Finnish studio Fingersoft is one of the most northern based studios in the world and the home of smash hits Hill Climb Racing and Hill Climb Racing 2. They’re a prime exponent of the nordic knowhow that’s made the region such a success in mobile games with giants such as Supercell and Rovio being proponents of making huge investments and premium aquisition by giants such as Sega.
We spoke with Fingersoft’s CEO, Jaakko Kylmäoja, on the state of the industry in Finland and how Fingersoft continues to keep pace as an independent company. We also discuss the backstage work behind building a world-class IP and what to expect next from the Hill Climb Racing franchise.
PocketGamer.biz: What do you think about the current state of the mobile gaming industry in Finland?
Jaakko Kylmäoja: Finnish game studios have played a prominent role in shaping the global mobile gaming landscape from the very beginning of the industry. I see the recent acquisitions as a deserved reward for the years of hard and successful work the founders and the teams have made. Although the transfer of ownership away from Finland feels slightly bittersweet to us, we believe that it will also enable success for future game studios in our country.
Fingersoft is proud of being an independent, employee-owned company. So far, we have yet to see a need for external investors for our company.
How do you reflect on the growth of Fingersoft?
In addition to constantly updating our existing games, we have been investing in developing new games for several years. This year we have announced the development of Hill Climb Racing 3 and LEGO Hill Climb Adventures. In addition to the revenue growth the new games will bring, we also see an opportunity to expand our games to new markets.
What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in the industry in recent years, and how is Fingersoft adapting to those changes?
Year after year, it has become harder for new game studios to be successful without an existing brand.
Maybe the most impactful development in the industry has been the market consolidation. Year after year, it has become harder for new game studios to be successful without an existing brand. In that sense having the most downloaded racing game IP in the world is a great benefit for us. This of course affects how we evaluate which game concepts we move to production. By developing new games with new IPs, we’ll eventually take a bigger risk than developing a game with a known brand.
Fingersoft has experimented with the four day workweek and a six hour work day, eventually implementing the latter. What impact does this have on employees and would you encourage others to explore these new work schedules?
The primary purpose of shorter working days is to provide a helping option, especially for those struggling with work-life balance due to having small children or having an otherwise difficult time in life. The benefit we provide is dropping working hours to 80% while the salary will drop only to 90%.
The option has certainly been useful for those juggling multiple responsibilities in their life, but it has also helped our employees find time to take care of their wellbeing. For example, extra free time has been used to make healthier food, spend time on hobbies and mental recovery.
I believe our work schedule model would work well, especially for any other game company or company doing similar activities. However, it’s important to remember that this alone does not solve the wellbeing related issues a company might have.
Hill Climb Racing was recently added to the Apple Arcade subscription. What new opportunities do you feel this will present?
Apple Arcade is positively changing the mobile games market.
Apple Arcade is positively changing the mobile games market. Their advertisement and in-app purchase free model allow us to provide our players with an uninterrupted and immersive experience. After ten years of Hill Climb Racing, we have an astonishing amount of gameplay content. With Apple Arcade, the players can fully enjoy the game in a new way.
What would you say are some important elements of building a strong IP?
I believe that if our players willingly and proudly tell their friends that they are using their free time to play our games, we have successfully built a strong IP. We have achieved this by continuously developing our games while closely listening to our players’ feedback.
Can you share anything about upcoming projects like Hill Climb Racing 3? How are you planning on expanding an already popular IP?
Hill Climb Racing 3 and LEGO Hill Climb Adventures provide us with experiences not seen in our previous games from the IP. Many players have been hoping for a real-time multiplayer feature in Hill Climb Racing 3, and Lego Hill Climb Adventures will provide fun moments, especially for those that enjoy story based games.
We are constantly collecting feedback from our players and when we realise that providing a lot of requested features, we would have to develop a new game, then maybe it’s time to start considering developing one.
Is there anything else that we should keep on the lookout for from Fingersoft for the rest of 2023?
Like most game companies, we are also developing games we have not yet announced. We’re constantly evolving ways to improve our employee experience, and we’ll share news about them when they have reached the needed phase.