To The Point - Julian Maroda
An interview with the CEO and Minister of Creation at Norsfell.
Welcome to another edition of To The Point, the interview series where we feature prominent figures from the video game and esports industry. In this edition we’re excited to chat with Julian Maroda, the CEO and Minister of Creation at Norsfell, the game studio behind action survival RPG Tribes of Midgard.
Julian is a Montreal-based video game developer who has launched more than 30 titles throughout his career. In 2013 he co-founded Norsfell, a development studio that initially focused on mobile games before branching out into PC and console. The studio’s skills quickly led to a “Best Mobile Game” nomination at Gamescom in 2016 followed by a first place victory at the Ubisoft Indie Series contest a year later. Fast forward to 2021 and their Norse Mythology/Viking inspired game Tribes of Midgard was published by Gearbox Publishing and exclusively partnered with PlayStation.
What were the most important lessons you learned throughout the development process of Tribes of Midgard?
One of the most important lessons we've learned during the development of Tribes of Midgard is to start early in getting the word out to players and future potential partners. The sooner you put the game in the hands of players, the more you can learn about its core, and the more natural it becomes to talk about it.
With Tribes of Midgard, we began to build a community at the very early stages of production, hiring two Community Managers back in 2019, more than 2 years before the release! We organized test phases to collect feedback and grow our fan base, which helped us to validate the project and sign deals, including with Gearbox Publishing and with Sony to become a PlayStation 5 exclusive.
Another lesson learned came after the release of Tribes of Midgard: running a live game is very demanding. Our team knew that to an extent, but we didn't anticipate the tremendous appetite that players had for Tribes of Midgard and the demand for even more content, regardless of the fact that our team is made of 30 people, and not an AAA studio. While it's a great situation to be in, it made production all the more challenging, which is why we decided to adapt the scheduling of our content deployment and cadence of seasons, focusing on creating larger, more impactful updates during longer periods of time, while also being able to maintain our teams’ well-being.
Finally, releasing on multiple platforms is both an exciting and demanding endeavour, especially when you're releasing on a new platform such as the PlayStation 5, with technologies that haven't necessarily been integrated into the game engine. At the time, not all resources were available, so we had to learn along the way. One particular example was the new DualSense controller. As one of the first third party studios to have access to it, it was thrilling to discover and experiment with its features without knowing what other games would come up with. A memorable moment for our small team!
What were some of the main factors that led to the initial decision of launching Tribes of Midgard as a PlayStation console exclusive?
There were several reasons for this decision. First, we absolutely wanted to release our game on a platform other than PC, as it would allow us to reach a wider audience and more visibility overall, aligning it with our vision to create a very approachable survival game in all senses of the term. Since the beginning of our development, Sony showed tremendous interest and amazing support in Tribes of Midgard, and given the longstanding relationship we’ve had with them, we were really motivated to sign a deal with them.
Having a partner like Sony provided us incomparable reach, especially more so with the fact that we were featured in their worldwide PlayStation 5 reveal event. Their support didn't just stop there, as Tribes of Midgard was also selected to become one of the free games on PlayStation Plus during the month of May 2022, another massive opportunity that we fully embraced.
Now that Tribes of Midgard has achieved success, what is next for Norsfell? Is a new game on the horizon?
Well, we just reached an amazing milestone a few weeks ago by opening the doors of our brand new studio in the heart of Montreal. That feels pretty great! The next step for Norsfell is to increase the size of the studio to over 40 employees and keep focusing exclusively on the Tribes of Midgard franchise and its upcoming Season 3 update arriving this summer. With its large share of content and improvements, including a brand new Survival Mode that's been highly requested by the community, you can imagine we’re looking forward to it! And with over 2 million players that have already played Tribes of Midgard, our dreams of the ultimate Viking sandbox are just getting started.
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