Games journalism as a spark for the Finnish games industry

Games journalism as a spark for the Finnish games industry

Games journalism as a spark for the Finnish games industryThis blog post stems from two sources.

First, in a recent article on gamesindustry.biz, Warren Spector argued that games industry will be legitimized if there would be regular critical analysis of games in mainstream media. He also shared his view on current games journalism, which he sees as mostly amateurish and juvenile, although with some exceptions.

Second, there is the rise of the Finnish games industry, which, according to Neogames, employed 1800 people and had an annual turnover of 250 million Euros in 2012, with a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 25.7% in the years 2004-2012.

Could the Finnish games journalism have something to do with the rise of the games industry?

The rise of the games industry in Finland

The oldest still existing games companies in Finland are Remedy Entertainment (Death Rally, Max Payne, Alan Wake) and Housemarque (Supreme Snowboarding, Super Stardust), both founded in 1995. Other well-known companies include Bugbear Entertainment (founded in 2000, makers of FlatOut), Rovio Entertainment (founded in 2003, makers of Angry Birds), and Supercell (founded in 2010, makers of Clash of Clans and Hay Day). Altogether, there are currently more than 160 gaming-related companies in Finland.

There are of course multiple reasons why the games industry has taken off in Finland. KooPee Hiltunen, Director of the non-profit Finnish games industry organization Neogames, has mentioned the following reasons:

  • Strong game culture
  • World-class technological expertise
  • A good price-quality relationship
  • The flexibility of small companies
  • Creativity and innovativeness

Furthermore, the difficulties that Nokia has faced have “liberated” engineers to work elsewhere, which has also often been mentioned as a catalyst.

In this blog post, I want to dig into one aspect in particular, strong game culture. A culture is difficult to create and it takes a lot of time. The strong game culture in Finland has been created by a long tradition of high-quality games journalism.

Games journalism in Finland from 1984

Mikrobitti, the most iconic computer magazine in Finland, was founded in 1984, and its first regular gaming column started in 1985. In its first years, the magazine was quite hardcore and included multiple type-in programs. Later on, it moved to a more general direction.

Another key milestone was year 1992, when the first Finnish games-only magazine, Pelit, was founded, and many of the games journalists from Mikrobitti moved over to this new magazine (by the same publisher).

When comparing the Finnish games journalism to the picture Spector paints of the games journalism in the US, there is perhaps not that much difference when it comes to general, mainstream media. However, the games journalism in Finland does seem to markedly differ in two aspects: “star” journalists and extensive background coverage.

Within the gaming niche, journalists such as Niko Nirvi, Risto Hieta (better known as Nordic), and Jyrki Kasvi gained substantial personal following in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Jyrki Kasvi even went on to become a member of the Finnish Parliament from 2003 until 2011.

There have also been numerous articles on the people behind the games since the early days of Finnish games journalism. These have introduced the careers of people such as Wild Bill Stealey, Sid Meier, Peter Molyneux, and Hideo Kojima to the Finnish gamers.

From games journalism to games industry

The background coverage and showing the people behind the games is of vital importance. By being exposed to information on people behind the games, games industry becomes a tangible option as a career choice.

One might question why the take-off happened in Finland only after 15 years of such journalism, if the journalism had anything to do with it. There are at least two counterpoints to such argument:

  • It takes time to build a culture, and 15 years is not that long in that respect
  • The barriers to publishing became considerably smaller in the 2000s in the era of the mobile

Obviously, games journalism is not the only factor. However, there is a good chance that it is one of the hidden sparks that over time grew to the bonfire that the Finnish games industry is becoming.

Photo: Cover of Mikrobitti’s 1989 games edition by Ville.fi @ Flickr (CC)

Author: Ville Kilkku

I run my own consultancy business, so if you find the ideas on this blog intriguing, contact me at consulting@kilkku.com or call me at +358 50 588 5043 and we can discuss how I can help you solve your business problems. I am currently based in Tornio, Finland, but work globally. Google+