2011 in review: Ilkka Paananen, president, Supercell

2011 in review: Ilkka Paananen, president, Supercell

A co-founder of a small Finnish mobile studio Sumea in 2000, in the years following its acquisition by Digital Chocolate, Ilkka Paananen ended up president of the US publisher's 200-strong Helsinki studio.

But in 2011, together with veterans from companies such as Remedy, Sulake and Digital Chocolate, he set up Supercell, a Facebook and mobile game developer.

We caught up with Paananen to get his take on the past 12 months.

PocketGamer: What do you think was the most significant event for the mobile games industry in 2011?

Ilkka Paananen: I would like to list two things:

1) Angry Birds proved that it really is possible to create original IP on mobile that sells hundreds of millions, and, even more importantly, becomes a well recognised global consumer brand that sells everything from fluffy toys to cook books.

2) Free-to-play model became the dominant business model for mobile games.

What was the most significant event for Supercell?

It's been a really exciting year for us and it's hard to single out just one thing...

Among the highlights: we released our first game Gunshine on Facebook; Accel invested $12 million in us; we grew from 7 to 46 and now have a great team of developers; and started to invest into smartphones and tablets, which will enable us to release several new titles during the first half of next year.

What was your favourite mobile game of the year?

Shadow Cities by Grey Area. Finally someone has tried to do something completely different with location.

And I am not alone in my opinion. The New York Times called it the 'future of mobile gaming'.

What do you predict will be the most important trends in 2012?

If the smartphone and tablet platforms keep on their current growth trend, we may very well be at the point next year where there are more than a billion gamers worldwide.

Practically everyone plays games these days, and the vast majority of them on either their mobile or on their tablet. This is a massive opportunity and I think we as an industry are only scratching a surface in terms of capitalising on the potential that exists.

The areas I think are particularly unexploited include the user of social networks for rich multiplayer games and user interfaces that are built for touchscreens instead of being mere ports from the web/mouse experience.

Overall, I think that we will see more social elements and playing with your friends will penetrate all game genres, core and casual. This will be largely driven by initiatives such as Facebook's Open Graph for mobile and Apple's Game Center.

What's your New Year's resolution and what resolution would you enforce on the industry?

Now that we are getting these social/viral channels for mobile, let's please not just use them to boost viral spread by spamming our users' Facebook walls - which will eventually hurt us as an industry.

Instead, let's focus on building better games that are worth talking about in their own right, and better when played with friends. If we can do both of these two things, the viral spread will come without the spam.

Thanks to Ilkka for his time.

Contributing Editor

A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon is Contributing Editor at which means he acts like a slightly confused uncle who's forgotten where he's left his glasses. As well as letters and cameras, he likes imaginary numbers and legumes.


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Bravo Supercell and may 2012 bring you the very best of everything