Midjiwan Interview delves into The Battle of Polytopia’s early days, concept stage, monetization strategies and more

An in-depth conversation!

The Battle of Polytopia is one of the popular 4X strategy titles available for mobile, and it has recently surpassed 20 million downloads on the small-screen platform. With the game hitting the 8th-year milestone, we at GamingonPhone had the opportunity to Interview Felix Ekenstam and Christian Lövstedt of Midjiwan to learn about the early days of the project, concept stage, monetization strategies, and more.

Felix Ekenstam is the developer and founder of Polytopia, a project he began in 2016. Initially working alone, Felix has dedicated himself to developing the project ever since. A few years ago, a small company was established around Polytopia, and it has since grown modestly. Felix prefers to keep the company small, and it currently has five employees.

Midjiwan Felix (Right) and Christian (Left) cover
Midjiwan’s Felix (left) and Christian (right) (Image via Midjiwan x Polytopia Interview)

Christian Lövstedt joined Polytopia in 2018, and by 2019, he took on the role of CEO. He is primarily responsible for the overall management and development of both the game and the company itself. Christian handles project management, marketing, and communication aspects of the games, ensuring the successful development and promotion of Politopia.

1. What inspired the creation of The Battle of Polytopia, and how did the concept evolve during development?

Felix: I started making it because I wanted to play this kind of game myself and I couldn’t find any games on my phone at the time. I played a lot of civilization when I was younger. and I wanted something similar to that but That would work on a phone and I know at that time. There weren’t even any Civilization games on the phone. But I think even they are not really working very well for the phone.

But what I did was to try to set out to see how I could distill that genre that type of game and try to boil it down to the essence of that job and to make it fit well on the phone and so I try to remove as much as possible and see what things really needed to make it fun. I think that was a good approach to it and a good way to create the game to make it as minimalistic get possible.

2. From a solo passion project to a multi-team studio, how was the journey? What was the size of the initial team and the current one?

Felix: It was actually harder than I thought because the game was quite successful from the start. I mean the company built its revenue, I never had any investors and I never needed any money to get it working. So it’s nice to not have to be worrying about money when you build a company. I tried to build it slowly and keep it small enough so it could carry itself economically.

Battle of Polytopia
Image via Midjiwan

But I think that the biggest challenge is to find good people. It’s hard and it takes a lot of time to find people and build a good team. I was happy to find Christian because he is the first one I hired and I think it’s quite uncommon, but it was very good. I think to make sure the first person you’re hiring is the CEO. I can just like everything because I want to make games. I don’t want to be negotiating.

Stuff you like that kind of making budgets and I think I wanted to games. I thought if you have money and you have a game then it’s just push a button and you have a studio, but it’s not like that. But now we’re in a really good position, we have a nice office that we just moved to.

3. The colorful low-poly pixel art visuals have also been part of the game’s success story and likeability, what was the reason behind picking the art style?

Felix: I wanted the art style to match this minimalistic approach. I had to do the game design. so I wanted to make a streamlined game and then I probably would be very suitable to have very streamlined Graphics as well. When you play a study game is important to be able to decode the map. So you look at the game and you should instantly see what’s going on.

I find that hard in earlier Civilization games, for example, it was easier because the graphics were very simple, but in modern Civilization or similar ones, the graphics are so detailed, that it’s hard to see what’s going on. One Warrior unit in it used to be like one guy, but now in a modern game, it’s a whole Army. So it is like dudes everywhere and lots of trees and mountains and I find that very annoying when you want to play a strategy game.

It should look like chess, exactly like this moved there and it’s very obvious where tiles start and end and stuff. So I think It’s very much to fit the game. But then I think it’s visually pleasing as well with low polygraphics, But it’s mostly to fit the gameplay. I would say.

Chrisitan: I would also say I think the Low Poly stylus helped the game to stand out from other strategy titles because it looks different as a very distinguished graphic look, which helped the game a lot.

Felix: It’s not only that it’s low poly, but it also has very colorful graphics compared to other games. That also helps with readability because the contrast is higher and there’s a big difference between grass on the ground and a red fruit and a blue unit or so. It also makes it look nicer and I think it’s more appealing to some of our audiences.

4. The game features different tribes, each with unique abilities. How did you approach designing these tribes, and what factors influenced their abilities and characteristics?

Felix: They’re loosely based on Earth. So I try to focus on the different biomes that are on Earth, so you have the cold places and you have the deserts and you have the jungles and you have all these kinds of different natures. I decided I didn’t want to give the types different hardcoded abilities. It’s just that they are all able to do all the same things with the same properties you get a head start in some direction in the tech tree based on what kind of biome you were in.

If you’re living close to the ocean, you already know how to fish when you start the game, and if you’re living in an area with a lot of fruits growing, how to take care of this fruit for your benefit. So all the tribes have the same kind of creatures and they have the same abilities, but they start in different kinds of natures.

The Battle of Polytopia Diplomacy Tech
Image via Midjiwan

I also wanted to try to make sure that everyone on Earth feels that there is a tribe that represents them in some and I noticed that people seem to like that a lot and they identify with different tribes because they are close to where they originally or if it’s just similar to what they want the world to be. I try to keep them as different as possible. but still close enough to Earth cultures to be so it’s possible for people to relate to them. So it’s not too weird.

Then we also introduced Special Tribes which at the moment. We only have three special tribes, and those are more based on mythology or the same type of creatures like they are a different type of species or something and they have very special abilities. I don’t base it on any Earthly Grace things. It’s more like we have one tribe, that’s more like Atlantis Myth.

5. Battle of Polytopia has garnered over 20 million downloads. Managing a substantial player base brings a sense of satisfaction, yet it also entails receiving a large amount of feedback, both positive and negative. How do you navigate and address this?

Christian: My brief reply is that we try to collect it and see if there are the important things that concern some faults in the game or something that is a defect then we consider that but most of becomes part of your game.

Felix: Yeah, I mean in the beginning when I launched the game I decided that I wanted to reply personally to every message. I got to know about the game and I managed to do what I didn’t know for a couple of months. It becomes overwhelming after some time. It’s kind of hard to keep up and now at the volumes we are now, I would say it’s probably impossible to read everything and so on.

Sometimes there is good feedback in there. But there are also just a lot of people who have a lot of thoughts about and that’s a big challenge. When you continuously begin this game doing stuff to it and I want to listen to the players and I want to hear what I saying, but everyone is saying different things and they have very strong opinions.

If I change something as always a few thousand people are really angry and a few thousand people are happy. So it’s quite hard to know. So I try to just trust my own instincts and trust my judgment of what’s good and what’s bad and try not to please. Other people because I think the game design is much harder than most people think.

6. We would like to know about the monetization strategies of Polytopia. The ad-free experience is something players love about it, but majorly we see IAPs as the primary way for revenue. Could you talk more about it?

Christian: I mean, I think that Politopia deliberately has a non-aggressive monetization design. We tried to be quite particular on that; it’s good value for money. You read if you buy something it’s something that you feel that it’s worth it and you get a good experience. The investment on what you can buy particularly in the mobile game is quite low price from 99 cents to $3.99 so you can’t spend that much money on the mobile game.

The Battle of Polytopia 20 million downloads
Image via Midjiwan

It’s right 32 dollars, then you can’t spend any more money. Everything you buy is non-consumable, which means you get to keep it as long as you keep the game on your phone. So, we’re quite particular in trying to make sure that we don’t over monetize or the game that the players are playing with a good purchase feeling when I purchase feeling and when you purchase something you have a good feeling what you enjoyed.

It’s worth what you paid for. On the other platforms where the business model is a little bit different. There are premium games on Steam and Switch. But also it’s not a very high-priced game. So we are pretty particular about that. Also, there’s no actual paywall. I mean there are four tribes for free in the mobile game and you can play it as long as you like. You don’t have to buy anything in the game if you don’t want to.

Felix: We don’t have any plans for it. We’ve had discussions with different IPS and resulted in anything that we’re going to release, but it can be quite fun to think about. I think it’s also important for us to try to keep our character, we built the world here it has a lot of lore. It has a lot of people who care about it and we have these characters tribes and there’s so much information and stuff in this world.

So, if we put Donald Duck in there or like SpongeBob or whatever then it’s gonna be weird. I think probably most IPS think that they have to take care of their brand and make sure that they carefully mix it with other IPS because it might get confusing and also might break that little fantasy world because we almost wanted to be real Polytopia and you want to be sacred in some way.

At the same time, it’s fun to talk to other brands and other games and imagine what you could do, although it hasn’t landed in anything yet.

8. Among the crowded and competitive mobile gaming industry (studios acquiring others or getting acquired), what strategy does Midjiwan employ to stand out and progress?

Christian: I think from a strategy pov, our strategy has been working around the community, interacting with the community, or doing things with a community like competitions and celebrating the various tribes every month. Having a close interaction with the community has been quite central to how it running and growing the game.

Secondly, we’ve been branching out to localize the game to more markets. Thirdly, we’ve been expanding the game to more platforms. So originally was only mobile now, it’s Steam, Switch, and also Tesla cars.

In addition, we try to add things good things to the game. For example, we added competitive features, you can play tournaments, we have added skins in the game and things that people can improve can buy for the company. You improve the player experience when you play the games with and in general, just update the game with new features inside the game improving the gameplay that’s been like the core things we’ve been working on.

(On being asked about acquisitions happening in the industry) Firstly, we have not been affected negatively lately, the game is still doing very well. We are a small studio, so financially in a good position.

Felix: I think the big answer is that we haven’t had any problems. But it’s also because we do business a little bit differently than other studios. we don’t rely that much on ads. We do buy some ads but very little compared to other bits, that’s also because our monetization strategy is not very aggressive.

Instead, we rely on making a good game that people love and they tell their friends about it. So, I mean that’s the overwhelming majority of our downloads. It’s just peer-to-peer stuff or I mean word of mouth and so on. We’re not that affected by if the economy goes up or download prices here and there and it’s just much more stable for us, trying to keep the game as good as possible.

9. The upcoming two years carry significant responsibility, particularly as you approach the milestone of a decade since launch. How do you intend to approach and navigate this period?

Felix: I think age is nothing but a number *laughs*. And I think that even when we released Polytopia, this game could have been made at any time. It could have been on Nintendo in the 80s. I don’t know if it doesn’t require any. Special technology or anything. It’s just a game. I love playing it myself and it doesn’t really matter if it was released one year ago or ten years ago. It’s still the same game and I don’t think it’s gonna feel old after.

Midjiwan Battle of Polytopia gameplay
Image via Midjiwan

Five years from now it’s already old; the technology isn’t spectacular in any way, it’s just a fun game. Also, I think that it lasts over time and on the interest, maybe if people stop using smartphones probably affect the game a lot because it’s a 2d game. Maybe if everybody got these really cool VR glasses they wouldn’t play in public.

Chrisitan: (On celebrating the 10th anniversary) We should celebrate it. Of course. We don’t have a plan for that big celebration. We did have a party a few years ago where we invited players and there were actually some players who came here to that party from other countries. I don’t know what we’re gonna do. Yeah,10 years is a cool milestone.

Felix: *smiles* Maybe it’s time to get a tattoo. I said I was gonna get a tattoo when we had more downloads than the population of Sweden right, but I didn’t do that. I don’t know why I kind of missed I didn’t want to check it out.

10. With the mythical land of Polytopia being a vast one, do you have thoughts on expanding the world of Polytopia? Can you share insights into the distribution and marketing strategies?

Christian: I mean we kind of play around that ideas like that all the time, but I think you can do it both ways. You could make a Polytopia using the Polytopia Game Engine and put that in some other world or another IP on it or you could use the politopia IP and make a movie or magazine or something like that.

I don’t know it’s not something that we plan around to try to focus on making the game really good. But of course, if you would reach out to us and be interested in doing something like that might be interesting. I mean, we do a lot of merchandise things I mean on proportionately.

We have a lot of merchandise for being here in quite a small studio. It’s because we really like that and we have our own little merchandise Factory where we make our stuff by hand and send it to people and that’s really fun. So maybe that is some of the creative output it’s into there. But other than that we try to really focus on the game. I think yeah.

11. The Battle of Polytopia has received several awards and accolades. How has this recognition impacted the studio’s brand reputation and business opportunities?

Christian: Yeah, I mean, it’s very good to have good reviews and good recognition from the industry. Of course, it’s super good, but I think still the actual game and the core gameplay are what’s most important that’s keeping players playing the game and getting new players to play the game.

Felix: I still kind of feel you usually say that I think we should have more players than we do actually because I think the game is really good. I mean, it should be more famous, especially in Sweden nobody knows about this game if all it happens sometimes in the industry, but if I tell someone in Sweden what I work with nobody ever heard of this game, so it’s not very big in Sweden that would have been good for us when we’re hiring and stuff.

Read our other Interviews here:

For more Mobile Gaming news and updates, join our WhatsApp GroupTelegram Group, or Discord server. Also, follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Google News for quick updates.

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Back to top button