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10 years of Pocket Gamer: EA's Petri Ikonen reminisces on Digital Chocolate days

From Tower Bloxx to SimCity BuildIt

10 years of Pocket Gamer: EA's Petri Ikonen reminisces on Digital Chocolate days

As Pocket Gamer celebrates its tenth birthday this month, we're sharing the memories of those who have been in the mobile games industry for as long as we have.

That's back when the iPhone was but a futuristic fantasy, and the closest you could get to social mobile gaming was via WAP.

This time, we're talking to Petri Ikonen, now of EA's Helsinki-based tracktwenty mobile studio and formerly of Sumea. What were you doing in mobile/games 10 years ago?

Petri Ikonen: The spring of 2006 was very interesting time for me. I was working as a Lead Designer at Digital Chocolate’s Sumea studio in Helsinki.

The game I was working on that time was Mafia Wars: Yakuza. A great team and a nice project. The game also got later a very nice reception and reviews.

What was the hot mobile technology/hardware back then?

It was still J2ME days - so a countless amount of different kind of handhelds. We were very proud of our own in-house tools: level editors, an animation editor, a toolkit to port all SKUs.

Those made our lives as fun and easy as possible back then.

Can you remember any games you were playing?

Sumea was a big studio with eight teams, so I was playing a lot of our own games such as Tower Bloxx, Tornado Mania, and the Mini Golf series.

I also played a lot of games from Mr. Goodliving and Gameloft.

I was not able to understand the potential of mobile gaming at that time.
Petri Ikonen

Did you always think mobile games could/would become the widest global gaming sector?

No, I was not able to really understand it at that time. I had an idea that mobile gaming was a growing sector and that there would be better and better devices.

But on the other hand, I guess we were so busy creating games that I didn’t think too much the future.

What do you think has been the most significant event in mobile gaming during the past 10 years?

It’s either the App Store, touch screens or the F2P-model. All of those changed the mobile gaming, design and business a lot.

For me personally, I guess it’s been the F2P model and games-as-a-service.

What have been your favourite mobile games over the past 10 years?

That’s a tough one. It would be so easy to pick multiple current hit games. There are so many great games out there at the moment. But I’d say the original Tower Bloxx.

Tower Bloxx: primitive by today's standards, but impressive in 2005

The game has lots of innovation - one button gameplay, two integrated game modes which combine both arcade action and city planning strategy.

And the game was following nicely mobile usage patterns: short sessions, persistent progression, very simple controls. It’s just very simple and fun, but has lots of depth.

And it was released in 2005!

Looking to the future, what are you working on now?

SimCity BuildIt as a live service is keeping me nicely busy, but there are some new ideas brewing, too.

More generally, what games are you looking forward to?

Personally, I am a big fan of RTS games and it’s very interesting to follow that finally real time PvP games start to be a reality on mobile.

I guess there will be lots of new games in that category.

How do you think the mobile games industry will change over the next 10 years?

It will mature. I believe that especially the art of F2P design and tech will evolve rapidly. Generally, I am very excited about the future.

I think that gamers have never had it so good - there are more great games that you have time to play. As players, we are spoiled.

Finally, do you have a favourite Pocket Gamer memory you'd like to share?

Especially in the early years, when J2ME games were quick projects, it was always a big thing to wait for a Pocket Gamer review. Will the new game get any medals? What’s the score?

Thanks for the great job reviewing mobile games!

Features Editor

Matt is really bad at playing games, but hopefully a little better at writing about them. He's Features Editor for, and has also written for lesser publications such as IGN, VICE, and Paste Magazine.