“We will bring a user experience [UX] innovation to mobile gaming,” says Samuli Syvähuoko, co-founder of Armada. “It is in a game we are working on, but it can be used in many game types and genres. This has never been seen before on any game or platform.”
They sound like big claims, but Armada has attracted notable backing. The startup’s funding round was led by London-based Initial Capital and joined by a group of European and US gaming funds including Index Ventures, Profounders Capital, Backed, Reaktor Ventures, Sisu Game Ventures as well as angel investors Chris Lee, Reynir Hardarson and Ben Feder.
Syvähuoko believes this could be the largest initial investment ever secured by a Finnish gaming company. It is a laudable feat considering Armada has yet to announce its first game and the whole round was closed just three months after the company was formed in September 2015.
“This is a new venture with its first project so we will use the funding to create everything the company needs, starting with office infrastructure,” Syvähuoko explains. “We also have recruitment open all the time, particularly for game developers.”
Armada is already well set up with a diverse team (Syvähuoko counts seven nationalities) of 20 employees based in Helsinki, many of whom are gaming industry veterans. Notably Syvähuoko and co-founders Giuliano Cremaschi, Mikko Kinnunen, Juha Matikainen, Tero Teelahti, Didier Pippel and Nick Joore previously worked on such gaming successes as Crysis, Habbo, Mass Effect and Max Payne.
Sharing information brings huge benefits to everyone. Whether it is on game design, marketing or funding, we all share experiences with each other. I have not seen anything similar in another country.
But when asked about Armada’s gaming innovation Syvähuoko goes quiet. He says all will be revealed with the company’s first mobile game which will be flexible enough to appeal to both casual and core gamers.
“Our innovation is our competitive advantage, but it is not something that is impossible to copy,” Syvähuoko mysteriously explains. “We want to be very close to publishing our first game before we show anything. This way we will hit the market first, even if someone tries to copy us.”
In fact all Syvähuoko will say is that the new UX makes it possible to bring the look and (most importantly) feel of high quality PC games to mobile. The focus is on standout visuals, a transparent free-to-play model and engaging real-time multi-player experience.
“Our games will be easy to access and play while waiting for a bus, but their worlds and narratives will be more immersive and slightly more tailored to adult taste than is typical in mobile games,” Syvähuoko outlines. “Our innovation makes it possible for the first time to bring these gaming experiences to mobile devices in a seamless way.”
Mecca of mobile
Syvähuoko has long roots in the Finnish gaming industry. He co-founded one of the country’s first international gaming success, Remedy Entertainment, back in 1995, and believes the subsequent successes of Supercell and Rovio in Finland are no coincidence.
“I truly believe this is the mecca of mobile gaming,” Syvähuoko says. “We have many top quality founding teams, I would argue more than in any other country per capita. There is about the same number of well-funded, high class mobile games studios in the UK as in Finland – but the countries have very different population sizes.”
So what is Finland’s secret sauce? Syvähuoko cites the strong demo scene, Nokia’s early investments in mobile gaming and the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation (Tekes*) which has helped many startups through their financially challenging early days. But the most weight he puts on the gaming industry’s community spirit:
“Sharing information brings huge benefits to everyone,” Syvähuoko explains. “Whether it is on game design, marketing or funding, we all share experiences with each other. I have not seen anything similar in another country.”
Collaboration has also become increasingly crucial as the gaming market has become more crowded. A good game is no longer enough to stand out from competition so Armada comes prepared:
“This is why we have built a solid team and funding early on,” Syvähuoko says. “We want to maximise the probability of reaching the top and not just rely on luck. If everything goes as we hope, we will lead a major disruption in mobile gaming.”
Text: Eeva Haaramo
*Part of Business Finland since 2018