Strategic thinking is paramount to this growing Helsinki team
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 www.playraven.com Selected softography Spymaster Current projects
Convoy Commander, Nano