GaMeS · FoCus FInlAnd 2012 Photo: tePPo KotIrIntA The men behind Shadow Cities: Grey Area's Mikko Hämäläinen, Andreas Karlsson, Ville Vesterinen and Teemu Tuulari have created an innovative and lucrative product. According to both Hiltunen and Vesterbacka, culture has been an important factor. Vesterbacka notes that Finns have grown up under the influence of American popular culture. Hiltunen agrees that Finnish games are Western enough to have wide appeal, but at the same time, they have an intangible Nordic feel that gives them an appealing twist. Finnish culture has also been open to games games have quickly been accepted as part of popular culture. looKInG for neW talentS In Finland, the industry experienced a burst of growth in the early 2000s. An important acknowledgement of this growth in expertise was the relocation of the European Game Developers Federation's main office to Helsinki. The industry is growing at such a pace that it is struggling to find enough talented professionals to recruit. Neogames and the Finnish Game Developers' Association have launched the Gamepro programme which gives programmers and graphic designers an opportunity to gain hands-on experience working for game companies. Game development is a craft you learn by doing, so experience in developing your own games is invaluable for those who eventually become professional game developers. It's important for those working in management, as well. Growth starts at the roots. It payS to Be Bold The domestic market for games is small, but actually, this is an advantage. "Game companies aim directly at the global market," Vesterbacka explains. The way games are published and marketed today opens a quick way to the global marketplace. A couple of enthusiasts can create a game at home and access an international audience in the App Store and the Android Market. Vesterbacka likes to compare the Finnish games industry with the Swedish music industry, which took off with the ABBA phenomenon. "There is no inherent reason for why Sweden is such a powerhouse in music. But when ABBA broke through, a whole infrastructure was built around them, which made it possible for others to break through. Rovio can act as the ABBA for the games industry," Vesterbacka muses. He thinks the most important lesson to be learnt from Rovio is attitude. "We have demonstrated that we can be the best in the world. It's important to aim high. We might not have the best individuals, but we have the best team." N What's next? obody can predict the name of the next smash hit but there are several promising candidates. Shadow Cities, produced by the Helsinki-based start up Grey area, was recently hailed by the new York Times as the future of mobile gaming. Shadow Cities pits rival teams of wizards against each other in a struggle over dominion of a city. The game mixes elements of traditional fantasy games with the latest mobile technology, as the action happens in your own physical surroundings, which is made possible by mobile tracking technology. Shadow Cities is also innovative in its revenue generation. The game is free to download, but the player can enhance their magical powers by purchasing booster packs. Trials HD, developed by redlynx, has been less in the spotlight, but has proven a bestseller. The game was originally developed for the Pc, but the microsoft Xbox version has attracted over one million players in a few years. Gamers can purchase and download the game directly from their consoles from Xbox live arcade. in this motorcycle racing game, the player tackles obstacle courses of increasing difficulty. The game is seemingly simple, but extremely difficult to master and fiendishly addictive. redlynx has also produced a number of successful titles for the apple iPhone. french-based entertainment company Ubisoft acquired redlynx last november. Ubisoft refers to the team at redlynx as pioneers of "exceptionally strong digital brands that stand out for their high replay value, their long tail sales and their multiplatform positioning". another company utilising the opportunities provided by the new distribution venues is Housemarque. Their Super Stardust space shooter, where you blast asteroids into oblivion, is one of the most popular downloadable games on the Sony Playstation network. it is also available on the PSP handheld device. www.greyarealabs.com www.redlynx.com www.housemarque.com tHe InduStry IS GroWInG at SucH a pace tHat It IS StruGGlInG to fInd enouGH talented profeSSIonalS to recruIt. 20
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