The former studio manager of Gameloft Helsinki has offered an insight into how he set up the studio and why it cancelled three games before its closure.
The Finland branch was established in January 2014. Cyril Barrow was recruited two months later in March as studio GM by Gameloft to helm its new development team.
By February 2015, a full team of 17 had been built up: one GM, three designers, six engineers, two admin employees, three artists and one art director.
During this time however, the studio had cancelled work on its first game and Barrow departed ways with the company and joined Rovio as VP of operations for games.
A year and two more cancelled games later, Gameloft shut down its Helsinki branch around January 2016.
Feeling the pressure
Speaking at the White Nights conference in St. Petersburg, Russia, Barrow said the studio faced difficulties early on due to the high expectations of holding the Gameloft brand and being based in Finland.
The country is well known for its huge success stories like Rovio and Supercell.
It’s also revered around the world for its ability to foster new gaming start-ups that attract high investment.
But Barrow said the local industry’s reputation meant there was extra pressure on Gameloft’s Helsinki studio.
He called this "the hardest thing" to deal with, particularly as expectations were to be as good as the local competition, if not better.
Hire people that you trust and give them the freedom to do their job. This is very important.Cyril Barrow
This, combined with the need to discover and adapt to Gameloft’s own culture and way of developing games, caused difficulties for the team.
Barrow recommended that when setting up a new studio, leads should “over communicate” with the team and their bosses and ensure expectations are set early on.
He also suggested scheduling key milestones and reviews and making sure you have the freedom to act somewhat independently between these.
He claimed that the studio often ended up “in a cycle of constant review” with Gameloft. Sometimes this would occur as often as once a week to once a day.
“It’s not hell on Earth, but it’s not what I signed up for,” said Barrow.
He added: “Hire people that you trust and give them the freedom to do their job. This is very important.”
Barrow said that after cancelling three casual games and Gameloft changing tact to the hardcore market, Gameloft Helsinki was closed just over six months ago.