Firefly Studios co-founders Simon Bradbury and Eric Ouellette first met in the 90s at Impressions Games, while working on Caesar and Lords of the Realm. Simon, working as a freelance coder and designer, and Eric in a Producer role eventually decided to break off on their own and set up Firefly in 1999, with the aim of merging the City Builder and Real-Time Strategy genres. After working out of a small rented room in South London for two years, the team accomplished this with the release of Stronghold.
Stronghold was released in 2001 to critical acclaim and commercial success. Players agreed that Firefly had managed to create a title which successfully merged the City Builder and RTS, without sacrificing the fun or depth found in either genre. The game became a surprise hit for publisher Take Two particularly in North America, the UK and Germany, with critics praising the game’s unique premise, British charm and playability. A year later Firefly released Stronghold Crusader, which shifted the game’s setting from medieval England to the Middle East and featured a more fast-paced RTS experience. Crusader would eventually become the fan-favourite Stronghold game. Both games went on to sell over 2 million copies each.
Online & Free-to-Play
Seven years and seven games later Firefly decided a change was needed. Working with a skeleton team of four the developer quickly prototyped, iterated and released a closed Alpha for Stronghold Kingdoms, Firefly’s first foray into free-to-play. Over the course of the next two years the Kingdoms player base grew from tens to hundreds of thousands. The game entered open beta in 2010 and launched on Steam in early 2012. It would remain in the Top 10 Most Popular free-to-play games on Steam for two years and today still boasts hundreds of thousands of active users.
Stronghold Kingdoms would eventually come to iOS and Android, with the launch of the game’s mobile version eclipsing the original Steam release in terms of downloads. A sequel to the fans’ favourite Stronghold game, Stronghold Crusader 2 was revealed at Gamescom 2012 and eventually released in September 2014 after two years in development. At launch the long awaited strategy sequel became a number one global top seller on Steam, boosted up the charts by a warm critical reception and long-time fans of the series.
Following the success of Stronghold Crusader 2 early design work began on their next entry in the series. A number of prototypes came and went with the intention of adding something completely new to the series’ trademark gameplay. Lead Designer Simon Bradbury knew he wanted to evolve the estates system from previous games, giving players greater control and strategic options across the battlefield. A new ‘warlords map’ was born from this initial design goal and extended to include unique upgradable commanders with their own unique perks and characteristics.
When it came to choosing a setting Firefly looked toward a new time and place for their next title. East Asia was chosen as a suitable framework for the warlords, new siege equipment, gunpowder and troops from the game’s four different nations. After just over a year in active development Stronghold: Warlords was revealed at E3 2019 and eventually released on Steam and GOG in March 2021. Warlords enjoyed a warm critical reception at launch, became a global top seller on Steam that month and one of the highest rated Stronghold games on Metacritic.
Today work continues on a new Unreal Engine 5 entry in the Stronghold series and Romans: Age of Caesar, available on PC in open beta and coming soon to mobile. As a franchise Stronghold has now sold over 7 million units, with the early games given a new lease of life in the form of free HD updates and re-releases on digital retailers like Steam and GOG. The company currently has around 40 staff and an enduring passion for unique strategy games, satisfying both long term fans and castle lovers everywhere.