What comes to mind when you think of places around the world that are the center of innovation in the tech sector? Silicon Valley. Tokyo. Singapore.
One thing that I can almost guarantee is that the Finnish capital of Helsinki wasn't the first thing that came to your mind.
The snow-covered streets of the capital city of a small European country don't really inspire any connections to the $370bn dollar gaming industry that continues to grow with each year. However, there's more than meets the eye when it comes to Helsinki, a city that many consider to be the capital of mobile gaming.
When thinking of Finnish brands, the name Nokia is impossible to ignore. As a main contender in the cellphone industry of the early 2000’s, Nokia showed the entire country of Finland that they could build something great by themselves.
There were two clear phases in Helsinki’s tech scene: Before Nokia, in the 80’s and 90’s, Finland was not a wealthy country. This meant that tech was not up to par with the standards of that time and programers had to make the most of what they had. These limitations created what they call the “demoscene” - a subculture which saw programmers create art presentations, music and games that pushed the technology that they had to it’s absolute limits
After Nokia was founded, the company worked with young Finnish from within the demoscene which meant that they kept all the locally grown talent and further nurtured them within the
Nowadays, 30 percent of developers that work and live in Helsinki come from all over the world. The city attracts top class talent by having people who respect and are aware of the gaming industry. Of course, the benefits don’t stop here as the Finnish government has created social support systems that are designed to encourage games such as providing grants and funding for new concepts and ideas that may work in specific markets.
Companies and developers who come to Helsinki from other continents and countries aren’t offered a straightforward salary upgrade or huge tax breaks but instead, they are offered something much more simple - an environment that values good work/life while also being safer and cheaper to live in that a place like San Francisco or Silicon Valley.
In a post-pandemic world, workplaces that value these “soft” skills and offer benefits that go beyond the job continue to increase in value for many talented people around the world.
At this point, you might be wondering if all this has worked to Helsinki’s favor. The short answer is yes.
Last year, Helsinki-based games studios raked in a revenue of $3.4bn, an impressive amount that comes close to the $5.8bn that the UK games market made last year. However, this feat becomes truly impressive when you consider that the UK is 12 times bigger than Finland as a country - in other words, Finland is punching way above their own weight when it comes to games.
Helsinki’s unique blend of tech heritage, government support and dedicated talent acquisition process puts it at the top of the gaming space.
Streaming giant Netflix set up their own internal gaming studio within Helsinki just last year. The smash hit mobile game Angry Birds originated from the city. It’s also the home of major game studios, most notably industry juggernaut Supercell, the Clash of Clans publisher was recently acquired by Chinese company Tencent and reported to have a market valuation of $11bn.
Not many places can replicate what Helsinki does and how they were able to do it, its unique history, culture and perspective allow it to foster gaming industry talents from all over the world. As the government itself continues to give even more support, we can expect Helsinki to maintain its status as the gaming capital of the world for the foreseeable future.