuming it was cheap, it’s better to start with an established brand instead of trying to build a franchise from scratch. Of course, most hardcore gamers know better these days (after the X-Com franchise was run into the ground).

  • Dave Long

    It’s not 1998 anymore, but this bit from the press release is notable…

    [i]It was in the spring of ’98 that Cyberlore announced the development of its sixth computer game title – Majesty. This fantasy kingdom sim quickly became one of the most renowned games to be released in the genre and sold over 500.000 copies worldwide.[/i]

    500,000 sales of the original are nothing to sneeze at. I realize the game was bundled in some collections and it was sold in jewelcase packaging as well, but it definitely was able to reach a significant number of people. I suspect any sequel will also find an audience.

    Paradox has been trying really hard to expand their catalog. Don’t forget they sold the last Perimeter game too.

  • Troy

    Yep, 500k is huge. Reach is not the same as recognition, of course, and I think the strategy audience is more diverse now and is served in so many different ways than it was ten years ago. Plus, I tend not to trust numbers in press releases – GSC claims many millions of Cossacks games sold.

    I’m hoping to be proven wrong.

  • Dave Long

    I don’t think strategy has changed so much that it’s being served in so many different ways compared to ten years ago. Consider that 1998 was one of the biggest years in PC gaming. Caesar III, Starcraft, Railroad Tycoon II, Total Annihilation (late 1997), Age of Empires, Commandos, Dungeon Keeper, Settlers III were some of the major strategy games people had available then. Certainly there was variety. Majesty itself didn’t ship until 2000 either.

    Heck, the biggest complaint you see today is that strategy is so narrowly focused on real-time strategy and Civilization and not much else. You and I know that there’s a lot more out there because we’re actively searching for different types of games to play in the genre, everything from board game conversions to wargames to indie niche titles.

    Back in the 90’s, strategy encompassed a broad range of game styles and settings that you now only get if you’re looking for games online in addition to inside the brick and mortar stores. I suppose consoles offer some different strategy experiences… I sure do love Fire Emblem and Advance Wars… but really, the PC is probably less well-served today than it was back then… and Majesty sold well in those circumstances.

    500,000 worldwide is possible. Like I said, a few bundles, a jewelcase release (that can still be found occasionally) and the expansion all contributed to what was probably a much better selling game than even Hasbro/Microprose anticipated.

    That the design is still relevant today and probably never been used again in another game in such a way makes it even more worthwhile to revisit.

  • Krupo

    Man, that was one of those games which I bought and played for a few hours before moving on. I think I would’ve played it longer had I not lent the CD to a friend who subsequently lost/forgot it.

    Dave’s comment probably explains exactly why I never got around to playing much M! (RRT2 alone would explain where half my time went).

    Speaking of Hasbro, I wonder how long until a Transformers game comes out? Or have I been living under a rock and there’s something flying towards us like a hot asteroid as I type?

  • Krupo

    Yeah, I just saw the news this morning, oddly enough.

    “Transformers: The Game is very much the archetypal movie-licensed game. It’s got all the hallmark problems of the genre, including short length, overly simplistic mechanics, a barely-there story, and a bit of a sloppy feel.”

    Not surprising.

  • MalcolmM

    I loved Majesty, one of the few RTS games I finished, including the expansion pack. I find most RTS games to be so derivative – even ones that are suppose to be great like Company of Heroes. I bought CoH, played the tutorial, started the main game and was so bored I couldn’t play for more than a few minutes.
    Games are in such a rut the last few years. Nintendo realized that and has hit a home run with the Wii. However, I woudn’t call even the Wii all that innovative when it comes to games.
    Majesty was definitely innovative, and more importantly, a lot of fun. I will buy the new Majesty if they don’t mess it up.

  • Krupo

    I found CoH way more interesting than Majesty. Then again, I missed out on part of Majesty – I’ll have to dig it out again… or just try M2 when it comes out. :)

  • Alan

    Company of Heroes and Majesty are both excellent, but for different reasons. For those of you who like one but not the other, I suggest you split the difference and try the Close Combat games.

  • Alan

    Bleah, this comment system needs a “preview” button. (pesky malformed HTML tags…)

  • Majesty 2

    […] Paradox acquired the right to Majesty, I was skeptical. But it looks like there will be a Majesty […]