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Supercell’s Ilkka Paananen explains why its cell structure puts developers before management

Supercell’s Ilkka Paananen explains why its cell structure puts developers before management

Supercell founder Ilkka Paananen took the stage at GDC this year to discuss the company’s team-first cell structure.

Paananen explained that while his previous positions in games followed a very traditional top-down management style, Supercell’s cell structure places power in the hands of a number of development teams.

Initially, Paananen wanted to give everyone at the studio a sense of ownership, so games were developed with meetings and input from all departments.

Not only did this take up a huge amount of time, but games would hit roadblock after roadblock, and developers faced frustration explaining new concepts to company staff less-versed in game development.

Hurdles

“The problem is that this type of process doesn’t favour truly innovative,” said Paananen. “If you’re gonna build something from scratch, that doesn’t exist yet, you can’t build a case like that around it.”

“Most of the big innovative things, they are things like Clash Royale that did something new - but you don’t understand until it’s out there.”

By looking at other successful games on the market, Paananen came to realise that on top of well-timed releases, putting developers in the front-seat was a huge boost for innovation.

“The less the management had to do with their games,” said Paananen, “The better their chances of success. They were able to put out these hit games without all these processes.”

Supercell’s structure is centred on small teams - Cells - led by developers and designers first, who come together to push for new titles. The role of managers like Paananen?

“Getting the best possible team together, and creating an environment that doesn’t slow them down.”

You can watch the newly published video of Ilkka Paananen's GDC talk below.


Staff Writer

Natalie Clayton is an Edinburgh-based freelance writer and game developer. Besides PCGamesInsider and Pocketgamer.biz, she's written across the games media landscape and was named in the 2018 GamesIndustry.biz 100 Rising Star list.

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Mark Saidali
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