Chinese technology company NetEase has invested $2.5 million in Helsinki developer startup Reforged Studios. The studio is a coalition of experience and ambition, founded by Teemu Vilén and Tuomas Pirinen in 2015 in Helsinki, Finland.
Good people are hard to find, except when they’re not. Tuomas Pirinen, CCO at Reforged Studios, explains that after forming Reforged with Teemu Vilén, they simply started calling the people they wanted to work with:
“These were all really senior people working in the most illustrious studios of the industry, but we decided to go for it anyway. For some unfathomable reason all the conversations went like this:
ME: ‘Hey, it’s me! We are starting a new studio from scratch and…’
THE SUPERSTAR DEVELOPER: ‘I’m in.’
ME: We can’t pay you. ‘We don’t have funding yet.’
TSD: ‘I’m in.’
ME: ‘The Studio is in Finland. It’s cold here and dark and…’
TSD: ‘I’m in.’
ME: ‘So about the game we are making…’
TSD: ‘When do I start?’”
– says Tuomas Pirinen.
Reforged Studios is, according to Pirinen, about nurturing his at Vilén’s creativity and passion for games in order to make the best games in the world. Signing with Chinese NetEase as an investor, gives them a means to rapidly expand their influence and reach.
And luckily for the team, they fairly quickly attracted investors, thanks to their diverse pool of talent and experience from companies such as Blizzard Entertainment, Boomlagoon, CCP, Dice, Games Workshop, EA Games, and Ubisoft, among others.
“Finding investors is not all that difficult, events like Slush here in Helsinki exist specifically for this purpose. Convincing the hard-boiled Venture Capitalist to entrust you with millions of dollars is quite another matter! Luckily, multiple investors put their chips down once they saw our pitch for the company and our game. Getting those people to join I mentioned above? That helped. Investors invest in people, first and foremost.”, says Tuomas Pirinen.
Chinese NetEase is known for being the publisher of Blizzard titles in China, including Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm and World of Warcraft. The investment is therefore quite a lot more than simply money, and mixing the NetEase team with the same people who worked on games such as Battlefield, League of Legends, Warhammer and World of Warcraft, among other titles, the possibilities become almost endless.
“We want to make games that people play and remember for a long, long time”, Tuomas Pirinen.
Everyone can start a company, but why some are successful and others not depends on various factors, many of which are only obvious in hindsight. Reforged seem to have chefs from very different kitchens, preparing one dish, but Tuomas Pirinen is confident in their newly formed crew:
“To achieve that, we have few core philosophical concepts we adhere to, and we try to do more than pay lip service to them:
Great power, great responsibility: We believe in our staff setting up their own working hours, ensuring the work/life balance is healthy, and not obsessing over sick days. If one of our staff says she is ill, then she is ill. Stay home until you recover. We are not the police. If you need time off, take vacation. Your kids school has a play tonight? Go and see it. In exchange, we want you to make the best games in the world. That’s your end of the bargain, and you are accountable for that.
Transparency: We want to be a company with as few secrets as possible: For example, everyone’s salary, benefits and share options (including those of the founders) are on a whiteboard on the Studio wall for everyone to see. This way everyone can see whether he or she is compensated fairly, and voice any concerns.”, says Tuomas Pirinen.
The newly acquired capital is already fuelling Reforged Studios, and a title the studio previously referred to as “an epic army battler” on their website, may be bigger than it first seemed. And utilizing their two locations, an office in Los Angeles and their main base in Helsinki, they get the best of both worlds.
“Many of the companies we work with are located in the West Coast area of United States, and it just made sense to us to have presence there as well, so someone can talk to our partners in person at any given time. It also means we have access to the talent pools of both the West Coast and the Nordics. We just asked ourselves: where else could we possibly be?”
So with the talent pool, experience, and possible partners in America and Scandinavia, Reforged truly gains something unique by signing with Chinese NetEase; a viable entry point into the Chinese market. With the current pace of globalization, it is but a matter of time before the Asian markets turn into profitable hunting grounds for global AAA studios. When asked about Reforged’s first upcoming title, set to be released in 2016, Tuomas Pirinen explains their goal and approach to their upcoming release like this:
“If you look at the people involved in the game, and their past achievements, we are aiming a little higher than most studios making their first game. We want to make what we know the best: a game that appeals to people like us, life-long gamers who like skill-based, epic game experiences. We want to make the Next Big Thing.”
Lastly, Tuomas Pirinen would like to address the Nordic developers with an open invitation to those who have what it takes to be a part of their growing games studio:
“We thought long and hard about which part of the world we should pick for our studio. Finland won out to a great part thanks to the incredible talent pool found here. We have many positions open, so come join us in our adventure. And what if you’ve already founded a Studio of your dreams? We’d still like to hear from you and see if we can collaborate with you. One of the best things about the Nordic development scene is the shared notion that we are all in this together, and the co-operation between studios is unprecedented. We want to work together with people -that’s why we came back to Finland from North America.”, Tuomas Pirinen concludes.