Hacker News new | comments | show | ask | jobs | submit login
Why are there so many successful Swedish gaming companies? (swedishstartupspace.com)
103 points by jp1989 on Sept 23, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 58 comments

Mojang actually is even more profitable than stated in the article. Unbelievably profitable.

Mojang AB[1]'s profit is 324m SEK after taxes (39.3% profit margin before taxes) but they also paid out a lot money to Notch Development AB [2] (Which is 100% owned by Notch) in licensing fees. Notch Development AB had 637m in revenue, (almost?) all of it from the licensing fees from Mojang, with a profit of 467m (97.24% profit margin before taxes)

Mojang AB is owned by Notch, Carl Manneh and Jakob Porsér while Notch Development is soley owned by Notch. That is some good future proofing of his assets, in case of disputes or whatever down the line.

[1] http://www.allabolag.se/5568192388/Mojang_AB

[2] http://www.allabolag.se/5567597686/Notch_Development_AB

If that Allabolag page doesn't get you inspired, I don't know what will.... :D

Not to mention that they make up around 40% of the Swedish Game Dev revenue and 70 all of the profit. Though, most other devs are actually owned by EA et al. So there is probably some Hollywood-style accounting going on

http://www.dataspelsbranschen.se/media/134049/spelutvecklari... Swedish only sorry, page 6 & 7 for the numbers

Just read that report this morning, some really interesting up and comers too.


We should see a good spike in Starbreeze's revenue as well as both Payday 2 and Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons have sold well and received good reviews.

I expect there will be a fair few mobile/casual game companies coming up once the devs over King start creating new companies. Candy Crush has been such as success that we will probably see more along that line in the future.

Yep! As part of the article research, we actually came across countless companies who have developers who have contributed to some of the bigger hits like CC etc. Will be very interesting to see how those dev's use that knowledge and apply it to new companies.

To add some low-budget examples, I did a tally [1] of where the 2013 Independent Games Festival finalists came from, and Sweden had four:

Göteborg: Hotline Miami, by Dennaton http://www.hotlinemiami.com/

Malmö: rymdkapsel, by grapefrukt http://rymdkapsel.com/

Malmö: Year Walk, by Simogo Games http://simogo.com/games/yearwalk/

Stockholm: Eleven, by Christoffer Hedborg http://elevenminutesofspace.com/

[1] The full IGF finalist list annotated with location: http://www.kmjn.org/notes/igf2013_geography.html

That's awesome. I had no idea Toronto represented so well in the IGDF, but I probably should. :)

Great find!

In the 1990′s, the Swedish government subsidized the cost of computers for every family, allowing any Swedish family to buy a personal computer. This must’ve had a great impact – allowing a generation of Swedish kids to mess around with computers, coding and technology.

I've heard a similar argument made for why Dundee became a hub of computer game development in the UK — access to cheap computers for working-class families. (plus Dundee also has long cold winters)

In Dundee's case it was access to Sinclair ZX Spectrums that 'accidentally' went missing from the Timex factory.


The first computer I owned was a Timex Sinclar 2068. :)

Quite nice, specially the advanced mode with access to a better sound chip than the standard 48+.

However one needed the ZX Spectrum compatibility cartridge to proper load Spectrum games.

Already back in the glory days of the demo scene, the best teams came from Sweden, with the other Scandinavian countries also well represented.

It is definitely both a culture and a climate thing. The point about consensus culture is a good observation - in some contexts it can be crippling, but in creative-technical hybrid endeavors like games, these teams can really do some damage.

The demo scene was indeed strong in Sweden. Several of the Swedish game developers started out there. Digitial Illusions (the DI in DICE) started out as the demo group The Silents and wrote pinball games for the Amiga. Several members from TBL (the Black Lotus) later came to work in the games industry.

Trivia: Stefan Boberg who is a technical director on Frostbite wrote the Amiga version of LHA which was the file compressor on Amiga.

Danish IO Interactive (Hitman etc.) are also out of the demo scene with notables like Jesper Kyd and the Lemon group.

Tore Blystad (game director on Hitman: Absolution) was also from the demoscene, part of the Norwegian demo group Spaceballs in the early 1990s, where he worked on this famous demo: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State_of_the_Art_(demo)

Oddly there's not a big game scene in Norway, though. The Norwegian demosceners seem to have either gone into other things, or gone into games outside of Norway.

Also in competitive gaming Swedish teams and players were among top, like Ninjas in Pyjamas.

Had the same though initially when we heard the "consensus culture" remark, but seems to ring true in this context.

I'd love to hear more about the decision making with a consensus culture. I'm very much a consensus-style manager, but occasionally I am overridden from the top and I feel like it bums my team out.

Are there cases or profiles of people talking about it?

Where I live in Malmö we have Four hackspaces. Four of them!

I'm quite proud of the IT scene in Sweden.

Edit: To clarify, Malmö is smaller than both Göteborg and Stockholm.

Oooh I'm studying abroad in Lund right now. Which hack spaces do you go to and when? I'd love to meet some other devs and get away for a weekend to work.

I believe there are none in Lund because one time this girl came in to Stapelbäddsparken with her father and said that they couldn't find these places in Lund.

So if you want to hack hardware I suggest hack space called Fabriken at Stapelbäddsparken in Malmö.

If you want to hack software I suggest hack space Bageriet at Volframsgatan (http://forskningsavd.se) or Hack space at Kontrapunkt (Norra Grängesbergsgatan 26b).

Shoot us at SSS an email in the contact form on http://swedishstartupspace.com and we'll send something out on Twitter to help you find hack spaces!

I live close to Malmö, which hackspaces are you referring to? I only know of two!

Subscribe to the MOSIG mailing list and the Forskningsavd. mailing list and you would have gotten the last announcement for a hackerspace around Värnhem.

So that makes Kontrapunkt, Bageriet at Volframsgatan, Fabriken at Stapelbäddsparken and this 4th near Värnhem.

Of course, I believe there aren't enough nerds for 4 hackspaces but it's still pretty cool. :)

The 4th is (http://www.recompile.se/). We aren't very active yet - still trying to find the right hook to get people interested. We aim to provide a professional-style software development environment with somewhat of a free software activism slant.

We do currently cooperate with the Filurum (https://www.facebook.com/filurum) gifted children group to provide a meeting place every week - in fact, it's what I'm doing later today.

Malmö's startup scene is truly impressive! Plenty of serial entrepreneurs, access to capital, co working spaces and a history of exits.

Also of note: there is the Nordic Game Program, which encourages the development of original game projects. http://www.nordicgameprogram.org/?id=23 (for all Nordic countries, not just Sweden)

Do you know if there is an active indie game development scene in Sweden? I looked around for some swedish indie game development focused sites and those I found seemed pretty dead, like indiegamedev.se.

Like half of tigsource regulars are Swedish.... Visit their forums and you will see a Nordic scene.

Actually this fuels some controversy ( tig ties to IGF and the excessive amount or Nordic judges and Nordic winners, while good games from Latin America and Africa are ignored )

I don't know of any specifically-swedish sites, but in general the tigsource forums may be what you're looking for.

Also some of the best e-sports teams in the world come from Sweden, like SK Gaming or the winners of this years "The International" Dota2 tournament, Alliance.

...and a 23-year old Swedish gamer, "pewdiepie", is more popular than Jesus^h^h^h^h^h^h Beatles


Haha! This guy has been making the press a lot lately! :D

SK Gaming was started in Germany (but they essentially recruited the old NiP Counter-Strike clan) and I think 'bds' still is high up in the SK organization.

Yep, we recently interviewed some guys who built Abios - which wants to be like a calendar for competitive gaming/e-sports. http://swedishstartupspace.com/2013/09/02/abios-games/ is the link if you want to read it.

One reason for the flourishing gaming scene in particular, and the many startups in general, that hasn't been mentioned here yet, is the very strong social safety net. People can afford to take risks even after they have started a family. Losing your job, or that your startup tanks, doesn't mean that you lose health insurance or your kids access to a good education, or that you have to worry that you don't can afford food or a roof over your head.

(It's not that screwing up doesn't have any consequences at all. You won't be able to keep your expensive apartment or fancy car while on welfare, but all your basic needs will be covered.)

Social measures (Swedish social safety nets) which help a the Free market and capitalists (profit by making games); Ayn Rand lovers would probably implode from the cognitive dissonance.

I read Atlas Shrugged (painfully) and kept being bothered by the simplistic ideals put forth. Your argument seems to me to be the perfect counter-example to her deluded ideals.


There's a very strong individualist current in Scandinavia, but interpreted differently. Many people actually view Americans and southern Europeans as more collectivist, in the clannish sense, because of their reliance on family, extended-family, and churches for safety nets. The ideal in Scandinavia is that each individual can go it alone roughly equally, rather than e.g. having to rely on your parents to pay part of your university, your kids to take care of you in your old age, family to take you in if you're disabled or broke, etc.

Back in my active esport times (quake2, quake3) sweden also had the best players and teams most of the time and i believe thats still true to this day. I am pretty sure its due to excellent IT infrastructure and long winters ;)

I'm a Swedish product designer and engineer, and think Swedish creativity is the same and any other country's: it's about taking stuff you've learned in one field and applying it to another.

Swedish people in my not entirely unbiased opinion tend to be exceptionally good at this and I think that's because education tends to be very broad - if you want to take music lessons and learn to play an instrument in Sweden it's essentially paid for by the state. Want to create a study group to learn about painting, same thing. If you go to study say engineering physics at a masters program, they'll also force you to learn at least the basics in fields like construction, electrical engineering, software engineering, etc. When you exit high school, even if you've taken a scientific route, you've learned about wood work, mechanical engineering, probably at least 2 languages beyond Swedish, etc.

Part of this I think is attributable to the culture isn't so focused on knowledge being measured or "accounted for" financially.

A second reason is probably that it's pretty cold in Sweden in the winters, but I don't think that has nearly as much to do with it.

Disclaimer: I'm born 77 and left the country 99. Some people claim that education isn't as good as it used to be. I don't know, but I think most of the people creating kick ass products right now are people that were born in the 80s or earlier.

Swedish game devs an no mention of Starbreeze Studios ?!! Seriously ? "Brothers : A tale of two sons" was the most interesting game i played all year.

Or Paradox.

Which are becoming a quite popular publisher among small game developers. For example another Swedish company, Fatshark, has created War of the Roses and uses Paradox as a publisher.

Paradox's own games (Crusader Kings 2 and Europa Universalis 4) are also more successful than ever.

The Swedish game developers seems to be booming.

By the way, I know a number of Swedish gaming companies are looking for engineers - if anyone is interested. http://swedishstartupspace.com/jobs/

I've always wanted to work, game & live in Sweden.

Here's your chance :D

The Hitman franchise is from neighbouring Denmark. And the last Space Hulk game as well (though it didn't get stellar reviews...).

Unity is also from Denmark (although I think they moved to San Francisco now).

They have 27 locations now, but I believe that major development is still in Denmark: http://unity3d.com/company/people

Yeah, the San Francisco office is now officially the headquarters (moved from Copenhagen in 2009), but as you can see from the bios of the people listed as being in SF on that page, it's almost exclusively the sales and finance office, not where engine dev takes place.

I didn't know that. That's one piece of technology that has made a considerable impact on modern gaming.

As a person who has spent his professional career developing games all over the world, I would say that part of it is that there are fewer competing industries drawing away talent in Sweden. Games are one of thoese things you can do almost anywhere if you can get the right art, design and tech talent together. In the US you have a strong film and television industry, a lot of tech companies and start ups, driving up the demand for talent. In Sweden you have less of that.

The tech industry might not be big in comparison to the US, but per capita I would think it is. Sweden's prosperity was built largely on technology, engineering, natural resources and heavy industry. The economy is pretty diversified now, with large fashion, design and bio-medical industries as well. In general, just like you say, the entertainment industries and financial industries are much smaller.

My guess for why there are so many game developers in Sweden: people are free to pursue whatever they want, without much financial pressures. People don't rush through college, because there's no tuition. They're not as pressured to go into high-paying industries because they have less debt to pay off. That combined with early access to computers and internet creates an environment where people pursue their passions, for better or worse.

No mention of Starbreeze and the new Riddick game.

They should have mentioned Starbreeze which seems to have found gold with its Payday 2. But from what I understand it is not Starbreeze that will make the new Riddick game, but another Swedish developer Machine Games (which was founded by a bunch of old Starbreeze staff after the Syndicate flop)

Same guys same country :). My personal favourite is Enclave - IMHO way under-appreciated.

There's a Swedish iOS game developer that's quite successful as well, Toca Boca. They're doing games for the small ones and as a father of two I have every single game they've developed on my iPads. Quality work that sits well with my kids.


IllusionLabs are also from Malmö: www.illusionlabs.com

Applications are open for YC Summer 2018

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact