Today marks the start of a four-day focus on Finland’s flourishing games industry. As well as our in depth feature on the benefits enjoyed by studios based in the Scandinavian territory, we are bringing you a number of profiles on the leading developers in the country. Following our look at Sulake, next Digital Chocolate Sumea goes under the microscope.
Digital Chocolate Sumea
Headcount: Not disclosed
Brands: Tower Bloxx, Pictoplay, California Gold Rush
Specialty: Mobile, PC, Console
By Finnish standards, Digital Chocolate’s spacious Helsinki office Sumea is a relatively noisy place. That is, there’s a gentle murmur of activity in the air, and enthusiastic brainstorming and discussion is occurring in the many booths that house teams working on new titles.
“Our focus since we started has been on creating original, innovative, quality games,” says president of studios Ilkka Paananen. “We started from mobile, many years ago, but in last two years we have been porting our products to other platforms.”
One of those platforms is Xbox 360, which is currently preparing to host a new version of Digital Chocolate’s popular Tower Bloxx IP, but it is iPhone that is really stirring the huge team’s imagination.
“We’re really excited by the iPhone as it totally changes everything. In the US market Digital Chocolate has had four games feature as the most downloaded application. We’ve now made it public we have made more than 20 million downloads,” says Paananen.
Conducting a tour of the Helsinki office, vice-president of studios Jami Laes explains: “We’ve got three studios and Helsinki is the biggest. It’s a reasonably big operation, with eight or nine teams, so we work around a Scrum-based development system. There’s a flexible matrix organisation of our teams here. We also keep all our proprietary tech absolutely internal, essentially so we can keep the advantage over our rivals.
“We have regular days where each team designs and makes a playable game prototype in just one day, and we host many other single-day initiatives. Games made in a day often make for easily grasped concepts, which is essential for the kind of content we develop,” says Laes.
Paananen finishes his studio tour with some advice to others. “The best way to build your own brand is to build success on success consistently,” he says. Easier said than done. Digital Chocolate, which was founded in 2003 by EA veteran Trip Hawkins, is a huge, talented company with enough reputation to court leading talent from across the globe.
Along with offices in Bracelona and Bangalore, Digital Chocolate is headquartered in San Mateo, California.