Interview

Interview: Big Screen Gaming brings PC and console experts to 2019 Helsinki conference

Interview: Big Screen Gaming brings PC and console experts to 2019 Helsinki conference

We’ve been running two-day conferences in the Finnish capital for five years already, so you know what to expect – world leaders in making and selling games, sharing their experiences, demonstrating their games, doing business.

But for the first time at Pocket Gamer Connects Helsinki we’re including console games in the track line-up. That’s right, alongside PC, console games development forms part of the Big Screen Gaming track, taking place throughout day one of the conference in its own dedicated space.

The Big Screen Gaming track is curated by Ari Arnbjörnsson, who co-organised February’s Games Helsinki conference (along with Eevi Korhonen), and Patty Toledo, Steel Media’s own Senior Event Content Producer. They kindly gave up time from their day to talk us about the exciting new additions to the conference schedule:

Why is it important that Pocket Gamer Connects introduces PC and console to the mix?

Ari Arnbjörnsson: “It’s important that Pocket Gamer Connects tailor the conference to the audience of its host cities. Finland is of course well known for its world-class mobile game industry, being the home of legendary mobile games like Nokia’s Snake, Angry Birds, Clash of Clans and many more.

The rapid growth of the Finnish game industry hasn’t been confined to mobile game studios.
Ari Arnbjörnsson

But the rapid growth of the Finnish game industry hasn’t been confined to mobile game studios. We have established console and PC studios like Remedy, Colossal Order and Frozenbyte, along with promising new companies and growing ones like Housemarque with their move to AAA.

“And that part of the industry has so many amazing stories and lessons to share that we shouldn’t miss, that’s why I’m so excited for Pocket Gamer and Games Helsinki to team up to bring the Big Screen track to this year’s event!”

Patty Toledo: “PC and console games have been established for many years now and have a great influence on market trends. And the advance of esports and influencers have brought this market to new heights.

“Additionally, technology now allows developers to port for multiple platforms, expanding their reach not only in relation to locale, but also to all kinds of players. Our event needs to be on top of the market’s changes and provide information to all developers, helping them get the most from the top leaders' knowledge.

“With the possible saturation of the mobile market and the new challenges in user acquisition costs, expanding to new platforms can help developers sustain their business and explore new opportunities. And we are here to help them share and acquire knowledge about it! Ari and I have been working very closely, making sure we are providing the best content to our attendees. We have the same goal, so working closely together has been an easy task.”

Nex Machina, Housemarque

Expect a very close look on what is going on in PC and console development. And also a fine mix of local and international experts.
Patty Toledo

What can people expect from the Big Screen Gaming area of Pocket Gamer Connects Helsinki 2019. Who is confirmed already? Who are you most looking forward to seeing?

Arnbjörnsson: “Games Helsinki’s inaugural conference had some absolutely fantastic talks but it was limited in audience size. With PGC we have a chance to bring those talks to a bigger audience so we’ve gotten some of the speakers back for an encore. Just to name a couple:

“Juha Vainio, the lead producer of Remedy’s Control, will be back with his humorous and honest talk on producing Control.

“Harry Krueger, Nex Machina’s game director, returns to talk about the design of the multi-award winning game.

“Along with getting previous speakers back we have even more new speakers this time around from companies like Super Evil Megacorp, Frozenbyte, Raw Fury and more.”

Toledo: “People can expect a very close look on what is going on in PC and console development. And also a fine mix of local and international experts. Companies like Super Evil Megacorp, Colossal Order, Housemarque, Remedy and Green Man Gaming are just some of the confirmed speakers, but much more will be added.

“My favourite parts of the PC and console event will be the technical talks and post-mortems. Learning from other people's experience adds a layer of credibility and interest.”

Control, Remedy Entertainment

Finland has become a mecca for game development, and having renowned conferences like Pocket Gamer Connects helps solidify that image as the need for more game developers rises.
Ari Arnbjörnsson

Pocket Gamer has been hosted in Helsinki for six years now. Why do you think it’s such a big deal?

Arnbjörnsson: “An active industry brews an active community, and vice versa! Finland’s game industry has been through a lot of growth and is now at a few hundred companies; it’s crazy! We can’t educate new game makers fast enough and we have professionals from all over the world relocating here.

“Finland has become a mecca for game development, and having renowned conferences like Pocket Gamer Connects helps solidify that image as the need for more game developers rises. Finnish studios are expected to open over 500 new positions in 2019-2020 alone, according to Neogames.

“I’ve always been a huge proponent of all kinds of knowledge sharing. The big deal to me is our ability to come together and share lessons, tips, stories and experiences with each other. Having personally hit many figurative walls in my career, it pains me to think of all the hardships that could have been avoided if someone had just come up to me and told me ‘I’ve had that problem you have, here’s everything I learned from it’.

“It’s why I try to structure my presentations in a format that allows for practical takeaways and it’s why I’m such a big fan of others that do. That’s why I think conferences like Pocket Gamer Connects are such a big deal.”

Toledo: “Scandinavian and Nordic countries are a melting pot of talent. Their political, social and financial structures nurture talent and creativity. And their mindset supports growth, especially in Finland. Their 'sisu' mentality – never giving up, pushing through all challenges – combined with the government support to innovation creates the perfect space to innovate. It makes sense to have Pocket Gamer Connects in Helsinki. We have a lot to learn here and there are a lot of talent and opportunities there to be explored.”

Patty, as well as the Big Screen Gaming, what else is new at PGC this year?

Toledo: “We always aim to cover as much ground as two days allow us. We will be discussing the latest market trends, both in Western and in Eastern markets, how to better monetise, and acquire and retain users, the best in development and live ops, esports, influencers, instant games. There are 16 tracks, so there is something for everybody.”

Vain Glory, Super Evil Megacorp

What will streaming have in store for the future? How will next-gen consoles change how we make and play games? Is the next VR wave going to make strides?
Ari Arnbjörnsson

Do you think there are any big trends or themes that people will observe? Is the games industry very different this year from last year?

Toledo: “The game industry is ever changing. As policies change, users grow and new users enter the market, technology advances, games tend to improve and advance with them. Even if we would discuss the exact same topics from last year, the discourse would be different. I believe the biggest trend being discussed at the moment is company culture, as much needs to be improved in that area and developers are more actively debating the best practices. But there is much to learn.”

Arnbjörnsson: “The biggest potential changes are just on the horizon and subject to a lot of speculation. What will streaming have in store for the future? How will next-gen consoles change how we make and play games? Is the next VR wave going to make strides? I’m looking forward to see how the future of games will be discussed at the Big Screen track this year.”

Ari, why did you decide to start Games Helsinki earlier this year? What was your ambition for that event?

Arnbjörnsson: “My co-organizer Eevi Korhonen and I saw that the bustling game industry in Helsinki had a very under-represented community when it comes to non-mobile game-dev events. I had just moved from mobile game development to the console and PC space and was eager to partake in this new community, even if it meant I had to create the events myself.

“Since we’d never organised a conference from scratch we started small; one whole-day event with 100 attendees and seven speakers. It felt more like an excuse to pick the brains of our heroes as we hand-picked the speakers by reaching out to them directly.”

And how did it go? Was it the success you hoped for? What’s its future?

Arnbjörnsson: “We got incredibly lucky! We sold out, all the presentations were amazing, the food was exquisite, and the after-party blew my mind with From Grotto performing improvised music of the upcoming indie game Noita.

“If anything it might have gone a little too well, haha. We raised the bar to an altitude which will feel impossible to redo. But we wouldn’t be in the game industry if we didn’t like a challenge.

“Games Helsinki was originally created to fill a void. We’re already seeing growth after the conference like with Pocket Gamer Connects’ Big Screen track, and Slush is doing a callback to its roots by doing “Press Start” this year as a free game-dev side conference for 1000 people.

“But many people who liked Games Helsinki have offered to help with the next one, meaning I won’t have to almost burn myself out to do it again. That’s definitely increased the possibility of repeating the conference, because then it can be done not only for, but with the community.

“Given how Games Helsinki was all about bringing the community together, that’s a future vision of it that I can definitely subscribe to. We'll have to see what the future brings and how busy everyone is, right now there are no concrete future plans.”

Cities Skylines, Colossal Order

Come and pick the brains of the best experts in the market and be part of the discussion. You will learn a lot, and even possibly find your next business partners…
Patty Toledo

What gives the Finnish games industry its unique vibe?

Arnbjörnsson: “The Finnish game development community! People might joke that game developers or even Finns are quite introverted, but when it comes to Finnish game developers they are anything but.

“Finland has one of the most active IGDA chapters globally, with hubs all over the country and huge monthly meetings in Helsinki of around 500 attendees average, sometimes closing in on a thousand!

“It’s one of the most active countries in organizing game jams and is also the home of Assembly, one of the longest running demo parties in the world. That along with other conferences, regular game-dev events like Unreal, Unity and the Indie Beers meetups make the Finnish games industry incredibly unique. It’s my favorite thing about the country.”

Toledo: “Definitely the Finnish mindset makes it unique, as the Finns are not like most people. The drive, motivation and 'sisu' they have is incomparable. They are the most controlled and most passionate people at the same time. It is fascinating. And adding the social support they receive and the will to think outside the box, it is an explosive combination.

“Finland has been seen as the mobile games capital of the world for a long time, due to the success of companies like Supercell, Rovio and Fingersoft. And rightfully so - they are amazing. But Finland is not stopping there, and we can expect much more innovation coming from this 'little' country. Don’t underestimate the Finns.”

Is there anything else about PC/console/Games Helsinki that you wish our readers to know about?

Arnbjörnsson: “We’re bringing a slew of speakers to the Big Screen track with themed sections of the present and future state of the industry, business, and my personal favorite, the practical and technical section. It should hopefully have something for everybody.”

Toledo: “Please come and pick the brains of the best experts in the market and be part of the discussion. You will learn a lot, and even possibly find your next business partners…”

Thanks both!

Plus mobile, blockchain, 5G, cloud, VR/AR

In addition to PC and console content, you’ll also find speakers and panelists addressing blockchain, 5G, cloud and VR/AR topics. The full schedule will be revealed this week! There are still (just) a few speaking slots left to fill, so if you are interested in participating in this event, please contact us using the speaker submission form. We’re also accepting content suggestions for Jordan, London and Seattle.

Tickets to the 1-2 October event are available now. Final discounts available until Thursday! Tickets include access to all areas of the conference, mobile and beyond, as well as the free Pitch & Match system and the legendary party on the first night. 

Chief Operations Officer

Dave is Steel Media's Chief Operations Officer. He gets involved in all areas of the business, from front page editorial to behind-the-scenes planning. He began his career in games and entertainment journalism back in the 1990s when Doom came on four floppy disks. Please contact him with any general queries about Pocket Gamer, Blockchain Gamer and Steel Media's other sites and events.

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