Pasi Jokinen, headmaster of the Oulu Games Campus, speaks to Sean Cleaver about the rejuvenation of Oulu as a hub for the Scandinavian gaming community
Oulu, Finland, home of the bring up the community. Give understand how can we benefit them, Air Guitar world something for the community to feel what kind of help is it that they need championships and F1 good about.” and what kind of expertise are they world champion, Keke Rosberg. More famously it was one of the homes of mobile phone manufacturer Nokia. For a long time Oulu was at the forefront of technology, housing Nokia’s R&D department. That was until 2014 following Microsoft’s purchase of the company. Eventually the doors were closed and the town started searching for the next thing to harness their vast workforce and technical expertise.
Enter Finnish developer Fingersoft and the Oulu Games Campus, a 5000m2 city block which is hoped will become a hub for games and for the development community across all of Northern Scandinavia. One of the campus’s main aims is to revive the culture that has been lying in wait since the dissolution of Nokia three years ago. Pasi Jokinen is the Campus headmaster and spoke to me about the past few years in Finland.
“The overall ethos and the feeling in Finland has been, depressed maybe, for a couple of years. And Fingersoft definitely saw this as an opportunity to bring up the community. Give something for the community to feel good about."
Fingersoft founder Toni Fingerroos cites entrepreneurs from the town in being instrumental in his starting the company and its hit mobile game Hill Climb Racing. The company is keen to give back to the city, and they have by investing €3.8million in to the campus and have also moved in to the site, along with Oulu Game Lab.
It’s clear that the idea isn’t just for Fingersoft’s benefit. “Starting over the next six months we’re going to start prototyping the heck out of this thing,” he tells me. “We’ll take in some semi- established companies and work with them to understand how we can benefit them, what type of help it is that they need and what kind of expertise they are missing. At the same time we have apilot project where we want to enable individual developers to basically test out new games faster.”
When it comes to testing the idea is that the pool of resources can help smaller teams come in and do in six months what would normally take years – taking games from concept, to design to testing within a short space of time. This shared development is something Fingersoft sees as a benefit to them as well as the industry. “Bringing other organisations from outside into the community is very, very important. Hill Climb Racing 2 has launched and it’s doing well and we’re confident that Fingersoft development wise knows what [it’s] doing,” says Jokinen. “But we want to get better, a lot better. We want to do things faster and on a level beyond what we’ve seen before.”
The competition of having many games studios in one place also seems to be a welcome one. “In general, this is a magical industry in that we don’t feel that other local game companies are competitors in [the] app store,” says Jokinen.
“If there’s another two or three successful companies in Oulu, it doesn’t make competition in the app store harder. One might argue that it makes recruiting harder, but we definitely believe that we need to create a gaming ecosystem here.”
The position of the campus is great too as they hope to attract people from outside of Finland to help build these talents and expertise. “We definitely want to be the centre of a community of independent companies that work around Northern Scandinavia,” says Jokinen. “In a way it makes no sense to invest in a bunch of bricks but doing it in the way we’ve done here kind of grabs an amount of attention that doesn’t come easily and it’s valuable for anyone in the gaming community in Northern Scandinavia, Finland and so on.”