March 9, 2016

Epic Owl flies high in mobile gaming

Epic Owl was founded in 2014 by a group of Rovio employees who followed their own agenda in mobile gaming.
Epic Owl was founded in 2014 by a group of Rovio employees who followed their own agenda in mobile gaming.
Epic Owl

Over the last few years, Finland has been making waves in the mobile gaming industry with Rovio and Supercell leading the way. Now a new company has joined the fold in continuing that tradition, with its debut game Starside Arena.

Epic Owl was founded in 2014 by a group of Rovio employees who followed their own agenda, as CEO Juha Vainio explains: “There were some strategy decisions made in Rovio back in 2014 that we didn’t fully agree on and there were some cancellations of our game projects within the company.”

The company has a saying that “The Game comes First”, which means that the gameplay is developed upon before any characters or worlds are created. The group is small and agile meaning that important decisions are made right away and the company has a particular niche audience that they want to focus on creating games for.

The Game

“There are lots of small mobile gaming companies and there will always be a centre of mobile gaming here in Finland,” says Epic Owl CEO Juha Vainio.

“There are lots of small mobile gaming companies and there will always be a centre of mobile gaming here in Finland,” says Epic Owl CEO Juha Vainio.

Josh Reid

The idea for Starside Arena has been there since the foundations of the company. “We wanted to make a space themed builder battler,” Vainio recalls. “The basic design was a concept that we started prototyping and it turned out quite nice.”

The company was able to attract funding in the early stages of the game’s development from Sisu Game Ventures as well as providing their own money to the company.

However there is currently no other outside funding for the company to obtain on the horizon, “We’ve been trying to find extra funding for about six months,” he admits, “but it hasn’t been very easy.

The future of Finland’s gaming industry

Finland’s gaming industry has been on the rise since the successes of Rovio’s Angry Birds and Supercell’s Clash of Clans, but the roots of the gaming industry lay in the early ’90s demo scene.

“Lots of kids started making demos and that’s where it’s speculated that the Finnish gaming scene started,” says Vainio. Also Nokia had its share in developing Finland’s gaming market: “Nokia put lots of money in games and that’s when many of the small gaming companies got started.”

Recently, there has been a movement of Finnish gaming companies wanting to develop virtual reality gaming for devices such as the Oculus Rift and the PlayStation 4’s VR headset, but the move might not be ruled out for Epic Owl.

“We are very enthusiastic but I think we want to see the first wave being done by other gaming companies,” Vainio says and adds, “Our strengths are in mobile gaming development, so we are concentrating on that at the moment.”

As for Epic Owl’s future, Vainio once again refers back to one key word: agile.

“We adjust our direction very often so while we are in mobile gaming now, it doesn’t mean that we’ll still be there in five years’ time.”

Text: Josh Reid

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