Gaming hub Sweden

Sweden is ranked as one of the top computer game exporters, with growth in the Swedish gaming industry reaching 215 per cent between 2010 and 2012. Innovation and education contribute to the success.

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Dreamhack is the world’s largest computer festival, with more than 20,000 participants.
Photo: Rodrigo Rivas Ruiz/imagebank.sweden.se

Bestsellers Minecraft and Battlefield

Game developer Mojang’s Minecraft and Dice’s Battlefield series account for over 80 million sold copies around the globe. The executives at Nintendo, with over 4 billion games sold to date, are probably not losing sleep yet, but it’s safe to say that Sweden has some of the most respected and influential game developers in the world at the moment.

Sweden has firmly established itself as one of the world’s epicentres for developing and producing innovative, original, mass-market computer games, drawing in a deep pool of foreign talent and contributing significantly to the Swedish economy. Turnover in the Swedish gaming industry was SEK 3,700 million in 2012 alone, according to the Game Developer Index 2012.

Per Strömbäck, spokesperson for partnership organisation Swedish Games Industry, puts the Swedish gaming success into perspective: ‘Battlefield is the biggest Swedish cultural export since ABBA.’

‘You could perhaps argue that August Strindberg and Ingmar Bergman have had a bigger impact but, in economic terms, gaming is bigger. Industry growth as a whole has been spectacular.’

Trailer for Battlefield 4. Recommended minimum age: 17.

Trailer for Battlefield 4. Recommended minimum age: 17.

High-tech edge

So why has Sweden become such a gaming hub? Technology and interest in technology are contributing factors. Swedes were early adopters of home computers – partly due to political initiatives – and internet access has long been high on the government’s agenda. In October 2013, 99 per cent of all households and companies in Sweden had access to broadband via 4G, according to a broadband survey by the Swedish Post and Telecom Authority (PTS). No wonder Swedish children are such avid internet users (see the infographic in the Minecraft magic story).

Sweden’s success also has to do with its focus on education and innovation. The art of gaming was introduced early as a university subject in Sweden, with the first programme starting at Gotland University in 2001. This makes gaming studies, research facilities and institutes both accessible and acceptable. One of the recruiting grounds for Swedish gaming companies is the computer game development programmes offered at Swedish universities. At the University of Skövde alone, around 500 students are waiting to put their skills to use.

The fact that Swedish games companies are grounded in solid technical expertise gives them a competitive edge, according to Staffan Björk, senior gameplay researcher at the Interactive Institute Swedish ICT in Gothenburg and associate professor at the University of Gothenburg.

‘There is a correlation between Sweden’s success in game development and its research community’, he says. ‘Scandinavia as a whole is a huge centre of gaming research, so we have a very high density of game developers compared with other countries.’

Game on, PewDiePie

Another face of Swedish gaming success can be found on YouTube. Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg, better known as PewDiePie, is a Swedish video game commentator on YouTube. Specialising in the horror and action video game genres, his YouTube channel became the most subscribed channel in August 2013. And in March 2014, the number of subscribers had passed 24 million.

Game on, PewDiePie

Another face of Swedish gaming success can be found on YouTube. Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg, better known as PewDiePie, is a Swedish video game commentator on YouTube. Specialising in the horror and action video game genres, his YouTube channel became the most subscribed channel in August 2013. And in March 2014, the number of subscribers had passed 24 million.

Gaming, the next step

Researcher Björk points out, that if Sweden is to continue being a major player in the world of gaming, it’s vital to look at the industry with a long-term perspective. The Interactive Institute Swedish ICT looks into trends five to ten years in the future.

‘Today, we are looking towards player-generated content and free-form play – combining gaming with a playful attitude that can be combined with other activities’, Björk says. ‘Over the next decade, we will see gamification – a whole new field of using mechanics in games to encourage people to take part in certain activities or maybe nudge them into behaving in a certain way.’

It remains to be seen whether Sweden has enough creative and technological edge to stay in the lead of the gaming field. Gaming talent from around the world is wanted.

This text is based on contributions by Hugo McEwen and James Savage.

Last updated: 12 August 2014

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