When Supercell announced the sale of 51% of their shares to Gungho and Softbank for $1.5 billion we suspected that we would see some of that money trickle down to benefit others in Finland. At the time we thought that might be other startups, local restaurants and pubs. Well perhaps that is happening, but what we have learnt has surprised and given us a wonderful sense of Christmas cheer.
Badland, a premium mobile game title from Finnish developer Frogmind, was first launched onto the App Store back in April. Now as the year draws to a close the game has been released for Android and Blackberry and we've spotted an interesting new development in its monetization strategy.
Slush is over for another year and in its wake lies a wreckage of food, drinks, business cards and worn out souls. The two day startup conference in Helsinki brought together a host of early-stage startup companies, angel investors and venture capitalists from across Europe and the US to meet, greet and perform the elaborate mating ritual dances normally reserved for wildlife TV shows. The resultant conflagration was an exhausting experience but well worth the energy expended to meet so many people and be overwhelmed by their ideas and passion.
Since lists are the in thing this month (at least for the purposes of this article) here’s one about the things that stood out at Slush to me.
Three years and a $3 billion dollar valuation. Not sure about you, but this has not quite settled in my mind completely yet and I had a lot of questions about the deal and what it might possibly mean for the company and the local startup scene.
So we reached out to Ilkka Paananen, the CEO of Supercell, who is the best person to answer these types of questions. In the interview, we first confirmed a few factual questions, before going into the emotional and personal ones.
Editor's Note: This is a guest post by Neil Rimer, Partner at Index Ventures and there is an interview for ArcticStartup at the end.
In 2010, the thirtieth year of SoftBank’s existence, its founder Masayoshi Son outlined the company’s vision for the next 30 years. He first set the context by zooming out to talk about how the world and the needs of humanity would evolve over the next 300 years, and stated his firm objective for SoftBank to survive at least that long. And then, zooming back in, explained that in this context, having a 30-year plan was absolutely essential.
SoftBank took an entire year to develop this vision which combined the output of an unprecedented, company-wide, soul-searching exercise with input from consumers responding to questions tweeted by Son himself. At the company’s annual meeting in 2010, Son articulated a vision based on SoftBank’s underlying mission to harness the information revolution to make everybody happy.
News has broke that Softbank, a Japanese telecommunications and internet corporation, together with the GungHo, the Japanese developer of Puzzle Dragon, have teamed up to buy a 51% stake in Supercell for $1.5 billion, putting Supercell's valuation at over $3 billion.
Finland boasts a population of just 5.4 million and it doesn't need to be said Finland's gaming startups have had a remarkable ride on top of the mobile gaming charts. Checking today, Rovio's Angry Birds Star Wars II is the top grossing paid app, and Supercell's Clash of Clans and Hay Day are in the second and fourth position on the top grossing charts, despite both launching over a year ago.
The Finnish gaming industry was built on the backs of what The Economist called Finland's "autistic creatives." But to continue to grow, the industry can't wait for more programming talent to come out of Finland's universities. Instead, it will be a matter of pulling in outside talent.
We hope that you are all familiar with Supercell, the company that is making millions in daily revenue and has been the top grossing games publisher in the world ever since they reached the position last year. What some may not be aware of is that GungHo Entertainment from Japan has been the number two for many months and is generating revenues of over $2.5 million a day and is valued at $4.5 billion.
When a gaming company is throwing a party or a conference, you know that you want to be there. When this company is Supercell, you know that you will do anything in your power to be invited. We just got off-call with Heini Vesander, PR Lead of Supercell, who told us about an upcoming gaming conference & festival - Free Your Play 13, that will take place in Helsinki on the 19th of June.
Heini told us that way too many gaming conferences are actually too much alike with normal ones. Supercell wants to change that by making an event that is to be remembered. After all it is not just a conference but also a festival with live music, food, bevarages and performances including a Swedish indie rock band - The Sounds.
Accel Partners yesterday closed a €367 Million fund to focus on Europe and Israel. With Accel London IV, the firm will invest in early-stage and growth stage companies in the consumer Internet, big data, cloud, SaaS and mobile.
The Nordics are a big focus of Accel's new fund, as they seek to focus on their success with Rovio, Supercell, Spotify, and QlikTech, whose listing on NASDAQ resulted in a return of over $400 million to the Accel fund - one of the largest venture returns in Europe.
Grand Cru has made into the finals of the Amazon AWS Challenge, and out of the 12 finalists in 4 different categories, they're the only ones from Northern Europe to make the list. At ArcticStartup we normally don't cover a lot of company-sponsored competitions for the PR flurry that they are, but it gives us an excuse to talk about the fairly secretive Helsinki-based Grand Cru and their upcoming title, Supernauts.
For those of you who haven't seen our past coverage, Supernauts is sort of a sandbox game populated by Superhero-styled worldbuilders. Thorbjörn Warin, their Marketing and Business Development Director says that the easiest (but not the most accurate) way to describe the game is "Minecraftville". "We've had a lot of Minecraft players test the game, and they really like the touch interface for example. You can see small parts of it in the video, you just take your finger and drag and all the sudden stuff happens."
Being a Clash of Clans player myself, I decided to venture out and attend the first ever Clash of Clans meetup that took place yesterday in Supercells native Helsinki. Frankly speaking, I had no idea that I would follow up with an article, but what took place got me inspired and I would like to share my thoughts from the meetup and later my understanding of their success formula.
In addition to sneak previews of the upcoming update, free beer, and a strategy talk, I also got some insight into what type of people play this game and just how serious it can get.
Contrary to what you may think, most of the attendees were quite serious about the game at a competitive level. Some wore suits and seemed to be from the business world, which makes me wonder about the target market and user demographics for the game.
App Annie’s data for November is in and for the first time Supercell is now in first place, surpassing the gaming giant, EA, in terms of monthly iOS revenue.
“I am out of words. Supercell was the largest publisher on the Apple platform in November, measured by revenue. And with just two apps!” was the message on Ilkka Paananen’s , Supercell CEO’s Facebook timeline this morning and rightly so. Electronic Arts, the runner up, has 969 titles on iOS.
Rovio has become synonymous with Finnish mobile gaming. And for good reason. It's undeniable they've built an empire and completely raised the bar of what a mobile game can accomplish. But taking a look at the charts, it's getting harder to sideline Helsinki-based Supercell's success in gaming, no matter if they don't get quite the same media bump of a red Angry Birds sweatshirt.
Right now, Rovio has pushed out the three iterations of Angry Birds, Angry Birds Space in March, Amazing Alex in July, and Bad Piggies just this past week. Supercell meanwhile has Hay Day, which launched in June, and Clash of Clans, which launched in August.
With two of Helsinki-based Supercell's titles in the top 25 grossing iPad Games in the US, we decided to get in touch with Ilkka Paananen, the CEO of the company, to see if they could share anything about their success.
The two games on the App Store charts are Hay Day, a farming simulator game similar to Farmville in many respects. My colleague, Antti Vilpponen, reviewed the game "for many hours," which got the whole office playing and trading eggs and wheat on the free market. Read Antti's review here.
Supercell's other title, Clash of Clans, is similar, but more within the fantasy realm. In the game, not only do you have to make sure your army is well equipped and adequate against attacks while you're away but also make sure your finances are in order to keep building your village.
What's more impressive is the fact that Supercell is one of the four developers/publishers of games that have two releases in the list. The other publishers include Electronic Arts, GREE and Playtika.
Below is our short interview with Ilkka Paananen.
August 2nd saw the release of Supercell's second big iOS game, Clash of Clans. Towards the end of June the company released Hay Day and shot to the top of the charts with it. Even today, Hay Day is in top 50 for the top grossing apps in the US.
But back to Clash of Clans. It's a game made for the iPad and iPhone in a similar fashion to that of Hay Day. Both games are expected to be played in short bursts (but then again you can dive in for hours) whether you're comfortably on the sofa with your iPad or commuting to work and waging war on your iPhone.
As people were beginning to wind down for the long midsummer weekend, the Helsinki, Finland based Supercell went on to launch their new game Hay Day. Hay Day is a farming game like no other. One might think that the world has seen enough of annoying farm game advertising on Facebook from the likes of Zynga, but having played Hay Day through out the weekend for about 10+ hours in total I can say that there is demand.
Hay Day is also Supercell's first mobile and tablet only game, meaning it has been designed for the iOS platform. You can play it on your iPod Touch, iPhone as well as the iPad.
According to Ilkka Paananen, the CEO of Supercell, the launch has been quite phenomenal despite the challenging launch date.
Just during the long weekend, the game has shot to #7 in the US iPad listing while pushing to #13 on the iPhone. Paananen also disclosed that according to their own analysis, they are going to be achieving similar places in their key markets in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, UK, Canada, Australia and so on. In many countries they're already in the top three spot.
We missed last week due to some scheduling challenges, but we're back this week a little earlier with our talk show. This week we talk to Petteri Koponen, the co-founder of Lifeline Ventures as well as the former co-founder of Jaiku and First Hop. He's got a colorful past with this companies and in living through them, built up an enormous amount of experience. Lifeline Ventures has also become one of the prominent early stage investors in Finland through their 19 investments.
We'd also like to thank our sponsor for this week - Kisko Labs, for supporting the show. Kisko Labs makes people happy by solving their problems with digital services. They've got a neat offering called Kisko Kickstart that will develop an idea into a minimum viable product in five weeks. This helps companies understand how the idea would work in a business environment.
Just a couple of weeks ago we wrote that Supercell would be announcing multiple new games in early 2012. Well, one of them will be Battle Buddies, and will be available for tablets in the first half of 2012. Supercell's first game, Gunshine.net focused on bringing the experience of social, real-time multiplayer gaming to as many people as possible. Since then, the Helsinki, Finland based company has proved the concept works and raised north of 10 million USD from Accel Partners and others.
The Finnish gaming company Supercell, that launched the hugely successful game Gunshine.net earlier this year is working on their next release, Pets vs Orcs. They have stated this in their blog in the beginning of November.
Those are the strategic figures of the Finnish gaming industry at the moment. Last night, prime time news in Finland covered the gaming industry in proper spotlight and outlined a few key figures of the industry. This year, the gaming industry is expected to generate 165 million euros in revenue and in doing so they employ 1200 people. Despite this somewhat significant size of the industry for such a small country, it has yet to see any real public acknowledgement from media at large or politicians. The downside of all this is that there are very few schools who teach anything related to the games industry.
Joakim Achren, a Finnish entrepreneur, was one of the first entrepreneurs I met when we started ArcticStartup. He talked about his company Ironstar Helsinki with passion and of all the things they're building. Couple of weeks ago he posted a post mortem on his final touches to shut down the company and move on. He summarises the path they took with Ironstar Helsinki and outlines a couple of reasons why they decided to shut the company down, instead of pursuing other alternatives. We've also written about Ironstar Helsinki extensively, be it their product launch or the fact that Monty Widenius invested in the company in 2009.
The reasons that lead to the closure of the company were a failed acquisition and the failure to raise more funding this year. Nothing new there, but what I really respect with the all the emotional turbulence Achren must have gone through, is the effort he has taken to cover all this in a single blog post.
I talked to Supercell's CEO Ilkka Paananen on where the company stands today and a little about their future plans as well. Supercell is a hot Finnish gaming company that closed a $12 million series A from Accel in May. We covered the company in February initially and it's come incredibly far since then. Supercell employs some 40 people in two locations and its Gunshine game has shown some incredible traction.
Finnish game developer Supercell announced that it secured an investment of $12 million from Accel Partners, the leading global venture capital firm with a wealth of experience in the gaming industry. This is really great news for a gaming company that was founded only in June 2010. Their first game, Gunshine, was released this February as a closed beta and has proven to be quite addictive among the first adopters. Gunshine is described as a game that bridges the gap between browser-based massively-multiplayer games and social games, with deep online gameplay and extensive social features. Now that the product is about to enter open beta and will become available for everyone to play, the investment will help Supercell accelerate its growth, expand its team and also release new games and target new platforms.
Back in February we covered a new Finnish gaming startup called Supercell. It was founded by Mikko Kodisoja, one of the gaming gurus in the Finnish gaming industry. Supercell also received a significant amount of funding from London Venture Partners' Phil Harrison (ex-Sony global studio director), David Gardner, (ex-EA COO, one of the early investors into Playfish), David Lau-Kee, Paul Heydon, Initial Capital LP (fund founded by serial entrepreneurs) as well as Jari Ovaskainen (ex-Iobox CEO). However, Petteri Koponen, one of the founders and early stage investors in Lifeline Ventures tweeted something interesting before and during the weekend.
Disney's Matthew Grossman has confirmed to Finnish daily newspaper Helsingin Sanomat that they have acquired the Finnish gaming company Rocket Pack. There was no confirmation or disclosure of any other details of the deal. First rumours of this began to surface last night on Twitter, but they were hard to confirm. The company was acquired relatively quickly, just a year from its founding.
Supercell is a relatively recently founded startup to say the least. It was founded in the summer of 2010 by gaming professionals with experience from Remedy, Digital Chocolate and Sulake. The team members have experience in publishing 165 games on 12 different platforms so I'm at ease to call this bunch a group of heavyweight veterans. But like real artists, these veterans can ship - today, they've released a roleplaying game called Gunshine.net. It's an isometric 3D game built on flash. Just to remind you, the company was founded a little over 6 months ago so they've achieved a lot. Gunshine.net takes place in the near future, in Dawnbreak City, of whose control Labycore mega-corporation and other opposition groups are fighting for.