G games are the hottest entertainment phenomenon today. Whatever the platform, whatever the genre, finnish companies are at the forefront of this huge global business. TEXT JuHa rudanKo AlPHABETS anttI KanGaSSalo Games have come of age. As have their players. In the US, the average age of video gamers is 37 and almost one third of gamers are over the age of fifty. Adult women represent a larger portion of gamers than do teenage boys. In Britain, games are the biggest sector of the entertainment industry, with sales amounting to more than all DVD and music sales combined. In many countries, more people play video games than go to the cinema. Blockbuster titles are as big as the biggest Hollywood film franchises, taking in over one billion US dollars in revenue. And the biggest success story of them all is Angry Birds. Developed by Finnish media company Rovio, Angry Birds has become one of the biggest mobile gaming phenomena in history. The game rocketed to the top of Apple's App Store downloads both in the US and in China, where Rovio recently opened an office. Console games such as Max Payne and Alan Wake developed by Remedy have attracted millions of gamers, and newer, smaller Finnish firms such as Grey Area with its Shadow Cities mobile game, are pushing the limits. The games business is well on its way to becoming one of the backbones of the Finnish economy. "Our success makes it possible for other companies to think: if those guys can do it, so can we!" says Rovio's chief marketing officer Peter "Mighty Eagle" Vesterbacka, who was recently named as one of the world's most influential people by Time magazine. HoW dId tHIS Happen? The explosion of the Finnish game industry onto the world stage happened in just a few years. But industry experts know there was fertile ground to prosper. Finland is world-famous for its technological know-how, and the rise of Nokia in the 1990s ensured the top spot in mobile technology and software. As a creative field, gaming requires more than technical competence to flourish. The vast majority of game developers started making their games and demos out of a pure love of gaming, and passion is what drives the industry. KooPee Hiltunen is director of Neogames, the Finnish National Centre of Game Business Research and Education. Neogames' mission is to foster an environment in which business can thrive, help companies find the right people and investors the hottest start ups. Hiltunen says it is important to make sure that the creative ecosystem thrives on all levels and emphasises the importance of the amateur games scene. Progress happens, when amateurs have the opportunity to follow their passion and gain recognition for their work in events such as Assembly, an annual computer festival organised in Helsinki. Rovio, too, was born at an Assembly event. The oldest companies still in operation were founded in the mid-1990s. Early favourites, such as Habbo Hotel developed by Sulake, paved the way for others. "They fostered the belief that we can create success stories," Hiltunen says. 19
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