Finland — and more specifically the Helsinki Capital Region — hosts some of the most thriving and successful game companies worldwide. In this pleasant end-of-summer talk, Gabriele Aimone, Director of Helsinki Games Capital, tells us more about the history of the Finnish gaming industry.
It is the beginning of August, the city starts buzzing again with activity after one month of summer vacation, and I seize the opportunity to launch the new season asking Gabriele Aimone, Director of Helsinki Games Capital, a few questions about the startup ecosystem in Helsinki and the gaming industry in Finland.
What is your own definition of a startup?
That’s a tough question… Usually, it is a collective who spots a problem that has not found any answer yet and who tries to create a solution for it. They know they work well together, they have the same drive and one day they just say Why don’t we do it? It is nice that people have this problem-solving attitude.
Regarding the gaming industry, it is a bit different. Either someone sees a gap in the market and tries to fill it or someone tries to get a share of an existing market space or it is a group of all time nerds who decide to create the game they have always dreamed of playing… [laughing]
So, what do you do?
I am the Director of Helsinki Games Capital, a newly found non-profit organisation representing the gaming industry in the Helsinki Capital Region.
What are the specificities of the gaming industry? Why is it so flourishing in Helsinki or in Finland in general?
People have understood the power of games as a vehicle for advertising, teaching, gathering others, make them move, motivate them. That is what is called gamification. Many industries use it and it implies a lot of studies behind the scenes, especially in the field of psychology.
In Finland, gaming is an old tradition. Although a couple of very important companies like Remedy and Housemrque were already thriving, the turning point was the turnaround of Nokia: suddenly lots of talented people who worked there had to leave their jobs and apply their skills to other industries, and gaming seemed to be a fitting one. And that is how the golden era of mobile games started in Finland. The first wave of mobile games had one clear monetisation model, which was a single payment. Pay a fixed price, download the app. The second wave, allowed the new free to play (F2P) model to dominate the market. Games are fully free, but with in-app purchases. Supercell has clearly been the company that cracked that model and I am happy that I was there to witness all of it. After such an incredible success, it took 7 years until another company would come even close to such success.
This country helps so much, it offers so many networking opportunities. The city of Helsinki and Finland in general is really aware of the startup ecosystem and they are willing to support it in different ways. A good measure of this success is that international gaming companies and developers are moving to Helsinki in order to be surrounded by all the talent and opportunities that are present here.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to create their own business?
Do your maths and be aware of your team. Choose wisely the people you will be working with. Don’t fall for vanity metrics. Be very grounded, learn from the Finns, they are grounded and straight-forward and accept criticism. In other words: put aside your ego.
Anything else that matters to you that you would like to add?
I have felt very welcomed in Finland. Probably the best thing here is that people are so approachable. Some people you could never approach in other countries, are here really open and always ready to help. I feel there is a tight family in the Finnish gaming industry.
Thanks a lot Gabriele, and all the best for Helsinki Games Capital!
By Noemi Poget – August 09, 2019