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Tamalaki owner Martine Spaans: "I wish I would have known that hard work is not rewarded when no one sees it"

Profiling a few of the industry's stars to celebrate International Women's Day
Tamalaki owner Martine Spaans:

Today is International Women's Day and to mark the occasion we'll be highlighting some of the incredible women working in the games industry across both and You can catch all the profiles on here.

Here we speak to Martine Spaans, owner of Tamalaki and business development manager at FGL Publishing, about her journey into the games industry and the midconceptions surrounding games publishing. Can you tell us about your current role and what it entails?

Martine Spaans: I have two roles actually:

I manage Tamalaki, a mobile publishing label focusing on casual games for a female audience like hidden object, match-three, simulation and puzzle games.

I also help FGL Publishing as business development manager. They cater to a slightly different audience on mobile with bingo, mahjong, idle games and strategy puzzlers.

What did you study (if anything) that helped you get into games? What courses would you advise for aspiring professionals interested in your areas of expertise?

Back in 2007 I finished my bachelor Media & Entertainment Management with an internship at Endemol; the Dutch TV production company.

I was maintaining their website with a range of TV quizzes. My mentor knew a guy at Spil Games and one thing led to another; my first job before I event officially graduated was as junior content manager there.

I had kinda given up the dream of a career in games because I never learned how to code. At 22 I was certain that it was way too late for me to start coding, so I felt like I had missed my opportunity.

“At 22 I was certain that it was way too late for me to start coding, so I felt like I had missed my opportunity. Silly now I think of it 12 years later.”
Martine Spaans

Silly now I think of it 12 years later. But there you go, my entrance into the games industry was actually through a management internship and I landed a commercial role that was perfect for me.

Where did you get your start in games and how did you progress into what you're doing now? Is this something you ever imagined yourself doing?

I discovered pretty quickly that I knew how to be the link between game devs and company management. I could talk to both, understand decisions and struggles on both sides and find the best solution for all parties involved. Perfect to grow into the role of license manager and later start my own mobile publishing label.

The commercial aspect of identifying hit games came with experience of playing thousands of casual games.

In this industry of coding and data crunching, the importance of soft skills like communication and trend watching should not be overlooked.

What part of your role do you find most fulfilling?

I sometimes still speak to developers I worked with when I was at Spil Games. More than once someone told me: “You were the first to ever license a game from me and you gave me the confidence that I could make a business out of this. I pulled through and now I am managing a studio. It all started with that one Flash game.”

That just makes my whole world so much more meaningful. Whenever this reaches me in written form I save the email and I reread them when I have a shitty day, haha.


Do you think there are any misconceptions, public or professional, surrounding your area of expertise?

Not all publishers are only data-driven. Sure, data is great, but when you’re 100 per cecnt data-driven there is little room for creative experiments.

“I adore the people who clearly aren’t in it for themselves.”
Martine Spaans

We actually don’t always require soft launch numbers when we’re looking at a new game, and we do write extensive recommendation reports before we sign a contract. So starting with us might be easier than some developers think.

Is there anything about the job/industry you wish you would have known when first joining?

I wish I would have known that hard work is not rewarded when no one sees it. And when you’re always down in the trenches to get shit done, you’ll have no time left to show off what you’ve achieved.

But I guess that’s actually not specific to any industry or job. Just universal advice.

What other advice do you have for someone looking for a job in this profession?

Don’t just look at the job boards of the big names in the industry. Of course those do look awesome at your resume or sound cool to talk about at parties, but if you end up working at a smaller studio or publishing label you have a bigger chance of getting a 360-view of the industry and all development aspects.

Is there anyone in the games industry (or anyone else in general) who inspires you?

I adore the people who clearly aren’t in it for themselves. My own job is very commercially driven and I really enjoy this part of the industry. The games and the drive make me happy.

But think of those people who push the boundaries with indie games, or the people behind non-profit educational organisations, or those who have given up a high-paid job to become a teacher.

Their role in the industry is far more important than mine. I admire them and I want to help them wherever I can.

You can read more profiles of some of the incredible women working in the games industry right here.

Martine Spaans was a speaker at Pocket Gamer Connects London conference. The next PGC will take place in Seattle on May 13th to 14th. The event will be back in London in 2020.