It's never easy getting turning your mobile game into a top seller.
But that's exactly what Johannes Vuorinen and his Frogmind co-founder Juhana Myllys did with side-scrolling action-adventure title Badland.
Vuorinen had previously worked at games companies like THQ Wireless and RedLynx, but made the brave decision to jump into independent development in 2012.
Shunning free-to-play back in 2013, the duo released their debut title, Badland, onto mobile as a paid-for game.
And it worked. The title received wide critical acclaim and great sales to boot.
Having released Badland 2 at the end of last year, the studio is now working on multiple free-to-play projects as Vuorinen looks to continue building on his successes in mobile.
This interview took place before Supercell's acquisition of a 51% stake in Frogmind.
What were your favourite games as a kid?
I've always been a big fan of multiplayer games. The first that come to my mind are:
- Action Quake 2
- Ultima Online
- Dune 2
- NHL 94
When did you realise you wanted to make games as a career?
This happened during my second year studying at Helsinki University of Technology in 2007 when I had my first actual study-related summer job in a real IT company.
At Universomo, we wondered whether people even play mobile games. After the launch of App Store, mobile games became mainstream.
I had very long dreamed about turning my gaming hobby into a career but I always thought that it just requires too much skill for my competence, and definitely a demoscene background.
During that summer when I was programming some rather boring IT product stuff I just could not see myself doing that for the rest of my life.
Instead, I decided to fully focus on studying game programming and apply for a game programming position the next summer.
What was your first role in the industry? How did that turn out?
The above plan worked well and I landed my first job in games in THQ Wireless / Universomo in summer 2008.
I worked as a game programmer helping on many J2ME mobile games such as Star Wars: The Clone Wars, WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2010 and Chop Sushi.
I really enjoyed the time there but decided to switch to - back then - "real games" on console/PC and joined RedLynx to work on Trials Evolution for Xbox 360 in 2010.
What do you consider your first significant success?
Definitely that we were able to develop and publish Badland, fully self-funded by just us two guys.
When did the potential for mobile games become apparent to you?
The launch of App Store and the many indie games created by tiny teams that succeeded there.
These indie companies, such as Subatomic Studios and Simogo, were very inspiring for us to start Frogmind.
What do you think is the most significant event in mobile gaming to-date?
I have to say again the launch of App Store.
Before that, for example when I was working at Universomo, we used to wonder whether people even play mobile games.
After the launch of App Store, mobile games became mainstream.
What are you most proud of? Any regrets?
Personally, definitely my twin boys.
But professionally, Frogmind and Badland and everything that has happened after that: getting the Apple Design Award and growing from a two-man studio to 15 amazing people working on three new games.
Mobile eSports will be a big thing as mobile player bases are huge and the games are much easier to follow for spectators.
It has been an epic experience so far and I have enjoyed every single bit. We have so much fun in the office.
Which mobile games have you most enjoyed recently and why?
It's just the perfect game for quick duels during the day.
I really love that it works in real-time. The real-time non-verbal and verbal communication during the game with the opponent feels amazing.
The game has given me same kind of addictive vibes as some of the eSports FPS games I used to play over ten years ago.
What are your predictions for the future of mobile games?
I think we are going to see as many real-time multiplayer games as we have seen asynchronous multiplayer games in the past.
And games in general will continue to be more and more social and less and less single-player experiences.
Mobile eSports will also be a big thing as the mobile player bases are huge and the games are much easier to follow for spectators compared to PC games.
In which area of the industry do you hope to make a difference in future?
As a near term plan I hope that our premium to F2P switch proves to be successful, and that we can be a positive example of that switch to premium indie studios.
I really enjoy our studio's approach to game development with very small experienced teams - two to five - working on games without managers.
It has worked very nicely with our premium games and so far things are looking amazing in our not-yet-announced F2P projects as well.
I can't wait to launch them!