The Nordic Identity
Europe's second largest development community stands up to be counted.
Still only in its third year, Nordic Game has gathered an impressive line-up of speakers for 2006, including Tetsuya Mizuguchi of Q Entertainment, and representatives from EA, SCEE, Pandemic Studios, THQ, Team 17 and more.
Here, Jacob Riis talks to GamesIndustry.biz about the creation of Nordic Game, how the event is helping to put the Nordic Region on the videogame map, and that there's much more to the area than a handful of high-profile developers....
Q: GamesIndustry.biz: Can you talk us through the creation of the Nordic Game event? Why is now a good time to start a development conference in Sweden?
Jacob Riis: The Nordic game industry is growing in a number of directions. For a long time now the Nordic region has been among the largest consumers of computer and videogames, but these last years many things have happened in development, education and research.
Apart from the well-known names such as DICE, IO Interactive, Remedy and Funcom, a large group of new game developers are on the rise. The universities have introduced computer game curricula and world-class research is being done here.
Last but not least, funding has been provided by the Nordic ministers of culture to strengthen the Nordic games industry, which Nordic Game 2006 is one result of. This conference is actually in its third year now, and the funding and establishment of the Nordic Game Program has given us the opportunity to host a much larger conference with outstanding content.
You must have been pleased to land Tetsuya Mizuguchi as a keynote speaker. How important is it for development conferences to land high profile faces from Asia?
As we see it, it's very important to involve big international names, since the main goal of the conference is to strengthen the Nordic games industry and our ability to develop games.
With Mizuguchi-san's name on the speaker list we are giving both developers from the Nordic region as well as the international participants a unique chance to experience one of Japan's most creative individuals from the industry. It wouldn't hurt if to get a bit more Asian attention as to who is number two in game development in Europe.
Nordic Game is a government funded operation. Why is it so important on a political level for games development to be profiled in this way?
The mission of the Nordic Game Program is to ensure access to quality material with a distinct Nordic element in computer games for children and young people, and the conference is one way to achieve this.
Nordic Game gives developers a good opportunity to network, which strengthens the regional infrastructure. At the same time, the Program aims to support the games development in other ways. A large part of the Program's budget is used to directly support Nordic game development, and additionally, exports, digital distribution and improved information are highly prioritized.
How do you expect the market in the Nordic territories to grow over the coming years? What does the Nordic market look like in terms of hardware and software sales?
The Nordic computer and video game market is now number six or seven in size globally, but the per capita sales are just about tied with Japan, and approaching UK and US consumption levels.
Nordic game developers are recognised as a global force. They have built a net export industry in the world in terms of volume and sales. Despite this success, Nordic games, the games with very clear Nordic profile in localisation, production, control and IP origin, still account for less than one percent of the titles on sale here. Only five percent of the titles available to Nordic consumers display any kind of Nordic aspect. This is an important issue that the Nordic Game Program will work to address over the coming years.
Does the emergence of an event like Nordic Game show that the development community in countries such as Sweden, Denmark and Norway are growing?
Yes, we are counting on three times as many participants compared with the first Nordic Game conference, which was called Nordic Game Potential, three years ago. And don't forget the Finnish and Icelandic success stories.
Why should those involved in the game trade in the larger European markets such as Britain and Germany make the trip to Malm√∂ next week?
To participate in a world-class games conference. For two days in September, Nordic Game 2006 will present over 70 speakers, workshops and seminars, and importantly, an opportunity to meet with representatives from the entire Nordic games industry - developers, publishers, distributors, retailers, researchers and academics. Also, this is a great opportunity to experience Malm√∂ and the √-resund region - similar to cities like Newcastle and Leeds, Malm√∂ has been experiencing a real renaissance over the last decade.
The Nordic Region is very interesting in terms of languages. Are there any specific language issues faced by developers in the region, or does everyone simply use English?
Even though most people in the Nordic countries speak English, we are very proud of our native languages, which mean a great deal for our Nordic identity. And since computer games are very much a carrier of culture, the Nordic Game Program aims to help promote the Nordic languages and cultural understanding between the countries in the region.
Will you definitely hold a Nordic Game event in 2007 or does that depend on the success of the show this year?
With all the attention and backing we have been getting this year, the outlook is very good for 2007 - with an even stronger event!