我坐在赫尔辛基的NewCo Factory的会议室里。NewCo Factory是由国家赞助产业孵化器和加速工场，它的业务涵盖了这座城市乃至整个国家的各行各业。此时我正在与这个项目的主管、原诺基亚公司的员工 Mika Valtasaari交谈。从他口中，我知道了这个人口仅540万的国家首都如何崛起为整个欧洲游戏开发行业的最热门的孵化基地。
这个活动是由Hannes Pasanen主持的。这个男人是天生的教师。他既有严肃沉稳的一面，也有热情活跃的一面，他对自己的“教师”副业非常上心。作为赫尔辛基的Pelitalo Happi Game Room（城市资助的代码俱乐部，每周一开放一次）的核心管理人员，他负责教约30名13-25岁的青少年学习基础代码课程。
游戏机领域的资深工作室，以《Flatout》系列以及《SEGA Rally》等外包项目而闻名。Bugbear积极参与当地社区活动。目前这家工作室已经在Kickstarter网站上为它的下一个项目《Next Car Game》进行众筹。这款游戏显然是《Flatout》系列的精神延续之作。
（Lifeline Ventures合伙创始人Timo Ahopelto）
在芬兰，本地投资公司是很少的，大部分资金来自外部合作方。Lifeline是例外之一，它专注于游戏和生物技术的投资，是Grand Cru和Supercell的早期投资人。它的合伙创始人Timo Ahopelto还投资了Grey Area、Uplause和Applifier。这家投资公司目前还有多个项目正在筹备中。
又一个血统高贵的开发工作室。作为《Max Payne》和《Alan Wake》的开发者，它已经经营了近20年了。但它没有止步不前，这家工作室目前正在野心勃勃地制作Xbox One冒险游戏《Quantum Break》。据说这款游戏具有全新的玩法，剧情将由游戏中的活动决定。
（《Clash of Clans》能否达到像《愤怒的小鸟》那样的全球知名度，仍然有待时间的验证，但Supercell有足够的钱做实验。）
作为本地行业的新英雄，Supercell使玩《Clash of Clans》成为一个全球现象。这家工作室一边赚钱一边回馈赫尔辛基的游戏生态圈。这家工作室目前面临一个艰难的选择：把这款游戏培养成更大的品牌，或者开发新作品。Supercell准备证明自己不是一个昙花一现的工作室。不愧为赫尔辛基游戏行业的英雄！（本文为游戏邦/gamerboom.com编译，拒绝任何不保留版权的转载，如需转载请联系：游戏邦）
Helsinki: Picking the Right Acorns
By Dan Pearson
“Helsinki has a wonderful location,” I’m told with a smile. “It’s nowhere, but it’s close to everything.”
I’m sat in the meeting room of the Helsinki NewCo Factory, a state-sponsored start-up incubator and accelerator which serves a number of industries for the city and the country at large. I’m speaking to Mika Valtasaari, the energetic and intense ex-Nokia employee who heads up the scheme, who is trying to explain how the capital of a country with just 5.4 million inhabitants is suddenly one of the hottest crucibles of European game development.
Finland’s Games Industry
180 companies employing 2200 people, 35 per cent of which operate in or around Helsinki
An estimated revenue of €800 million for 2013, a huge increase from last year’s €220m.
50 per cent of gaming companies are less than two years old
One of the world’s best education systems and a wealth of knowledge from ex-Nokia staff means qualified staff are abundant.
“I haven’t been in the game long enough to know if it’s a boom or if it’s just getting visibility,” he qualifies carefully, in a style of humble optimism which proves to be endemic amongst his countrymen. “But we’re seeing lots of very, very interesting things.”
Valtasaari isn’t alone in finding the city’s burgeoning games industry interesting. As Europe’s rolling recession front prepares to break on the nation’s shores, the 2200 people currently employed in the sector are due to pull in an estimated €800 million in revenue this year, and that’s aside from the massive cash injection which the sales of 51 per cent of Supercell has just raised. That sort of economic activity, in a time of sparsity, begins to get people’s attention.
“I think it’s made it a lot more acceptable,” Valtasaari tells me of the Clash of Clans developer’s deal with SoftBank. “It’s in financial papers, not just magazines made for boys. Family mothers are talking about it. It’s done a world of good, and it’s done a world of good at a time when we basically only have bad news. So it’s really the right time and the right place for a success.
“It’s a great success to have business which isn’t just trying to breed Supercell clones – it’s brought about a really good environment, an ecosystem of things that are living of each other and communicating. They’re not afraid to compete with each other because they know that they aren’t really competing against each other. They’re not afraid to go global. The big companies have made things respectable and they’ve also created a curriculum of education for the companies behind them.”
“The big companies have made things respectable and they’ve also created a curriculum of education for the companies behind them”
Mika Valtasaari, NewCo Factory
NewCo operates in a similar way to any incubator, (“helping start-ups get access to what they need so they can get established, hitting as few mines as possible on the way,” as Mika puts it.) but it reflects an attitude prevalent in the Finnish industry as a whole: the success of Rovio and Supercell, along with the pedigree of studios like Remedy, RedLynx and Bugbear, is bringing global attention to an industry which moves very quickly indeed. The conclusion: capitalise on that growth, attention and Zeitgeist and build a lasting legacy.
Part of Valtasaari’s job is to identify the up and coming stars, outfits like Playraven or Grand Cru, and get them a foothold on the ladder – a process that the city is happy to invest in.
“Currently we help companies get a start-up grant, and our local fee is €280 a month, to hire a hotspot in the middle of town is another €120 on top. It’s either fee based or you can look at it like the public model – we help you get money, take a little bit ourselves, then help you make the most of what’s left.
“It’s public money, city money. When we have our pitch events, that’s investors, we don’t want companies to be government supported, we want them to learn how to deal with money. Also when they approach a crowd-funding agency, or when someone drops €150,000 or €3 million, or €1.1 billion in front of them, they don’t go to pieces.”
That public investment is a common thing across the Nordic region and has been credited with firing a great deal of the area’s recent success. It’s visible at events like the Nordic Game Festival and in numerous young businesses across the area, and, it’s proven, it pays dividends. Supercell, upon taking delivery of €1.1 billion in exchange for 51 per cent of the company, took out an advert in national newspapers proclaiming how proud the company directors were to pay tax on the windfall in a country which does so much to support the sector, and immediately paid back the cash it has received in government loans.
Such social largesse is pitifully rare elsewhere in the corporate world, and Mika believes that it’s Helsinki’s attitude to enabling useful failure and lesson learning which imbues that spirit amongst its successes.
Angry Birds merchandising is predictably ubiquitous, competing with Moomins as the ‘national brand’.
“I think if you treat people right, they’ll treat you right,” he explains emphatically. “If they see a benefit tax from money being spent on them, they pay it back. On the other hand, I think it’s a real shame that the big established companies are going to such an extent to ‘tax optimise’. That they forget that they’re actually getting something in return.
“Supercell have said, you know what, we’re going to pay that back. We made something out of it. We’re not going to play any tricks and route it through the Cayman Islands, then Lichenstein then Switzerland etc etc. None of that is there and that’s really cool to see.”
That attitude of social responsibility, that curiously pragmatic and very Scandinavian capitalist socialism, is a running theme throughout my visit. Even in the hallowed halls of Rovio, which occupy several floors in four towers of a commercial estate in the city of Espoo, the spirit of collaboration and community is apparent. Peter Vesterbacka, Rovio’s ebullient marketing head and most visible face, is a regular attendee of local events and indie meet-ups – his name is spoken with a respectful chuckle by more than one developer.
Another veteran local studio, Flatout producer Bugbear, has taken its community invovlement a little further, offering their assistance to a government funded scheme which aims to help kids interested in joining the industry learn to code.
“They were worried about the games industry in Finland not having enough skilled and enthusiastic workers in the future and they wanted to do something that would engage young people”
That scheme is run by Hannes Pasanen, a man who seems born to teach. He combines a quiet authority with geniality and an obvious passion for education and talks with open enthusiasm about his charges. As the key supervisor at Helsinki’s Pelitalo Happi Game Room, a city-funded coding club which meets every Monday, Hannes oversees groups of around 30 13-25 year olds who are all learning the basics.
“We got some funding from the ministry of education – our main aim was to find ways to use computers and games to help kids. We founded this place, then we had the contact from Bugbear – they wanted to do something. They were worried about the games industry in Finland not having enough skilled and enthusiastic workers in the future and they wanted to do something that would engage young people.
“We’re now trying to get more funding to try and develop this program, we’re aiming to approach the ministry of labour. We’re also trying to get it linked to some areas of the curriculum – we’re in the process of trying to integrate a second grade professional study into the open study options which Finnish students can choose.”
Every week, two professional developers from Helsinki’s community come along to the club and pass on their knowledge to the youngsters there, also volunteering to help supervise the open gaming nights which the club hosts on Friday and Saturday nights, as well as the special sessions the centre holds for socially restricted young men.
“Basically the idea is for them to find the tools and friends to develop games, with the help of games industry professionals. We bring professionals from different aspects of game development to teach the young people the whole process from script writing to graphics and sound and production. We try to focus on things like setting up your own company – the business side as well.
A pleasantly low-rise city, Helsinki nonetheless exhibits plenty of signs of expansion and investment.
“The original idea came from Bugbear entertainment. There were some Finnish games sites which were going out of business because nobody was active enough to keep them going, so they tried to save it. The idea was to save it and create a new site that brings new developers together and they could provide the right tools and forums for people to get together and start projects. Then we decided to try this sort of laboratory environment instead, to bring them here and have professionals come to help.
“As well as this, we have a project which aims to create a set of game develop web pages for young people in other areas of Finland. That way we can start to introduce tools and techniques to children living remotely. It also has other social and educational aspects, as well as ways to communicate with other developers and follow up job opportunities.”
These support networks and high levels of government engagement have certainly played a part in the growth of the local scene, but Rovio and Supercell, as excellent local examples of just how successful good game development can be, have been a huge influence too. They’re pushing a growing and highly visible mobile agenda in the city, but there’s a wide range of business models and platform preferences amongst the city’s many studios. Read on for a brief summary of the city’s major players and upcoming stars.
Veterans of the console scene with their Flatout series and contract work on titles like SEGA Rally, Bugbear is an active member of the local community, too. Looking to secure its next project, the studio has just opened a Kickstarter for Next Car Game – the unambiguously titled siritual successor the the Flatout titles.
A much-lauded start-up which received generous funding for as yet unreleased debut game Supernauts, Grand Cru has staffed itself with a selection of staff from leading mobile developers across Europe. Very much one to watch and referred to as “the next Supercell” more than once.
One of a very select club of developers to have a game available for the PS4 at launch in the shape of Resogun, Housemarque’s broad portfolio and special agreement with Sony makes it an up and coming member of the local scene. The company’s newly refurbished office also holds the most comfortable playtesting room ever constructed.
Lifeline Ventures founding partner Timo Ahopelto
Local investment companies are a rarity in Finland, with most money coming from outside partners. Lifeline is one of the exceptions to that rule, specialising largely in games and biotech investment. Early seed funders for Grand Cru and Supercell, founding partner Timo Ahopelto has also put money towards Grey Area, Uplause and Applifier, as well as having a few more projects in the pipeline.
A start-up full of experience already being spoken about with great reverence, Playraven is formed of vetrans from companies as diverse as Remedy, Wooga and Digital Chocolate. The developer’s first game, Spymaster, is in beta now in preparation for an iOS launch soon. Aiming for a core strategy audience with extended play sessions, Spymaster is already seeing great engagement from players, with a particular interest from female gamers.
As a part of Ubisoft, RedLynx is Helsinki’s local representative of big publishers. Having created a tremendously loyal following with years of catering to core markets, the studio is currently working on two new titles in its flagship Trials series, one for console and another for mobile. For a more insight into their current plans, read our recent interview.
Another developer with a grand pedigree, the Max Payne and Alan Wake developer has been in business for nearly 20 years. It’s not staying still, however, the studio is currently working on ambitious transmedia adventure Quantum Break for the Xbox One, a project which will bookend sections of gameplay with episodes of a ‘TV’ show, the plot of which will depend upon in-game actions.
Whether Clash of Clans becomes a global brand like Angry Birds remains to be seen, but Supercell have the cash in the bank to experiment.
The original blueprint for mobile gaming super-stardom, Rovio’s Angry Birds is a textbook study on how to proliferate and diversify an IP. From incredibly high-profile band mash-ups with partners like Pixar and Star Wars to a rapidly growing merchandising business which produces everything from coffee to hats, Rovio is the master of brand iteration and Finland’s largest games employer.
Current heroes of the local industry, Supercell have turned Clash of Clans into a global phenomenon whilst ploughing cash and experience back into the city’s eco-system. Now looking at a choice between trying to turn that game into a wider brand or risk launching a new IP, Supercell is poised to prove itself much more than a one-hit wonder. Definitely the current local heroes.(source:gamesindustry)