Elon Musk loves the indie turn-based strategy game The Battle of Polytopia. Its creator, Felix Ekenstam, has told us that Musk called him personally to talk about the game, and asked if he could port it over to be playable in Tesla Arcade.
Ekenstam and Musk have since spoken several times over the phone, and played head-to-head against each other in multiple rounds of the game, which is a mix of resource management, civilisation building and turf battles.
Musk can sometimes be found near the top of the leaderboards as ‘Revus54321’, and has tweeted in the past that the game is ‘way better‘ than chess. There are even long passages in Walter Isaacson’s Elon Musk biography about how the game has influenced his thinking as an entrepreneur.
Musk started tweeting about his love for the game in 2019, and tracked down its creator to talk some more. “Originally, he reached out to me directly with a phone call,” Ekenstam told us. “We had an interesting conversation about games and cars.”
“During our initial meeting, Elon suggested adding Polytopia to Tesla cars. We thought it was a great idea and began working with their engineers to make sure the game ran smoothly. Polytopia, being a turn-based game, is a very fitting game for a car as you can pick up and put down the game at any point.”
The game was added to Tesla’s Arcade Mode through a software update on Christmas Day 2021. Ekenstam has also played Polytopia against Musk several times in the last few years. “He’s quite skilled at the game,” he tells us. “After playing a few matches together, both winning and losing, I would say we’re about the same skill level,” he tells us.
“The game also has a very competitive worldwide top 100 list that is very hard to get onto, I have seen Elon near the top on some occasions although I am never that high up myself. Last time Elon beat me, he did some insane diplomacy stunt. I was clearly dominating the game and was about to win when he suddenly managed to ally with all the AI bots and together they could take me down. Quite frustrating I must admit!”
Midjiwan general manager Christian Lövstedt also talked us through what happens when Musk tweets to his 163m X followers about Polytopia. “Having looked at metrics for the game, we don’t see any particular spikes in new users when Elon mentions the game,” Lövstedt tells us.
“However, we have seen a very positive long tail effect since Elon’s tweets tend to stay relevant due to how many people interact and comment on them. His tweets about Polytopia being better than chess has particularly helped engagement.”
“His tweets have helped Polytopia become more popular as Polytopia reaches the eyes and ears of people who have never known about our game. This exposure doesn’t always convert into new users, but it does help get our brand out there.”
Musk is no stranger to controversy, of course, but Midjiwan is perhaps wisely staying out of commenting on his often divisive views. “We’re ecstatic that so many people have engaged with our game so actively, however we do not comment on the private or political viewpoints of our players,” says Lövstedt, diplomatically.
Polytopia creator Ekenstam is a self-taught Flash developer who set about making Polytopia in 2016 for a pretty simple reason. “I couldn’t see a game that had what I was looking for in a 4X strategy game so I decided to create one myself,” he says.
He released the indie strategy game in Flash in 2016, before porting it to iOS and Android, when it really took off. Since then it has picked up a dedicated following, one that includes two of the most famous men on the planet – alongside Musk, YouTuber Mr Beast is also a fan.
Midjiwan has been busy since 2016 porting Polytopia to multiple formats – and indeed Tesla cars – while also regularly updating the game with new content. A new title “set within the Polytopia Universe” is also in its early stages, says the studio, which recently became a “titanium sponsor” of game engine Godot following Unity’s Runtime Fee fiasco.
The Battle of Polytopia has now been downloaded over 20m times on mobile alone, with more across PC, Switch and, of course, Tesla Arcade. Midjiwan puts the longevity of the game down to how it is structured, regular content drops, and surprisingly deep universe.
“We’ve created a game that, due to the turn-based 4X genre, has natural infinite replayability and difficulty customisation. This is important for cultivating a player base of casual players, hardcore players and everyone in between,” adds Lövstedt. “Gameplay aside, we found that players really enjoy the more artistic side of Polytopia. The lore behind every tribe and the artistic and the low poly art style we went with gives the game a unique shape and character that has players very engaged.”