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Why Sweden's games industry is still growing

Trade body Dataspelsbranschen and Swedish studio heads discuss the nation's talent pipeline and collaborative culture

Despite the many difficulties the games industry faces around the world, Swedish developers are feeling somewhat optimistic as the local development scene continues to experience rapid growth.

Speaking to, Dataspelsbranschen spokesperson Per Strömbäck says the general state of the Swedish games industry is "good", with the number of people working in the industry having grown from 2,500 to 8,500 people in the last decade.

He notes that while there are fewer vacancies at the moment due to the current global economic turmoil, there "aren't as many layoffs as in some other places, and the industry here is still growing."

Strömbäck says the current greatest strength in the Swedish games industry is the diversity in its titles, while the challenge will be to "ride out the economic downturn and retain investments."

"It is harder now for new studios to find funding and to rely on external investment," he explains. "But we have already seen a couple of really great releases such as Helldivers 2, and plenty of other titles still going strong. So we keep making great games, which is what we do best."

Strömbäck also expressed surprise at how quickly the Swedish games industry has "matured" within the last decade, and that it has struck the right balance between AAA, indie, and mobile studios in its ecosystem.

"The innovation and creative hunger is unmatched in such a small and concentrated location"

Oskar Wolontis, Hazelight Studios

Two of its most successful developers include Hazelight Studios and Midjiwan, the creators of It Takes Two and The Battle of Polytopia respectively.

Hazelight Studios COO Oskar Wolontis agrees with Strömback's assessment of the Swedish games industry, adding that its rich history in gaming has solidified Sweden's place on the games industry radar – especially when it comes to talent.

"All this combined ensures Sweden has one of the best game development talent pools in the world," says Wolontis. "The experience, the innovation and creative hunger is unmatched in such a small and concentrated geographic location."

Midjiwan general manager Christian Lövstedt credits the culture that the industry has fostered over the years, as well as its ability to retain talent.

"The collaborative approach within [Swedish] studios has also proven effective in crafting innovative game titles," explains Lövstedt. "Moreover, Sweden's longstanding tradition of engineering has fostered an exceptionally high level of technical expertise within its game development community."

"There is clear confidence from outside investors - we've collectively shown Sweden can release hit after hit on a global scale"

Christian Lövstedt, Midjiwan

Lövstedt also notes the media attention from "major successes" such as Minecraft, which have contributed to the growth of the industry and have helped change perceptions and boost attention for smaller studios such as Midjiwan.

This growth has helped studios like Hazelight, which has utilised the local talent pool to expand its development team.

"The amount of raw talent in both the experienced developers but also the new graduates each year is mighty impressive," says Wolontis. "There is also clear confidence in the Swedish game development industry from outside investors – we’ve collectively shown we can release hit after hit on a global scale. This confidence in the local talent pool lowers the risk of investment and in turn fuels our ability to keep those hits coming."

He adds that developers from around the world have moved to Sweden, noting that the talent pool has become "much more diversified" and that for Hazelight, 10% of its studio is made up of game creators from other nationalities.

For Midjiwan, recruiting locally has been challenging because "the demand for talented game developers far exceeds supply," according to Lövstedt. The studio has a core team of Swedish developers based in Stockholm, with its community manager in California.

Midjiwan’s The Battle of Polytopia is in its ninth year, and shows no signs of slowing down

Wolontis agrees with this. Despite having made use of local talent to help grow Hazelight, it was a challenge for the studio to get to that point.

"The interest in investing in the Swedish game development industry in recent years has been higher than the local talent pool can reasonably support," he explains.

"Granted, the surge of remote work during the pandemic and afterwards have somewhat been able to mitigate this. Yet talent is still in high demand regardless."

And as a smaller studio, Midjiwan is facing similar issues, as Lövstedt adds: "As a smaller studio, we face extra difficulties in attracting the best local talent since people tend to gravitate towards the bigger studios, believing it's safer (which is incorrect in our case)."

Another challenge faced by Swedish studios is a lack of support from the government. Strömbäck explains there's no dedicated policy for the games industry there, such as tax breaks or subsidies.

"The general tax incentive programs on research and development and such are available also to the games companies, but are difficult to use," he says. "There are some very successful incubators, but they are funded and operated on the local or regional level.

"So in terms of public support, Sweden actually has very little compared to some other prominent countries such as Finland, Canada, and the UK. However, higher education is public funded and we have some world class game education here."

Lövstedt also highlights the government facilitating education for games development, but notes there are "too few graduate students to fill the industry's needs" and because there are little to no incentives provided – especially when it comes to employment – it can be hard for small studios to find footing.

"If you are a new studio, it can be very tough to get the business to work," he explains. "There are no government financial instruments or subsidies for employing people to help you out in the beginning. Many smaller companies address this by taking on external consultancy work, which results in less time to work on your own game title, which can itself become a vicious circle."

So what needs to change? Wolontis says the Swedish government needs to recognise the contributions that the "economic behemoth of an industry" can provide.

"When that happens, it will hopefully open the doors for more productive talks with the powers that be. Any new support systems focusing on ease of business and talent pool growth would be most welcome."

One way for the government to take note is by looking at the success of homegrown games. Midjiwan's turn-based strategy title The Battle of Polytopia is currently in its ninth year, having launched in February 2016, and shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

"Our goal is for the game to remain popular for many years to come," said Lövstedt.

"We can't say too much about our pipeline, but we continuously make improvements, introduce new features, and create content so that players will continue to play it and new players will discover it."

Another success for the Swedish games industry is Hazelight's co-op platformer It Takes Two, which released in 2021. The title picked up Game of the Year at the 2022 DICE Awards among dozens of other awards, and surpassed 16 million sales this March.

"We've shown the world that Sweden can still produce games with a whole new level of innovation never seen before – I want to say a completely new genre, even," Wolontis adds.

"It shows how creatively diverse the talent can be here with the right creative guidance. It Takes Two also happened to become our country's first global Game of the Year winner – that must count for something, right?"

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Sophie McEvoy avatar
Sophie McEvoy: Sophie McEvoy is a Staff Writer at She is based in Hampshire and has been a gaming & entertainment journalist since 2018.
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