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Supercell's Ilkka Paananen

The CEO discusses the new browser games company and the "healthy pressure" of long-term investors

Finish studio Supercell is a relatively new company in the videogame business, comprising of staff from casual games maker Digital Chocolate, traditional developer Remedy and social network company Sulake. Formed last year, Supercell has started 2011 by securing new funding from, among others, London Venture Partners and kicked off its beta for its browser-based action title Gunshine.

Here, in an exclusive interview with GamesIndustry.biz, CEO Ilkka Paananen discusses the direction the business is taking in the browser games market, how it hopes to create titles with the help of user, the healthy pressure applied by investors - and being in it for the long run.

GamesIndustry.biz Can you give us the background on Supercell - you were with Digital Chocolate before setting up the new company?
Ilkka Paananen

Mikko Kodisoja and I were both founders of a company called Sumea which we created in 2000 as a mobile games developer, and which we sold to Digital Chocolate in 2004. And then I spent almost six years at Digital Chocolate and I left in June last year. Firstly I was managing the European operations and then I was promoted to president of studio development. And Mikko was the global creative director.

Mikko left Digital Chocolate early last year and is the founder of the company - he set it up and put an incredible team together. He was looking for funding and I helped him get that. I realised that this was something that I wanted to get into full time.

We of course got these fantastic people together with London Venture Partners, with Phil Harrison and David Gardner and the others. We've put together some really great guys from Digital Chocolate, and then some from a console development background with guys from Remedy Entertainment, and some other guys from Sulake, the creators of Habbo Hotel.

What we're trying to do is build a bridge between the traditional gamer market and the social games market. We actually believe the web browser is going to be the place where these two worlds will unite.

GamesIndustry.biz So you're working on Gunshine.net - what's the plan behind that? You're in closed beta - when would you like to see that game out and in the wider market?
Ilkka Paananen

Well it's difficult, you never really like to put a certain date on it. The whole point with the beta was to put the game out as early as possible to get the first users in. We say that we want to build a game together with our users and that has been fantastic.

We already have a fantastic following of hundreds and hundreds of people that have been contributing to forums and are really passionate about the game and are co-developing it with us. We're probably going to be in closed beta for the next month at least, or even a bit longer - and when we feel it's the right time to open it up to everybody we'll do that.

GamesIndustry.biz What's the ratio of Supercell staff working on the game to beta users?
Ilkka Paananen

It's hard to tell. We have the whole core development team which is internal, and we have a team of a little bit less than 20 people working on the game. But then there's the user feedback which we integrate into the game. It's a fair amount of work but it's also very rewarding. It does require a significant investment but we believe it's going to pay off.

GamesIndustry.biz You see the browser as the point at which console, social and web gaming can come together - what makes you think that?
Ilkka Paananen

It's the biggest games platform ever in terms of reach. Everyone has a browser, it's extremely easy to access the games, it's very easy to tell your friends about the games - you can send a link by email and with one click you're there. And finally we're at the point where it's actually possible to create a great game experience on the browser - and I'm talking about a great game experience from a gamer's point of view.

Technological advancements are important and it's finally possible but then on top of that there are the social networks that allows everyone to access the game really easily. It's easy to play something together with your friends and we have Gunshine.net as its own destination, but we've added integration with Twitter and Facebook.

We wanted to make it as easy as possible for people to play it with their friends. And that's not to say we're going to spam your friends. We don't think like that at all, we have a no spam guarantee. As opposed to other companies we actually never post anything to our users without asking them first.

We honestly believe that our goal from day one is that it's actually, truly better to play with friends. It's going to be more fun to play our games in co-op mode. We want people to use all kinds of means to invite their friends to play online. We're using Facebook to really enhance that experience.

GamesIndustry.biz So is this going to be a free-to-play game with micro transactions? What attracted you to that model?
Ilkka Paananen

Everything we're trying to develop will use that model. We'll have in-game currency that you earn from playing the game and then other currency that you can buy with real money.

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Matt Martin

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Matt Martin joined GamesIndustry in 2006 and was made editor of the site in 2008. With over ten years experience in journalism, he has written for multiple trade, consumer, contract and business-to-business publications in the games, retail and technology sectors.