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Hall of Fame: Seriously's Petri Järvilehto on building big games franchises

From Max Payne to Angry Birds and Best Fiends
Hall of Fame: Seriously's Petri Järvilehto on building big games franchises
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Not many people have had the opportunity to consistently work on and influence some of gaming's biggest franchises.

But that's what Petri Järvilehto has experienced throughout his career.

He started as graphic artist on console game Death Rally at Remedy Entertainment.

But before long, he was project lead on the first Max Payne game, lead game designer on Max Payne 2 and creative director for Alan Wake.

In 2011, he joined a Rovio high on the success of its smash hit Angry Birds.

After working up to executive VP for games and helping the company rack up 1.7 billion downloads, he decided to spread his wings and form his own company.

Still based in Finland, that studio is Seriously..

Its debut title Best Fiends proved a massive hit. As of January 2016 it had racked up 2.1 million daily active users and $25 million in gross revenue.

But it's not the end of the IP. Seriously has big plans to roll it out into a franchise for mobile and beyond.

And all the while, Järvilehto is handling the creative reigns of this ambitious push. What were your favourite games as a kid?

Petri Järvilehto: I started really playing games around Commodore 64 time, so games like:

  • Ultima IV
  • Impossible Mission
  • Elite
  • Lode Runner
  • Boulder Dash
  • Ghosts’n'Goblins
  • Prince of Persia

These were the games that I grew up with and still love.

When did you realise you wanted to make games as a career?

As soon as I got my first computer I knew that I wanted to do something with them. Vic-20 was magical and playing around with basic programming and art was great.

Finland had zero options on games as a career at the time, so I didn’t really expect that to be an option.

One of the reasons why we got started with Remedy back in the day was simply because there were no games companies that we could join.

We started Remedy back in the day simply because there were no games companies that we could join.

We had to build our own.

What was your first role in the industry? How did that turn out?

When Remedy was founded, I started as a graphic artist on our first game, Death Rally.

In addition to the art, ended up carrying a lot of the design, production, management, leadership responsibilities as well.

Death Rally shipped in late ’96 and for us back in the day, it was a big success.

What do you consider your first significant success?

Max Payne. We hit the number one sales on consoles and PC.

The franchise ended up selling more that seven million copies on console and PC which exceeded all of our expectations.

Leading that project was awesome, but it was also a incredible effort. We’d never attempted anything so ambitious and the game took over four years to make.

A lot of the time we literally worked 24/7 and pushed hard to create something that we believed in.

<em>Max Payne</em> - a labour of love
Max Payne - a labour of love

It was a labor of love and I think a lot of that passion showed through in the final product.

When did the potential for mobile games become apparent to you?

Once Apple launched the App Store, it basically changed everything on mobile.

Suddenly, you could publish to 100-plus countries yourself. The volumes started ramping up and the best games were reaching tens of millions of people.

It seemed like radical shift from the ‘old world’ of boxed copies and I thought the potential was really exciting.

What do you think is the most significant event in mobile gaming to-date?

The strength of both App Store and Google Play zero-friction distribution has changed, not only mobile gaming, but is also having a profound impact on gaming at large.

What are you most proud of? Any regrets?

Actually, three things:

We’ll look back and think how easy it was back in 2016.

Building up Remedy and being one of the early pioneers as an independent pc/console dev was awesome. I'm very proud of the entire team.

Leading Rovio’s gaming unit and completely crushing it on the mobile charts with Angry Birds was amazing.

We shipped number one hit after number one hit and achieved results that seemed at times ludicrous - reaching more than a billion people! And tens of millions of people playing our games every day.

And most of all I’m super proud of everything we have built up with Seriously.

We have an incredible team, that works really hard, a wonderful company culture and creating a hit game right out of the gate with our debut title, Best Fiends, is something that doesn’t happen very often.

Which mobile games have you most enjoyed recently and why?

I play pretty much everything on mobile.

Through the last year I’ve been playing every single clicker/idle game that I find. I love the genre.

What are your predictions for the future of mobile games?

The competition will ramp up even more than people expect.

With several games on the top lists grossing more than a billion per year, the amount of investment going into these productions will raise rapidly.

Few years from now, we’ll look back and think how easy it was back in 2016.


Mobile is definitely going to remain an exciting and vibrant area of games, and we’ll keep seeing more and more innovation with so many developers around the globe taking shots at greatness.

I think we’ll also end up seeing new genres being created that will eventually take over the current builder/battler dominance.

In which area of the industry do you hope to make a difference in future?

I love working with mobile, so definitely working hard to make a difference on this area now and in the future.

Starting out in simple monochrome in the days of Snake and WAP, the past decade has seen the mobile games industry kaleidoscope into a glorious, multi-billion dollar sector that's driving global innovation.

So it's high time we celebrate some of the people who helped make that journey possible - something is doing in its regular Mobile Gaming Hall of Fame feature.

You can read our previous Hall of Fame articles here.