Studio profile: RedLynx
- Founded 2000
- Location Helsinki.
- Employees 45
- Key staff Antti Ilvessuo (creative director), Tero Virtala (CEO).
- URL www.redlynx.com
- Selected softography Trials HD, Trials 2 SE, DrawRace, Monster Trucks Nitro, Reset Generation, Pathway to Glory.
- Current projects MotoHeroz (WiiWare), 1000 Heroz (iOS), DrawRace 2 (iOS), Trials Evolution plus two unannounced games.
As we step into RedLynx’s top-floor offices, decked out in red-tinted ’70s wood panelling throughout, we’re greeted by a Parrot AR Drone. It hovers in front of us for a second, an unblinking eye scanning the scene, before flying back out of the room and down the corridor. For a moment, we wonder if we’re in some low-budget remake of Batteries Not Included, but much to our relief, creative director Antti Ilvessuo steps around the corner wearing a mischievous smile. The welcome is indicative of Redlynx’s commitment to pure and simple fun.
The studio is best known for its raucous XBLA hit Trials HD (see our recent interview with the game’s creators), but RedLynx has created over 100 titles, cutting its teeth on mobile releases and sub-contracting deals with other developers. The turning point came in 2008, when the company decided to focus on self-publishing its own original IP after facing resistance from publishers unconvinced of the potential inherent in RedLynx’s stripped-down, finely tuned concepts. The move was made possible thanks to the increasing viability of digital distribution, Steam proving the perfect platform on which to launch Trials 2 SE, a full-blown release based on earlier web games.
Redlynx’s self-belief was rewarded with huge success, the game quickly shifting around 200,000 copies and paving the way for Trials HD. And that self-belief still drives the company, the sense of pride in their work palpable as we’re introduced to various staffers. More than one RedLynx employee asserts that the company is comprised of gamers making games for gamers, and, as the team insists that we stay to play MotoHeroz and Trials HD with them even after a full day hosting our visit, it’s clear that it isn’t some kind of empty corporate slogan. Here, we sit down with CEO Tero Virtala to discuss the company’s success.
Has the success of Trials HD changed the way the company operates?
I wouldn’t say that. Of course, this year is a big year, because we have six games coming out. We haven’t had this big a number in the previous years – it would be maybe one bigger game and two smaller games. Also, all the success and positive feedback we’ve gotten from Trials HD has translated to positive support for our other games – it’s a game from the developers of Trials HD; everyone recognises that.
RedLynx CEO Tero Virtala and a particularly vertiginous obstacle from Trials HD
Six games at once across multiple platforms is quite a lot for any studio, let alone one consisting of only 45 people.
We want to be at the cutting edge, and I would say ten years ago, for a company so small, it would have been very difficult to make a cutting-edge game, because you would have had to make a big console game. Now, the market is changing. We have the digital distribution space opening up and it’s possible to really make something that opens the market up with just ten to 20 people. Also, we have never wanted to focus on one single thing. I think each project has been an important source of innovation and learning, and it’s also a way of managing risks.
If you consider that, had we focused years ago on the most successful area we had – turn-based strategy games – I doubt that we would be this successful now. Trends and consumer preferences change and I just don’t think that turn-based strategy games are the big thing nowadays. And everyone knows how fast the markets change, so going multiplatform is also, business-wise, a wise decision. If someone tried to pick a platform to stick with for the next few years, I think it’s likely they would choose wrong. There are going to be some changes that no one expects.
Have you faced any challenges moving to self-publishing?
I think in future, the industry is going to be much more networked. There are going to be new types of players, like us, that own their properties and focus on the development side but are also able to partner with those bigger publishers. We are already seeing that happening a lot. Microsoft is very open to smaller developers, EA has its programs with partners, and the iPhone brought a completely new type of publisher model to the market. So I don’t think the future will be as black-and-white as it used to be, with only developers and publishers. I think there is going to be much more variety in time. In the end, our business is about games: we just want to develop great games. When those are in order, everything else is just much easier.
What do you think has been key to the success of your releases?
We’ve made a lot of games – many of those were in the earlier years for mobile devices – and I think all of them are still really important, because every single game has taught us something different. Focus on simple board-game mechanics, games with multiplayer which have maybe a bit more functionality, some games which are very good, and some games that we thought early on had features which worked well – they’ve taught us to develop further. I think now when our games come out they are always very fun games, quite focused games with two or so core features and built around that. I think perhaps the reason why they are, gameplay-wise, so fun is the experience of this wide variety of previous projects.