With Supercell and Rovio being the two major media magnets in Finland, it is easy to overlook what else is happening in the region. We have earlier put a claim on Helsinki being the world's mobile gaming capital, which with Supercell making over USD 2.4 Million a day and Rovio claiming over €152.2 million in sales, is probably a fair argument.
However when it comes to day-to-day success, it is definitely not all about Helsinki. Tampere, a city in southern Finland with a population of just 217,000 is the second biggest gaming hub in Finland and has a lot of initiatives that foster the gaming industry.
Perhaps in some sense, the Tampere gaming industry has an even longer history than that of Helsinki. Traditionally Nokia's biggest R&D site was based in Tampere and in 2007 THQ, the North American games publisher who at the time had a turnover of over $1 billion, bought the Tampere based gaming company - Universomo.
Consequently Universomo's shutdown in 2010 and Nokia's layoffs meant that there was a lot of freed up talent in Tampere, which according to Suvi Latva, project manager at ManseGames and coordinator at Neogames resulted in approximately 25% of companies being founded by former Universomo employees and 30% founded by people laid off by Nokia and its partners.
Another reason for the rapid growth of the industry in Tampere was a regional game industry support project known as ManseGames. The project was coaching new game start-ups and provided industry specialized know-how, contacts and services and was funded by the EU's Regional Development Fund, the City of Tampere, and Hermia Ltd. As a result, Tampere saw over 20 new game companies that hired more than 160 people.
What is more, according to Petri Nykänen, the Director of Tampere Region Economic Development Agency Tredea, is "[the gaming cluster] has grown very fast due to good availability of suitable workforce. However international game companies have not yet tapped into this potential."
The only larger company is Rovio, who have opened their Tampere based studio in 2012 and quickly filled it with personell. For startups and larger companies this means there will be a lot of developers in the region with little hiring competition.
Since gaming companies can take the advantage of self-publishing and aim for the global market from day one, they do not have a reason to compete and instead they collaborate with one another.
Thanks to these developments, there are already a number of successful and promising companies from the region. To name a few:
10tons: Large portfolio of games and they have also won the grand prize in Nokia's Callin All Innovators competition in 2011.
Colossal Order: Developed Cities In Motion, a game where you need to improve public transportation in Amsterdam, Berlin, Helsini and Vienna. They are currently working on a sequel: Cities in Motion 2 and have a publishing deal with the Swedish Paradox.
Team Action Zone: Location based mobile exercising games.
Breach Entertainment: An indie developer with their own iOS engine. They were able to get recognition from Pocket Gamer with just a trailer.
Fragment Production: Run by third time entrepreneurs, they made their first game in 2012 centered around managing a fire department.
Overall the Finnish gaming is soaring, which can be apparent from this 2013 overview. However most of the companies are still small studios that need a push, as Sonja Angesleva from International Games Developers Association comments: "I believe it takes another "ManseGames" to establish a stronger and a more persistent games industry in Tampere. The focus needs to shift to more established and profitable companies. Success drives others to succeed as well."
Still, the region is moving at an astonishing pace. In 2008 there were just 8 gaming companies in Tampere, today there are over 40. In comparison, at the end of 2012 there were around 160 in the whole of Finland. This growth is further supported by gaming education and research in the Game Research Lab at University of Tampere, New Factory incubation program and plans for a Mediapolis that will be a hub of 1100 people and much more.
So with a highly concentrated area of gaming companies, we can expect a lot more success stories from Tampere. Which means that international investors should keep Tampere on their cross-hairs.
Not to mention events such as the New Factory Open taking place today or the MoneyTalks Forum focusing on Gaming Industry and Digital Media which will take place on the 6th of June. In Autumn, Tampere will host MindTrek. All of these events give a lot of opportunities to get to know the community and expand networks beyond the Ring III of Helsinki.
As a summary, check out this Slideshare outlining the Tampere gaming industry growth over the past four years:
International VC Zone
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Top Image Courtesy Of Shutterstock // Tampere