Shark Punch

This stu­dio’s first mission mixes clas­sic strat­egy with the vibe of 1970s cinema


Formed by four ex-Dis­ney In­ter­ac­tive em­ploy­ees, Shark Punch is mod­est in size, with only seven em­ploy­ees, but se­ri­ous in its am­bi­tion. Its de­but game,

The Mas­ter­plan, has a laser-like fo­cus on ’70s heist movies, but its next pro­duc­tion, game dis­cov­ery plat­form Play­field, has as broad a reach as could be imag­ined. CEO Jiri Ku­pi­ainen ex­plains more.

What are the goals of your first game?

The Mas­ter­plan started out as a con­ver­sa­tion about clas­sic ’90s games we loved, and how those games might play if they’d been de­vel­oped to­day. At some point the con­ver­sa­tion shifted to clas­sic movies, and af­ter a few beers there was a strong con­sen­sus that some­thing like “XCOM meets [Robert Red­ford heist movie] The Hot Rock” ab­so­lutely needed to ex­ist. For us, the game is about to­tal cre­ative free­dom – the abil­ity to take cre­ative risks, which is some­thing that’s much eas­ier to do as a small in­de­pen­dent team.

How dif­fi­cult is it to stand out in such a crowded PC game mar­ket?

Putting on my busi­ness-guy suit, we’ve ap­proached this as a big ex­per­i­ment in au­di­ence build­ing. We started talk­ing about the game su­per-early – the first time we could ac­tu­ally play the game our­selves was about 15 min­utes be­fore they opened the doors at GDC a year ago. So we do our best to be su­per-trans­par­ent about the devel­op­ment process, and try to en­gage in a dia­logue with peo­ple in­ter­ested in the game. Just to­day, we got a few new pay­ing cus­tomers by post­ing on a tor­rent web­site about how there’s not go­ing to be DRM, but that we re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate their in­ter­est in the game and hope the ones who can af­ford it would ac­tu­ally spend the money and sup­port the game’s on­go­ing devel­op­ment. Peo­ple usu­ally re­spond re­ally well if you treat them as in­di­vid­u­als.

What can you tell us about the dis­cov­ery plat­form you’re work­ing on?

As we were try­ing to fig­ure out this “mar­ket­ing an indie game” thing, we re­alised that most of the chal­lenges were shared by ev­ery­one mak­ing games. I guess we have a ten­dency to think about plat­forms – the same thing hap­pened with Rocket Pack – and so we quickly started think­ing, ‘How do we fix this for ev­ery­one?’ The an­swer – called Play­field – should be avail­able to ev­ery­one by the time this in­ter­view comes out. Ba­si­cally, it’s a plat­form that helps peo­ple who play games dis­cover and connect with new and in­ter­est­ing games. For the de­vel­op­ers, it’s a place for build­ing their au­di­ences, and turn­ing those au­di­ence into ac­tive, en­gaged com­mu­ni­ties. It’s a fun project to work on, since we’re solv­ing prob­lems we have both as play­ers and as de­vel­op­ers our­selves!

How do you think Shark Punch fits into the Finnish game devel­op­ment scene?

There’s a lot of very in­ter­est­ing ‘round two’ com­pa­nies staffed by tal­ented peo­ple right now – hope­fully us in­cluded. I think one of the big­gest chal­lenges is main­tain­ing the spirit of shar­ing and mu­tual sup­port that has got the Finnish in­dus­try to where it is to­day. We’re do­ing our part in that by or­gan­is­ing mee­tups for in­de­pen­dent de­vel­op­ers and up­com­ing game stu­dios, where peo­ple can talk about their chal­lenges with their peers con­fi­den­tially. I guess we’re go­ing against the grain a lit­tle bit by not fo­cus­ing on mo­bile free-toplay, but then again gam­ing is now such a huge busi­ness that I’m sure there’s room for ev­ery­one.

Un­like many star­tups, Shark Punch is self-fund­ing its first ti­tle. It’s also un­usual in hav­ing a base in San Fran­cisco to com­ple­ment its Helsinki HQ

Founded 2014 Em­ploy­ees 7 URL Se­lected soft­og­ra­phy

The Mas­ter­plan

Cur­rent projects Play­field

Shark Punch’s top­down ac­tion strat­egy game, The Mas­ter­plan, is avail­able now via Early Ac­cess

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