ALTHOUGH we might be used to Anglo-American domination in most aspects of popular culture, in terms of game development and coding the playing field is a tad more level. This spring’s bestseller Battlefield: Bad Company 2 has been developed by Sweden’s leading gaming company Digital Illusions CE. Danish IO Interactive is known as the developer of the popular Hitman series.
The video game industry in Finland has a long history and a trusted reputation. Humble beginnings in the mid-90s have led to a games industry that has the highest amount of public funding relative to population in the EU and is a major contributor to Finland’s export sector. The numbers of people working in the Finnish games industry grew from 400 in 2002 to 1,147 in 2008.
Research by Neogames, the Centre of Game Business, Research and Development in Tampere, estimates that in 2012 this industry will employ between 2,500 and 3,500 people and enjoy net sales of 500-700 million euros. Inexact figures to be sure, but indicative of the expectations laid at the door of one of modern Finland’s most valuable creative assets. Indeed, export figures for the gaming industry exceed those of both the music and film industries.
There are around 50 games developers operating in Finland right now, with the majority producing mobile games (28 per cent of games made in Finland are on this platform) on a relatively small scale. The trend for mobile gaming has, however, been on a downward trajectory as console gaming, and specifically downloadable titles, have come to be seen as more profitable. Industry figures indicate that the growth in online games sales was around 30 per cent in 2008. Finnish companies are still small by international standards, with an average of less than 51 employees per studio.
The oldest Finnish companies still operating are Housemarque and Remedy, both founded in 1995. The former company is an amalgamation of two software houses, Terramarque and Bloodhouse, who released games for the original Amiga in the early 90s. Housemarque is probably best known for its Super Stardust title, a fine shoot-em-up reminiscent of Asteroids on acid.
Other well-known studios include: Sulake, developers of Habbo Hotel; RedLynx, a Helsinki company who made the top-selling and numerous award-winning title Trials HD; and Bugbear Entertainment and their FlatOut series.