October 5, 2015

Ex-Rovio employees launch Superplus Games

When creating their first game Superplus Games founders Kalle Mäkinen, Joonas Mäkilä and Petteri Linnakangas got so into the 80’s retro feeling they decided to brand to whole company in the same style.
When creating their first game Superplus Games founders Kalle Mäkinen, Joonas Mäkilä and Petteri Linnakangas got so into the '80s retro feeling they decided to brand to whole company in the same style.
Superplus Games

A unique combination of neon colours, mini golf and ’80s arcade pinball games. This is how new Finnish gaming startup Superplus Games plans to break into global markets.

It would be an understatement to describe the gaming market as merely competitive. It takes nerves of steel to enter the field as a startup, but Helsinki-based mobile gaming studio Superplus Games knows what it is getting into. While the company was only officially established in March, its three founders have almost 30 years of combined experience in the industry and have been involved in over 70 titles, including such Finnish success stories as Angry Birds and the Flatout series.

Now Kalle Mäkinen, Joonas Mäkilä and Petteri Linnakangas have set out to do something different:

“We aim to make slightly smaller scale games that are aesthetically beautiful and have brave stylisations,” says Mäkinen, CEO of Superplus Games. “Often games today are quite sterilised in a way that instead of taking risks, generic solutions are used to appeal to as large an audience as possible. We want to do things differently and go to niche markets and use stylisations to target different user groups.”

While Mäkinen, Mäkilä and Linnakangas have all worked at Angry Birds creator Rovio, what really brought the trio together was living beside each other. Many evenings spent together made them realise they shared similar views on aesthetics, what makes a great game and the dream of starting their own gaming company. Soon a few jokingly made remarks evolved into a real-world startup.

“We have a good team dynamic so the idea of working together felt easy,” Mäkinen says. “And it has been great. Now our first game starts to be ready and practically we did it in six months. It would take most new gaming companies more than a year to create a game like this.”

Dreamy start

Retro Shot is an upcoming mobile game where mini-golf style control mechanisms are combined with an visual environment similar to 80’s pinball games.

Retro Shot is an upcoming mobile game where mini-golf style control mechanisms are combined with an visual environment similar to ’80s pinball games.

Superplus Games

The game in question is Retro Shot, which is due to be released later this year for iOS and Android. Mäkinen describes it as a unique combination of mini golf and 80’s pinball games – and unsurprisingly its inspiration came from the subconscious:

“It’s a funny story, but the truth is I played the game in my dreams sometime in January or February,” Mäkinen says with a laugh.”It felt like the perfect, fun to play mobile game. When I woke up I remembered the game completely and immediately drew it on paper. I also made a list of all its features.”

After input from all team members, this dream has turned into a game that no doubt will appeal to all retro lovers. Inspired by 80’s arcade games and synthwave music, Retro Shot is set in an urban world complete with lasers, mist, exhaust fumes, explosions and neon lights.

“Players gather riches by guiding a metallic marble in mini-golf style through different levels. The game levels resemble ’80s pinball games,” explains Mäkinen. “This [combination] hasn’t been done before and we have received very positive feedback from testers.”

The game also has a very special soundtrack to complement its retro aesthetic. The synthwave style tracks have been composed for Retro Shot specifically by Finnish game musician Tommi Salomaa and Superplus is planning to release them on Spotify for everyone to enjoy.

Staying small

Currently Superplus is in talks with a major international game distributor regarding Retro Shot’s international testing and release. But while the company has set it sights on global markets and doesn’t rule out expanding beyond mobile platforms, initially it plans to keep its production small:

Many foreign [gaming industry] people praise the level of openness and honesty here. There is no back stabbing and you don’t have to be afraid of somebody stealing your idea.

“Our strategy is to develop slightly smaller games than many other companies. About two games per year is our long term goal,” explains Mäkinen. “If people like our [first] game, we’ll naturally start to grow but slowly. We’ll think very carefully who we want to hire and why.”

This is made easier by the openness of the Finnish gaming industry. Mäkinen recalls how ten years ago monthly industry meetings were attended by barely a dozen people and now the same meetings gather hundreds of gaming professionals who are happy to share their ideas and experiences.

“It is wonderful how many new people you see and how people believe in themselves and their games,” Mäkinen enthuses. “Many foreign [gaming industry] people praise the level of openness and honesty here. There is no back stabbing and you don’t have to be afraid of somebody stealing your idea.”

We would hope a second psychedelic pinball mini golf game with ’80s synth music would quickly be noticed.

Text: Eeva Haaramo

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