Observations from the Norwegian game industry

As I’m figuring out what my official thoughts on what we should be doing in Norway to make the industry in Norway grow – I thought I’d use this blog of mine to brainstorm publicly about some of the impressions and thoughts I’ve had along the way. I’m still working through them, so please feel free to share your opinions, thoughts and insight.

The state of Norway

There are 99 companies in Norway working on game development with less than 400 employees. In other words we have a lot of indies with about 4 to 5 people. Norway has one large studio, Funcom, which has moved most of its production to Montreal. Other than that our studios are small and function either as start-ups or as a side company for a larger advertising or tech agency.

That said, there are about 10 independent game studios that have been doing rather well for many years. Most of these have found additional income through “work for hire” from different industries such as education, advertising and, of course, oil. I don’t have official numbers to back me up, but I think the oil industry in Norway gobbles up the best minds in Norway within programming. Understandably so, as it is one of Norway’s top industries next to shipping. They have money, security and prestige. I’m an oil brat myself – so I’m definitely not complaining.

But Norway isn’t very good at the entertainment industry. I feel extremely guilty and unpatriotic towards my country writing that, I mean, we did produce The Fox after all! We have an amazing government that funds the arts and we’re so lucky that they recognise computer games as a culture industry and game developers will in 2014 receive record support of € 3 million. I’m certain that this is more generous than many other countries and we are indeed very lucky. But it’s not nearly enough to build a commercial and sustainable industry. We need to start taking the culture industries seriously and we need to invest in creating a commercial industry that can pay and invest in itself.

And the time is now. If ever there was a time for independent game studios to blossom it is now and Norway has a lot of wonderful talent. We have struck gold talent wise, now all we need to learn is how to polish and make it shine. And also mine it responsibly to sell globally so we can invest in more mining to cultivate more gold. I’m not certain I feel comfortable with the mining analogy – but you get what I mean, we need to think sustainability while selling and growing.

So I’ve spent the last couple of months looking into what other countries do. I’ve had a dream job these last few months, acting dumb and soaking in as much information as I possibly can about the game industry. I have a severe handicap as I’ve never worked for the game industry – only studied it for many years. But luckily I have been so priveleged to meet companions on the way who have been more than willing to share their opinions, experience and outlook with me. Some have been negative and rude, but most have been absolutely lovely and just as idealistic as I am.

 

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