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 sharkpunch.com Selected softography
Current projects Playfield
Shark Punch’s topdown action strategy game, The Masterplan, is available now via Early Access