2/2014

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King content: How games and audiovisual companies see innovation in Oulu

It’s not too uncommon to see innovation as something technological: something that makes your life easier, or does something more precisely or effectively than the previous version or method. However, innovation is more than that. Although technological innovations are what we experience when we turn on the TV or use our phones, but there are innovative processes behind what we experience after the flick of the switch or a tap of the screen. The content in each and every media device we operate today goes through several processes, and more often than not, those processes and workflows haven’t just happened by themselves.

“Innovation is absolutely a key prerequisite for our business”, says Jaakko Kylmäoja from Fingersoft, the company behind the hit game Hill Climb Racing with over 180 million downloads and several others. “In a constantly changing industry, innovation is simply vital for success. We won’t just follow the latest trends, but create them ourselves – something that Hill Climb Racing has clearly proven we can do successfully.”

Quality speaks volumes

Fingersoft is a good example of innovative thinking. The hit game was developed by just two people, one of them being the company founder Toni Fingerroos. Sounds were recorded through a laptop mic, graphics were either open source or self-hatched, but the game is immensely popular and downright addictive. With downloads quickly escalating to the millions, Fingersoft found themselves sitting on a lucrative marketing platform and used the game for cross-marketing their newer games. The company now employs 12 people, who are “allowed to create freely with practically no limitations”, according to Kylmäoja.

But digital games are still software, and many innovation paths aren’t that different – ease of use, ease of purchase, user interfaces – the same modules of software development that are factors in everything run with a microprocessor device. It turns out that the other end of the spectrum isn’t that different in terms of ways of thinking. It all boils down to content.

International interest for Studio Outo

Tero Takalo is the lead animator and co-founder of Studio Outo, an audiovisual company located in Oulu and Helsinki. “Although innovation means mainly issues regarding content, we are clearly gaining advantage in distinguishing ourselves through our animation technique.” He’s talking about digital cut-out animation, which is the modern way of creating animation from bits of fabric, wood and other distinct materials – only now, computers are involved, and in more ways than just production.

It’s clear that the changes in audiovisual industry are not over. The next challenges for big players are in second screen utilization, cross-media platforms and, yes, you guessed it, copyright infringement issues. But for a production company like Studio Outo, the challenges are surprisingly local, while the potential is overwhelmingly global. “The audiovisual industry in Oulu still needs financing instruments for content development.”

“All in all, Oulu area has a huge potential for creative business as long as we can keep hold of the talented individuals and attract investment in local creative companies.”