Five From Finland
Fast growing, diverse and global by nature, the Finnish game industry has seen a lot of success stories over the last quarter of a century and continues to produce innovative gaming ideas.
Worth 2.4 billion euros, the Finnish game industry celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2020. Maintaining its position as one of the global leaders in game development, Finland houses some 200 game studios attracting the best domestic and international talent. According to statistics by Neogames, a non-profit association for the game industry in Finland, 28 per cent of the 3 600 people presently employed in the industry are foreign nationals and 22 per cent women.
Here are five companies that are taking a variety of approaches to innovating in the Finnish game industry.
Jyväskylä-based Psyon Games has found its unique niche in combining the joy of entertainment with the beauty of knowledge in science and health games. Thanks to its flagship title, Antidote, Psyon Games became the first ever game company to win the health startup of the year title at the 2020 Eyeforpharma Awards, a division of Reuters Events.
“Games are superior to any other form of advertising because of their high level of engagement,” founder and CEO Olli Rundgren told us a few years ago. “If they’re used to educate and inform people, the impact can be huge.”
Building on Antidote, where players are invited to step into the world of vaccinations and antibiotics, the studio in 2021 released a new mobile title, Antidote COVID-19, in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO). Aiming to raise public awareness about the coronavirus, vaccinations and other preventative actions, the game is yet another example of distributing important health information via entertainment.
In addition to the WHO, Psyon Games has won endorsement from the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies and healthcare organisations, including the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA), Takeda and GSK.
“Health games are going to be really big business,” Rundgren envisioned. “Our goal is to be the world’s largest developer of health games.”
Founded in 2020, Espoo-based Yahaha Studios offers a new user-generated content social platform that enables any game enthusiast to build their own immersive games. The no-code platform provides developers of varying levels of experience an open and modular set of online game development services, as well as enables them to distribute their creations across platforms and bring players together online.
“Connecting users around the world through virtual entertainment, YAHAHA offers a unique creative and social experience to game developers and gamers alike,” noted co-founder and CEO Chris Zhu. “Through YAHAHA, we are empowering creators at all levels, from established developers to those making their first game – everyone can be a creator in our virtual world.”
The idea has proved highly attractive to investors. Earlier this year, Yahaha Studios announced it has raised nearly 45 million euros in three funding rounds organised over a six-month period, which was described by the company as an “incredibly exciting” achievement.
Carrying out its business development operations in South Korea, Yahaha Studios has recently entered into an exclusive partnership with Dabeeo, a Korean developer of geospatial data digitisation and analytics solutions. The collaboration aims to introduce cutting-edge artificial intelligence (AI) technology that will allow YAHAHA users to quickly create accurate maps and landscapes inside the social platform.
Tampere is often considered as the second biggest gaming hub in Finland after the capital region. The city is home to numerous initiatives and game studios, including female-led Boom Corp, founded in 2020 in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
Following its vision, the studio keeps itself busy with developing social games that bring people together. The debut title, Boom Slingers, was released globally on mobile app shops in late 2020 and has managed to attract over two million players since its launch. The turn-based action game has been constantly evolving, with Boom Corp adding more community features and ways for people to connect inside the game.
“We are creating games for future generations who are inherently social,” co-founder and CEO Minna Eloranta pointed out. “We believe that mobile is the most accessible platform to bring different kinds of people to play games together. To achieve this, we are creating a workplace that nurtures creativity and supports people from diverse backgrounds to make the best possible games.”
Last year, Boom Corp completed a 1.5 million-euro seed funding round led by VGames, a venture fund for game entrepreneurs. According to Eloranta, the investment is “exceptional” for a young company hailing from Tampere. VGames took note of Boom Corp approaching the industry in a very data driven and creative way, as well as having a strong team of professionals on board.
Located just some 170 kilometres south of the Arctic Circle, Fingersoft was founded ten years ago and has evolved into one of the biggest and most well-known names in the racing genre of mobile games. The studio is best known for its worldwide mobile game hits, Hill Climb Racing and Hill Climb Racing 2, which have a total of over two billion installs across all platforms.
“The number of downloads has started to grow over the past few years and there are hundreds of thousands of new downloads every day,” noted CEO Jaakko Kylmäoja. “In India, our brand is better known than Super Mario.”
“We continuously add new content to the games to keep them exciting. It is wonderful to see how our games still appeal to players after all these years, and that new players keep joining our community,” he added.
Despite its huge audience, Fingersoft prefers to keep things small and personal, with a strong focus on maintaining a relaxed and laid-back work atmosphere. Last year, the studio trialled a reduced working hours scheme aiming to improve work-life balance for its close to 100 employees, regardless of their job description.
Wondering what it is like to work in one of the world’s northernmost game studios? Read our interview with Shiho Kaneko. Originally from Japan, Kaneko started at Fingersoft as an intern before moving to a full-time position as a quality assurance junior engineer.
Since 2016, the Helsinki-based studio has been on a mission to empower and motivate people to move more with activity games where the player’s body becomes the game controller. Rehaboo’s proprietary cloud-based AI motion sensing requires no wearables and works with any web camera.
The activity games developed by the company are targeted mainly at those requiring physical therapy for rehabilitation, whether in children’s hospitals or elderly care homes. Two other promising customer segments are office workers and schoolchildren in need of regular exercise breaks to stay agile and refreshed throughout the day.
Rehaboo’s gamified solutions have been tested in hospitals, assisted living facilities and home environments around the country, including last year’s pilot project seeking to increase the activity of seniors living alone at home in Helsinki.
Following the closing of a seed round led by Nordic Game Ventures last September, Rehaboo is now eyeing wider markets.
“We have now gathered money to be able to start investigating the US market,” Gréen said in a recent interview with GSD Venture Studio, a California-based venture studio helping resilient entrepreneurs to go global.