Supercell and Angry Birds maker Rovio may grab most of the gaming headlines in Finland, but beyond those two hugely successful companies, there’s what some are calling a second boom in the country’s games industry. So when a new Finnish games studio founded by industry ‘veterans’ launches, it’s hard not to take notice.
That’s just happened in the form of Everywear Games, a new Helsinki-based gaming startup made up of a team comprising former executives from game studios Remedy, Digital Chocolate and Rovio.
Furthermore, the company has picked up backing of around half a million euros (in addition to an undisclosed amount from the Finnish government) from Lifeline Ventures, which previously backed Supercell, and Sunstone Capital, backer of GameAnalytics amongst others.
But perhaps more interesting is that Everywear Games is targeting wearable devices; specifically smart watches, including (and I suspect, primarily) the soon-to-launch Apple Watch.
Of course, the startup isn’t the only games-maker eyeing up the new device — to coincide with last week’s Apple keynote, a number of companies have revealed their Apple Watch gaming wares — but it may just be the first game studio to target smart watches exclusively.
“We are the first developer to go all in with smart watch gaming. Expect others to follow very soon,” Everywear Games co-founder and CEO (and previous Executive Vice President of Remedy) Aki Järvilehto tells me. “If you look at all cool consumer platforms, it’s always been games and entertainment which makes us feel emotional about them. That’s where we come in. We want to create new, fresh experiences that are tailored for smart watches from the beginning.”
Järvilehto believes that this year presents an “unrivalled opportunity” to create completely original, mass audience gaming experiences, alluding to the launch of Apple’s smart watch. Games for the device (and others like it) will require a new type of gaming experience, given that the Apple Watch is something you wear and has limited screen real-estate and input.
“I think a lot of people will be surprised this spring,” he says, noting that when the iPhone first came out many game developers thought it would be impossible to create meaningful game experiences on such a small screen.
“A few years later we saw games such as Clash of Clans which became worldwide hobbies for an amazing number of people. We expect things to play out in a similar fashion on smart watches. It’s not the size of the screen, but rather it’s the design of the games. If it’s fun and intuitive then your imagination will fill in the blanks.”
Describing designing games for smart watch platforms as an “invigorating challenge”, Järvilehto says the first major hurdle will be that developers haven’t done anything like this before. “What worked on consoles, tablets and smartphones is very unlikely to work on smartwatches. So we get to break new ground and do something completely new. And that’s super exciting!”
“Another major challenge is how you manage game play simplicity, while creating depth and complexity. We believe that games for smartwatches have to be easy to pick-up and play. You can’t expect players to read instructions or sit through tutorials. At the same time these games have to give the players a wealth of alternatives, trade-offs and strategic choices. So managing this balance between simplicity and depth is perhaps one of the key challenges.”
As to how this might play out, Järvilehto sums up Everywear Games’ mission as creating “Twitter-sized entertainment” that goes beyond simple mini-games.
“One of the key elements is time and getting the pacing right. We’re going forward with game designs which are targeting 5-15 second length for a meaningful session. Games you can play while stopped in traffic lights or on an elevator ride. But these are not mini-games. For us the key is to make sure that the experience unfolds over time and builds towards a long term goal or narrative which you can get excited about.”