Studio profile: Frozenbyte

Studio profile: Frozenbyte

  • Founded 2001
  • Location Helsinki.
  • Employees 35
  • URL www.frozenbyte.com
  • Selected softography Shadowgrounds, Trine, Shadowgrounds Survivor.
  • Current projects Jack Claw (a crowd-sourcing project for PC), Trine 2 (360, Mac, Linux, PC, PS3), Splot (iOS, Mac, Linux, PC).

With an average employee age somewhere on the south side of 30, Frozenbyte is the precocious upstart of the Finnish development scene. It shows, too, with a remarkably democratic structure and its own idiosyncratic way of doing things. But it’s a methodology that works, underscored by the huge uptake of the recently released Humble Frozenbyte Bundle. We gather around sandwiches, chocolate bars and beer on ice to discuss the developer’s leftfield approach with vice president Joel Kinnunen and sales and marketing manager Mikael Haveri.

How do you think your youth affects your outlook and achievements?
Joel Kinnunen: I don’t know if it’s the age or the process, but we have only three people who had prior industry experience before joining us. Everyone else is fresh from school, or just from their hobby background, so that may have some sort of effect upon the company. It also means that we are not really rigid in our ways; we have very little mid-management, for example.

You’ve achieved a lot, but it sounds a bit like organised chaos.
Mikael Haveri: In many ways it is. That’s where you need the organic growth, too, because you can’t just add a whole other group from nowhere and expect it to work. Everybody has to get into the structure of the company and understand how we work. The whole horizontal structure works if you have slowly developed around it.


Sales and marketing manager Mikael Haveri (above left) and vice president Joel Kinnunen

Do you think that gives employees a sense of ownership?
JK: It does, and as a company many of our employees are owners with a small stake, so that does play into it as well.

Is that something you offer all of your employees?
JK: Yeah, it’s going to be. We haven’t actually defined any sort of structure to it yet, but it’s something we plan to do.

How do other companies deal with you?
JK
: That’s an interesting question, because in the past when we were desperately trying to get publisher attention, I think we tried to behave like everyone would expect, acting really professionally and all that. Nowadays, I think we don’t try that hard any more, because we know what we’re aiming for. We’re in a good position and hopefully we’ll be able to self-fund all of our future projects, so it’s really a question of who’s the best publishing partner in this digital world, who can bring something to the table and not just slap a logo on the box. I don’t know if we’re starting to get a bit arrogant or something, but it feels like we’re now in the driving seat. Trine’s sense of humour works really well, and it feels like it’s eminently exportable. Do you think that’s a factor in its success?

Is Finnish humour universal?
MH
: Trine is a really good example of how that can work, but then again it’s not Finnish, per se. There’s Finnish aspects to it: Pontius is my favourite character; he’s like your average Finnish man after a beer or two – without that he probably wouldn’t say anything throughout the whole game. But the British voice actors are brilliant, so we get input from there, too.

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