11 Bit Studios Interview: Next-Gen Consoles, Microtransactions and The Future of the Studio

11 Bit Studios, the developer team behind fan-favorite indie titles Frostpunk and This War of Mine is expanding, working on new games and celebrating their success in the industry. In a recent interview with 11 Bit Studio partnership manager  Pawel Miechowski, we find out that the studio is working on a next-generation project, a new DLC for Frostpunk and more.

Apart from that though,  Miechowski shared the studio’s opinion about next-generation consoles, platform exclusivity, and microtransactions as a model. Here’s what Miechowski had to say during our interview with 11 bit studios:

Your company comprises of people from CD Projekt Red and Metropolis Software. Which one did you have more influence from? Like what’s the ratio of CDPR workers to MS workers?
Hey! Actually, Metropolis Software team was acquired by CD Projekt Group sometime in 2007 and in 2009 key members from Metropolis Software left CDP to launch 11 bit studios. Now, some staffers have their experience of working in CDP, but I wouldn’t say there’s a big influence apart from their personal experience. Key members who found 11 bit studios are the same people who had been running Metropolis. Yes, 11 bit studios are made of much more experienced crew (the years are passing by in the end) and is driven by a different philosophy.

Is the staff of roughly 70 people enough for your company to function on a proper comfortable level? Or could you have done with either a little more or a little less?
I think you have the data from Wikipedia, but it’s a bit outdated. Now we are around 120 people. And we’re growing. Anyway, how big a team we are is just an outcome of what we want to achieve as a team. Since we have three internal dev teams and we want to make bigger games, something that we call now AA+, we just need hands to work. And I think, looking at how our games are doing commercially, and critically, we’re doing quite good.

You described the goal of your company as to creating games for both casual as well as hardcore gamers. What draws that line between the two types of games in your opinion?
That’s also a bit outdated. Our mission expanded and changed over the years. Back in the days, we wanted to make games that have gameplay compelling enough for hardcore games, but easily approachable by casual gamers too. And Anomaly series were such games exactly. But then we were thinking of what would be next. We’ve started to think about more serious games, games with a hidden message behind the gameplay and behind the main theme. And that’s how This War of Mine was born. Since then our philosophy of creation is to make meaningful entertainment. Games that are not only compelling, attractive to gamers, but also have the power to provoke thinking, to make players think even when they stop playing. Frostpunk was the next big step in creating such games.

Do you have any examples outside of what you’ve produced as games that are for both the casual and hardcore audience? I feel like Breath of the Wild is a good example, No?
If we go back to it, then I guess rather PC and mobile games which have an appeal for both audiences. Like 80 days for example. Breath of the Wild is on Switch, which seems to me a console for hardcore gamers. This statement – creating games for both casual and hardcore gamers – is not our goal anymore and with all these hypercasual games now, and the shift of mobile markets, both audiences – causal and hardcore – are further away from each other than they used to be.

What’s your take on the accessibility of your games? Do you prefer having your games on all platforms or would you rather have exclusives to die for?
I guess there are different business models, but we want to reach as big audience as possible. It’s great to have a game on all consoles and PC and offer games to different gaming communities. Ideally is to sim-launch a game and give it to all audiences at the same time, but sometimes it’s just hard to make because manpower is limited.

Regarding exclusives. You’ve obviously spent time with the GoG client in one way or another during the time in CDPR. What makes a good PC client in your opinion?
I haven’t worked in GOG team, I just use this store as a consumer. Anyway, good PC client, in my opinion, is a one that gives me great discoverability of games. I need to know how a game looks like, what’s the gameplay loop, what it is about and importantly – what are similar games in the genre or having a similar theme and if it’s recommended by a vast number of other gamers. That’s what helps in discoverability and a good store should amplify that.

Speaking of PS5 and Xbox Scarlett, who do you think to have an upper hand for future generation consoles? What are your expectations from the nex-gen consoles?
I think Sony is in a slightly better situation as its user base is bigger on a current generation. On the other hand, Microsoft is really active when it comes to attracting devs to create content for its current-gen, Xbox One. Expectations? Ughhh, that’s a tough question. Consoles are becoming a sort of PC, so no idea how, but I’d expect them to be more console-like again but just as powerful when it comes to hardware as a strong PC.

What’s the stance of 11 bit when it comes to in-game purchases and microtransactions? Do you think that shady in-game purchases are ruining the gaming industry?
In-game purchases and microtransactions are determining different kinds of design and a different kind of experience at the end. I don’t think they’re ruining the industry but classic premium games are becoming something truly different than games with in-game purchases and so on. In a game that you pay for just once, you should be expecting an entire experience as it is, no matter the replayability. On the other hand games with microtransactions are given to you just partially before you unlock extra content. They work in a different way.

What’s your take on gaming services like Xbox Game Pass, Uplay+, EA Access and PlayStation Now? Do you think it will be in the better interest of developers and publishers too or just for the service makers?
It depends on the content they offer. Subscription services can surely be something extra a game can benefit from when regular sales in the long tail are dropping and when a developer wants to vastly expand a fan-base of their game. On the other hand, in this chain, in the end, there is a gamer and if the gamer expects a game to be offered only in that model, it can be really hard for a game to make enough money to break even. There has to balance in-between. Making games is insanely expensive in the first place and they need to pay off so the devs could make new better games.

This marks the end of out 11 bit studio interview. The team is working on their next title, which will most likely get a release date next year. If you haven’t yet, you should check out Frostpunk, This War of Mine, Moonlighter and Children of Morta.