Strate­gic think­ing is para­mount to this grow­ing Helsinki team

EDGE - - REGION SPECIFIC STUDIO PROFILE - Lasse Sep­pä­nen CEO and co-founder

Once the head of the Alan Wake team at Rem­edy, and with ex­pe­ri­ence dat­ing back to 1998,

Lasse Sep­pä­nen is a rel­a­tively old hand on the Finnish devel­op­ment scene, with count­less projects un­der his belt. Hav­ing shipped Spy­mas­ter in 2013, his am­bi­tions for PlayRaven are gath­er­ing steam.

When we pre­vi­ously vis­ited, you were about to launch your first game,

Spy­mas­ter. How did it pan out?

We were very wor­ried about dis­cov­ery. Every­body says it’s so hard to be dis­cov­ered – to get down­loads you have to buy them; you have to have a mil­lion dol­lars in the bank just for buy­ing users. But we didn’t spend one cent on get­ting down­loads. So dis­cov­ery was fan­tas­tic, and we think it’s be­cause it was a one-ofa-kind thing: if you just see the game’s icon and the name ‘Spy­mas­ter’, it al­ready cre­ates images in your head that no other game is do­ing in the App Store. So we got a ton of down­loads and we went straight up the charts. Dur­ing the launch week we were in the top ten strat­egy ti­tles in 99 coun­tries; we went past Clash Of

Clans and Star Wars: Com­man­der and so on – past th­ese very big games spend­ing a lot of money on user ac­qui­si­tion.

In some re­spects, Spy­mas­ter broke a few rules as an iOS re­lease – do you think if the game had come out of a big stu­dio it wouldn’t have taken those risks?

It’s hard to gen­er­alise that way. I think it’s a choice in those com­pa­nies in terms of what kind of cul­ture they’re fos­ter­ing and what kind of ideas they’re en­cour­ag­ing. If you look at Pixar, it’s a big com­pany – es­pe­cially now that it’s part of Dis­ney – but they have al­ways man­aged to foster new ideas. Ac­tu­ally, the book Cre­ativ­ity, Inc is sort of one of our bibles here, be­cause they fos­tered a cer­tain cul­ture where even the most ju­nior guy can go and say to John Las­seter, “I don’t think this movie works,” and not be pun­ished for it.

You have two games in devel­op­ment right now, but what’s the strat­egy for the com­pany in the longer term?

We are very much in­spired by sev­eral com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing BioWare, Bl­iz­zard and maybe Rockstar, be­cause they all have a dis­tinc­tive flavour to their games that you recog­nise. Even in the case of

Hearth­stone, which is quite dif­fer­ent from Di­ablo, it’s still recog­nis­able – it has this flavour and this qual­ity bar, and so on. That’s sort of our ideal fu­ture, to see the com­pany grow to be­come big but be very re­spected and to keep in­no­vat­ing, even when we’re big. Pixar is, of course, also a big in­spi­ra­tion. And also CCP, in its own way, be­cause they are in­de­pen­dent – they have built sort of a self-pub­lish­ing model for EVE On­line, where they’re able to sus­tain it with­out sell­ing the com­pany. I mean, it’s pos­si­ble that we’d sell PlayRaven at some point but it’s not writ­ten in stone – we def­i­nitely want to grow and we want to be a recog­nised player in this in­dus­try. This is not like a mom-and-pop life­style thing where we just like to make games and hang out with good guys, even those are im­por­tant things. Cre­atively it gives so much more lat­i­tude when you are a com­pany like Bl­iz­zard: peo­ple want to work with you, you have the re­sources, and when you have an idea you can pur­sue it with re­ally good fund­ing and good-qual­ity tal­ent and so on. We would love to get into that po­si­tion, where we are the num­ber one strat­egy games com­pany in the mo­bile space, to the ex­tent that if you want to work on strat­egy games, you want to work with us.

Though the com­pany is di­vided into two teams, the whole group shares re­sources, and de­sign feed­back be­tween projects is ac­tively en­cour­aged

Founded 2013 Em­ploy­eesl 16 URL Se­lected soft­og­ra­phy Spy­mas­ter Cur­rent projects

Con­voy Com­man­der, Nano

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