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A Long Time Coming (and Going, and Going): The Heroic Signatures Story

In the realm of storytelling, some tales rise above the rest – epic sagas of heroism, adventure, and wonder that captivate the imagination and endure for generations. 

At the heart of many such stories lies Heroic Signatures, a company dedicated to preserving and expanding some of the most iconic characters and worlds in fantasy and beyond. 

Join us as we delve into the fascinating history of this visionary venture, a journey that has taken them from humble beginnings to the forefront of the entertainment industry.

The Paradox Years

In the vast landscape of fantasy and sword and sorcery, Robert E. Howard’s creations have always held a special place. For Fred Malmberg, the allure of these iconic characters, particularly Conan the Barbarian, was undeniable. As a co-founder of Target Games, which later became Paradox, Fred’s passion for publishing led him to explore the realms of fantasy. In the mid-eighties, Target Games launched a paperback line featuring Conan stories by Howard. 

During this period, Fred’s creative vision also extended well beyond Howard’s works. At the height of tabletop gaming in the 1980s and 1990s, Fred developed his own successful IPs, including Kult and Mutant Chronicles. Kult, a horror-themed RPG, first gained popularity in Scandinavia before finding success in the American market. Mutant Chronicles, a dystopian science fiction RPG, also garnered a dedicated following. These creations showcased Fred’s ability to craft compelling worlds and characters that resonated with gamers.

Fred’s tenure at the helm of developing and launching notable IPs like Kult and Mutant Chronicles played a significant role in shaping his insights, as Paradox began to emphasize intellectual properties in 2001. However, this strategic shift wasn’t entirely new terrain for the company. Having been involved in video game development and publishing since the mid-nineties through its precursor, Target Games, Paradox was already versed in the digital landscape. The decision to integrate video games into their portfolio was but an evolution of their strategy in maximizing the allure of their cherished characters and settings. 

Enter Funcom, a gaming company that had already made a name for itself with the successful MMO, Anarchy Online. The chemistry between Fred’s vision and Funcom’s expertise was undeniable, and thus, the partnership to create Age of Conan was born. Over the course of five years, the game took shape, aiming to immerse players in the rich tapestry of Conan’s world. When Age of Conan finally launched, it was met with acclaim for its stunning visuals, evocative music score, and mature, grounded approach to the fantasy genre.

Going Independent

Fred Malmberg sought to take full control of Howard’s intellectual properties and shape their future. This led to him to form Cabinet Licensing and acquire the rights to all of Howard’s creations from Paradox. This strategic decision positioned him to pursue new avenues and partnerships, unencumbered by the constraints of a larger organization. Armed with a clear vision and a determination to take Conan to new heights, Fred set out to forge his own path.

Opportunity came knocking when Funcom’s CEO approached Fred with an exciting proposition: to create a new game set in the Conan universe. This time, the focus would be on the emerging genre of survival games. Fred recognized the potential of this relatively niche market and saw it as the perfect fit for Conan’s gritty, unforgiving world.

Thus, Conan Exiles was born. The game thrust players into a harsh and unforgiving landscape, challenging them to survive, build, and dominate in a way that felt true to the spirit of Howard’s creation. Cabinet Entertainment’s deep understanding of the source material, combined with Funcom’s expertise in crafting immersive gaming experiences, resulted in a game that resonated with both longtime fans and newcomers to the franchise.

Conan Exiles quickly began garnering acclaim and commercial success. The game’s unique blend of survival mechanics, rich storytelling, and the authenticity of the Conan universe struck a chord with players, cementing its position as a standout title in a crowded market. For Fred, this success served as further validation of the enduring appeal of Conan and the vast potential that still lay untapped within Howard’s world.

The Birth of Heroic Signatures

As the dust settled on Conan: Exile’s successful release, Fred found himself reflecting on the incredible potential that still lay dormant within Howard’s universe. It was clear that to truly do justice to the rich tapestry of characters and stories that Howard had created, a new approach was needed.

Thus, the idea for Heroic Signatures was born. 

At its core, Heroic Signatures was a manifestation of the shared passion and reverence that both Cabinet and Funcom held for telling epic stories. For Fred, the creation of Heroic Signatures represented a natural evolution of his journey as a creative professional. It was a way to leverage the deep well of knowledge and expertise that Cabinet had accumulated over the years, and combine it with Funcom’s proven track record in delivering immersive gaming experiences. 

But the ambitions of Heroic Signatures extended far beyond just games as it related to Robert E. Howard’s creations. The goal was to create a holistic vision for the cornucopia of Howard’s properties, one that would encompass all forms of media and storytelling. From comics to novels, from tabletop games to digital experiences, Heroic Signatures was poised to become the custodian of Howard’s legacy, ensuring that his creations would continue to captivate and inspire audiences for generations to come.

However, following the formation of Heroic Signatures, Fred surveyed the landscape of possibilities before him and knew that the time had come to make a bold decision.

A Promising Future

After much contemplation and deliberation, Fred made the strategic decision to join forces with Funcom, leading to the acquisition of Cabinet by Funcom. This move marked the beginning of a new era, and to reflect this, Cabinet was renamed Heroic Signatures.

The decision to align with Funcom was based on a deep trust and understanding between the two entities. Funcom had consistently demonstrated their ability to capture the essence of Howard’s creations, and their deep respect for the source material was evident in every project they undertook. This partnership would allow Heroic Signatures to continue managing Howard’s properties with the added support and resources provided by Funcom.

Fred’s role as the guardian of Howard’s legacy remained unchanged. The formation of Heroic Signatures and the partnership with Funcom served to energize him, providing the opportunity to allocate more resources and pursue bigger projects. With the financial backing of Funcom, Fred was able to expand the Heroic Signatures team, enabling him to focus on strategic issues while still maintaining his involvement in the day-to-day operations as the president of the company.

One of the most notable successes to emerge from this arrangement was the recent resurgence of Mutant Year Zero. Originally created in 1984, this post-apocalyptic IP surged in popularity thanks to the 2018 video game, Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden. Co-created with Funcom, this tactics-based game adapted the beloved tabletop RPG, garnering critical acclaim and attracting a dedicated player base. With millions of downloads on platforms like Xbox Game Pass, Mutant Year Zero stands as a testament to the enduring appeal of Heroic Signatures’ properties and the potential for these worlds to captivate new audiences through innovative, immersive experiences.

And, most excitingly, there’s never been more potential than right now. With Heroic Signatures at the helm and Funcom’s expertise and resources to draw upon, the future looks brighter than ever. Though the specifics remain shrouded in secrecy, there is a palpable sense of excitement in the air. Those who are privy to the inner workings of Heroic Signatures speak of grand plans and ambitious undertakings, of new frontiers to be explored and new stories to be told.

For Fred, this flexibility was the culmination of a lifetime’s work – the realization of a dream that had first taken root all those years ago when he had first discovered Robert E. Howard’s work. 

Thus, it should be clear that the tale of Heroic Signatures is one of unwavering dedication to the power of epic storytelling. Through every twist and turn, that commitment has remained the guiding light, ensuring that the iconic worlds and characters under their stewardship continue to captivate audiences across the globe. 

As we stand on the precipice of an exciting new era, we invite you to be a part of this ongoing saga. Explore the rich tapestry of Heroic Signatures’ ever-expanding universe, from the Hyborian Age of Conan to the post-apocalyptic vistas of Mutant Year Zero, and beyond. 

The best is yet to come, and Heroic Signatures is proud to be your guide on this thrilling journey.

Written by Lo Terry
In his effort to help Heroic Signatures tell legendary stories, Lo Terry does a lot. Sometimes, that means spearheading an innovative, AI-driven tavern adventure. In others it means writing words in the voice of a mischievous merchant for people to chuckle at. It's a fun time.
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