The burgeoning Finnish game industry has done much more than churn out hits and spawn success stories such as Remedy’s Max Payne, Rovio’s Angry Birds and Supercell’s Clash of Clans. It has injected top-notch talent to the local labour force, inspired scores of young entrepreneurs and championed a shift toward a more agile, more international and less hierarchical corporate culture.
A prime example of the latter is Futureplay Games, a Helsinki-based game studio known for its series of idle clicker games and popular battle royale game, Battlelands Royale.
“We’re a super flat organisation,” tells Chris Wilson, who takes care of marketing at the studio. “There’s no middle management, no silos, no bullshit. We like to focus on game development and try to cut out the trimmings, cut out the fat and reduce the noise.”
Futureplay Games was founded four years ago on the ambition to build an “awesome” company capable of seizing the opportunity presented by the budding video ads market, says Wilson. It has grown from a company of five to 34 – none of whom have formal job titles – and more than tripled its gross net sales from three to over 10 million euros between 2017 and 2018.
The growth may have necessitated the creation of a few different teams, but the game studio has resolutely steered clear of middle and project management and, instead, striven to keep itself as flat and agile as possible.
“We live and breathe by our flat hierarchy, which allows anybody to get involved in the development process at any stage,” explains Wilson.
“There are no titles, no office politics, no egos. We’re all hands-on, and the company was founded on the premise that corporate processes and structures can distract you from what really matters: getting stuff done. That also leaves room to learn and grown beyond your discipline. If you’re a marketer, you don’t just talk about marketing. If you’re a programmer, you don’t just talk about programming.”
Upping the pace of play
This is key also for another defining characteristic of Futureplay Games: a pronouncedly quicker approach to designing and launching games.
“It’s really important for us to produce fast, to learn fast, to fail fast and to pick up the pieces and move on quickly. We don’t believe in spending a lot of time in soft launch. The best way to test our games is to get them to market as soon as possible, which can sometimes mean sending them into soft launch without all the bells and whistles you’d expect from a perfectly polished release that has spent a long time in development,” tells Wilson.
He reveals that it took the game studio slightly less than six months to move from a prototype to soft launch with Battlelands Royale, which is presently played by well over half a million people a day.
“That’s the way we like to do things. Let the market be the judge of what we’re doing.”
Futureplay Games may not linger over the design process, but its decision-making is informed by rigorous market research, assures Wilson. The game studio leans on a team of data analysts tasked with staying on top of gaming trends to ensure its games fit the market and stand out at the time of launch.
“We want to make the right games at the right time,” he summarises.
It is not difficult to imagine that riding the crest of gaming trends is easier in an industry hotbed such as Helsinki, Finland.
“It’s awesome,” Wilson, a UK native, exclaims when asked about the local scene. “I’ve never experienced anything like this. The willingness to share from one studio to another is key. It’s a hotbed of competition, but the studios aren’t really competing against each other. There’s a willingness to go on this journey together, benefit from each studio’s learnings and pass knowledge from one company to the next.”
He attributes the success of the industry to the benevolent culture and high level of education in Finland, calling particular attention to GamePro, a recruitment programme for aspiring game industry professionals.
“We’ve hired quite a few people through that programme, even though it’s just an internship,” he tells.
But is it not difficult to stand out in an environment where game studios are springing up and powering up one another like mushrooms in Super Mario? No, says Wilson.
“Each studio has its own niche and way to brand and market itself,” he starts. “We try to stand out through the quality of our games and products. That resonates from our idle portfolio through to Battlelands Royale, which was awarded as one of the games of 2018 by Google Play. The first game we released, Idle Farming Empire, is still one of the market-leading idle games today.”
“Right now, we’re just starting work on some exciting titles that we‘re planning on sending into soft launch this year. Watch this space,” he promises.