Bringing Swedish game innovation to the UK
20 October 2021
Swedish game studio Sharkmob is a start-up success story in its own right. The company has rapidly grown from a small start-up to a team of 300 world-class developers. Operating out of its studios in Malmö and most recently, London, the game developer is combining Swedish innovation and entrepreneurial spirit with the strong tradition of production and game development in the UK. “We are trying to take the best of Swedish and UK game development traits and offer something new and interesting to the community,” says Fredrik Rundqvist, CEO of Sharkmob.
Malmö-based game studio and SCC member Sharkmob was founded in 2017, when a group of friends had an idea of how to develop games and what type of games to make. “We had been doing games together for more than a decade prior to this. From early on, we wanted to create so-called triple A games while trying to stay very close to the community. We wanted to put the fans and the gamers at the centre of what we do,” Fredrik Rundqvist, CEO of Sharkmob recalls.
Think big from the start
According to Fredrik, one of Sharkmob’s main strengths is that it was founded by a well-rounded and experienced core team. “From day one we covered all aspects of running a company and developing games. Our idea was to think big from the start, making sure we did not cut corners on expanding the team. I think that attitude is more important than skill when you recruit new colleagues.”
In 2019, only two and a half years after founding the studio, Sharkmob was acquired by the world’s leading game company Tencent, which opened doors to several new markets. The games giant being not only an important player in the industry, but also in the wider field of technology, created a shortcut between Sharkmob and players that had previously been out of reach. “Tencent is not only the biggest game company in the world, but also, and more interestingly, one of the biggest technology companies worldwide. They gave us access to resources, know-how and networks in markets that are usually difficult for Western companies to approach.”
Setting up in London
Combining its solid base with the growth potential Tencent’s acquisition allowed, Sharkmob had everything it needed to enter the international scene. According to Fredrik, setting up the first foreign studio in London was both a natural and strategic decision. “London is a major international hub with access to fantastic talent, industry partners and people from all over the world. This helps us with recruitment, makes it easier to maintain strong ties to key partners, and allows us to test our games in the London User Research Labwe are building, on a globally representative target group. So, we are trying to take the best of Swedish and UK game development traits and offer something new and interesting to the community, both in terms of workplace and new IP creation.”
Sharkmob London Limited, the fully owned subsidiary of the Swedish mother company, has focused on recruiting the right team to the studio since its establishment in October 2020. “The new core team of our London studio is very important. Similar to our Swedish start-up, having an experienced and well-respected core team in place is really the best way to start any game studio. My job is to make sure they get the resources and support to make their own creative vision come alive.” And after less than a year in London, the subsidiary has grown substantially, and the team is working on both internal and external projects. “The London team is growing steadily. We have about 40 people at the moment, and they are doing great work both with one of the Malmö game projects but also with a project of their own. They are currently nailing down the details of their permanent studio in the heart of London.”
Combining the best of both worlds
Highlighting the similarities between the two countries and their history of exchange, Fredrik says that the Scandi-British collaboration is a strong and successful combo. “Sweden has a long tradition and background of engineering and innovation, not just in the games industry. It has some of the best developers and studios in the world – no doubt about it – and hitting well above its weight in the industry. But more importantly, it has been very successful in creating new franchises and taking them globally. The UK has a strong tradition of production and game development. Combining those aspects is a fantastic opportunity.”
Strong reputation worldwide
With success stories such as Minecraft and Candy Crush Saga, Swedish game developers have indeed built a strong reputation worldwide. That Malmö and Skåne, the southernmost region of Sweden, has turned into a cluster for games is a quite natural development and Fredrik can think of several reasons why the region offers such fertile soil for developers, including its high number of academics and proximity to continental Europe. “There is the proximity to Denmark and Copenhagen, which allows easy access to the world through an international airport. There are universities in Lund and Malmö. The entire region is very tech heavy and has initiatives like Game Habitat and the Nordic Game Conference that help put Skåne on the map, attract companies and cultivate talent.“
Reaching new audiences during the pandemic
While the London team continues to get settled, they have to prepare for the post-pandemic shift back to normality. The previous year created a boom in the games industry, with sales hitting record highs and a large group of new people finding its way into the world of gaming. Fredrik thinks that these industry heydays might be coming to an end, but that the upcoming transition won’t necessarily lead to a loss. “I think the surge of screen time people had during COVID lockdowns will not prevail, so naturally less time will be spent on playing games. However, very large groups of people who did not play games at all, or very little, are now part of our global gamer community. Hopefully they will stick around, as well as being more open to new platforms and game experiences in the future.”
Transitioning to a fully operational game company
The team is currently working on several big projects, both as developers and as a studio. While staying true to the initial idea of creating AAA games, Fredrik says that the aim now is to expand not only in numbers, but also in terms of areas and operations. “Our first game Bloodhunt is being launched this year, and in the coming five years we will have launched another AAA franchise with several new titles on their way. Since we are also publishing our own games, that side of the business will become much bigger, and the transition from just developing games, to a fully operational game company will be complete. “
And with the studio bringing out the best of two worlds – Scandinavian creativity and UK practice – Sharkmob may very well be influential in taking the London games scene to a whole new level.