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New game teams from Oulu head to Malmö

Games teams at Startup Station in Oulu with ICTOulu branding

This article originally appeared on the BusinessOulu website in Finnish.

Above photo taken by Anna Karppinen. Top row: Representatives from Runoi Games, Pysetheus, Yrdvaab and Renovator alongside coach Anna Salomaa. Bottom row: Representatives from Runoi Games, Leonard Somero Productions and Spellcasters

At least four new games teams from Oulu found themselves in an exciting position at the end of May. Coming up was their first participation in the Nordic Game fair in Malmö, Sweden. For quite a few of them, they had their first pitches to game publishers ahead of them as well. In this process, game developers present their work to companies that can finance game development and marketing activities. The teams had been preparing intensely for this event throughout April and May.

Prior to this point, all the teams had participated in the GameTeam training organised by BusinessOulu’s Digitarjotin project in spring 2022. This project also partly funded the How to Get A Publisher training that took place spring 2023. Of the six teams that participated in the training, Yrdvaab, Leonard Somero Productions, Pysetheus and Runoi Games took the step of heading to Nordic Game. Their participation in this event was funded by BusinessOulu’s GoGlobal project.

Games teams in Malmö
The Nordic Game Conference takes place every spring in Malmö. The event is an excellent place to meet veterans and newcomers to the gaming industry. Above photo by Anne Ryynänen.

To end up in the game industry, one often needs to have a passion towards games. That’s why we asked the teams that participated in How to Get A Publisher training what got them excited about games and their path towards professional game development and finding a publisher. The answers we got cited their own childhood experiences of playing games as a hobby, studies in the subject, and the attraction of the north.

“After I graduated, most of the students in my course that year were immediately moving to southern Finland in search of employment opportunities,” said Juho Vuolo from Spellcasters. “I thought that it would be good to have a group further north, too, so that we could also get a position as a viable game development city. Nine years later, you could say that things have really changed since those times.”

The Business of Play

The teams have now participated in two BusinessOulu coaching sessions, with a year passing between. New lessons have been learned along the way, especially regarding the business side of the games industry.

“I hadn’t looked into more than surface level knowledge about (things like) marketing, customers and finances,” said J-M Häätylä from Renovator. “In the coaching, these issues were discussed in concrete terms, e.g. with Excel tables and examples that work in real life. It turned out to be a world of its own.”

The year that has passed between the two coaching series, also includes the progress of the game teams’ own game projects, formation of teams, founding of companies and the refinement of ideas.

Many teams, in addition to presenting their business development, included a demo within their speeches. A demo is a small sample of a game, which gives people a taster as to how it plays. This is often a very important tool that is deployed to show prospective publishers the game’s potential. Additionally, it is a great way to collect user feedback, which then aids further development. In his own demo, Tuomas Pöyhtäri from Yrdvaab, focused on the combat mechanics of the Ephemeris space strategy game. He described the unique ship flight physics, which is unprecedented in its genre.

Post-fair Follow-ups

As for Nordic Game itself, what expectations did the teams have for the event? When exchanging news with the teams during the trade fair, it sounded like everyone had enjoyed some interesting encounters. In many cases, the discussions with the publishers would continue after the conclusion of the event. So the hard work begins now. It’s time to collect notes and do important follow-up work and contacts to continue the discussions from the event.

Leonard Somero Productions is a prolific one-man game studio that has already released over twenty games on the platform. At Nordic Game, a publisher was being sought for the ROWBYROW game. This is a role-playing title where battles are fought by solving Picross puzzles.

Leonard Somero probably sums up the dreams of many game teams for the future: “I dream of financing my life with game development. That’s what I like to do and I’m good at it.”

Additional inspiration for the teams came from the triumph of Finnish game Skábma, which was awarded Best Nordic Game of the Year at Nordic Games.