With more than 1 billion DKK invested, Nordisk Games is betting big on the European games industry. And with their long-term approach, they might as well try to make a positive impact along the way.

This article is sponsored by Nordisk Games – one of the partners who made “Games as a Business 2021” possible.

Nordisk Games has only existed for five years. But when the century-old entertainment company Nordisk Film decided to bet on the games industry back in 2016, they did so in a big way. Today they have invested well over 1 billion DKK in 9 games studios – and their ambitions don’t end there.

Markus Windelen, partner and director of operations in Nordisk Games.

“We are not investors trying to make a quick profit. We are not investing in order to sell as fast as possible with a factor x. Nor are we aiming to buy whole companies outright – we are aiming to buy between 20 and 40 per cent and help studios grow from there. If later on in our relationship the situation for the owners and Nordisk is right, we are happy to increase our ownership. But the key difference we bring is a focus on investing for the long term,” explains Markus Windelen, partner and director of operations in Nordisk Games.

Windelen recently joined Nordisk Games after spending 25 years in the industry across several game developers and publishers. His affection for games and the industry combined with Nordisk’s unique approach is the reason he decided to join the team.

“As an investment vehicle, we’re a very different animal, so to speak. Much of this stems from the fact that our ultimate mother company is Egmont, which is a foundation. A significant portion of Egmont’s earnings gets donated to children charities in Denmark and Norway, with the plan to hopefully extend this to Sweden soon. The rest of our profits are reinvested into the Egmont group rather than producing value for some shareholders,” Windelen says. He adds:

“We are commercially driven, because our commercial success is the basis for our charity work, and this also forms the basis for the growth of our own business. This is a completely different approach to other games investors.”

Success through active support

Nordisk Games have invested in well-established studios across Europe like Avalanche Studios Group, Star Stable Entertainment, MercurySteam and Supermassive Games. They want to take an active role in helping these studios to grow as a business and help improve their chances of creating successful games and games IP.

“There is no such thing as a secret sauce where you jump from one success to the next. But you can add research, know-how, best practices, and authenticity to minimize the number of pitfalls,” Markus Windelen says.

Support comes in the shape of individual collaboration plans and active work in the studios’ board. Leadership programs, data services and an ‘Executive Club’ alongside business development with platform holders and publishers are among the support services that Nordisk Games offer. Their latest initiative is the creation of a Games User Research Lab in Copenhagen, where partner companies can test new and existing game content.

“Expansive Worlds just launched a new DLC (Downloadable Content) for their very successful game ‘theHunter: Call of the Wild’, where the player can purchase a hunting dog. Before launch, it was heavily tested in our internal lab through multiple iterations, where users provided feedback to the developers. Expansive Worlds could fine-tune the DLC before it was launched. And it became one of their best DLC ever in terms of user reviews. I’m not saying that this is only because of the research lab, but I’m sure that putting the DLC through its paces in the research lab helped them make valuable product decisions based on data,” said Windelen.

Nordisk Games is currently looking into similar shared labs to increase the studios’ ability to make decisions based on data, analytics and market research.

“Game development is still 100 per cent driven by the developer, but we aim to offer infrastructure and additional insights they might not have considered,” says Windelen.

Screenshot from ‘theHunter: Call of the Wild’.

Changing the industry

Investing with a long-term view allows Nordisk Games to have ambitions on the studios’ behalf as well as the industry as a whole. For that reason, Nordisk Games is also the initiator of broader industry schemes, like ‘PlayCreateGreen’, a climate handbook for game companies, by game companies.

“As fun and entertaining as games can be, all digital entertainment comes with a hefty climate footprint. By sharing best practices we can learn to reduce that, and we want to take responsibility for making that happen,” says Windelen.

Similarly, Nordisk Games is also trying to steer the male-dominated industry towards greater diversity. There is a long way to go yet, and Nordisk Games is not an exception from the current imbalance. But they want to be involved and active in this field, as they believe it’s the right direction for the industry to go in, as well as a sensible business decision.

“The world is diverse and the game industry is producing entertainment for a diverse audience. In order to be good at that, we need to ensure that the creators who are coming up with ideas come from a diverse background as well. It’s a selfish mission with a good purpose; You should be clever enough to embrace it in order to do good business,” says Windelen.


Predicting the Next Smash Hit

It is incredibly hard – borderline impossible actually – to predict the next smash hit in the games industry. Yet with that in mind, Nordisk Games have 3 pieces of advice for anyone thinking of investing in games:

  • Look at the studio – not “just” the game: When investing, Nordisk Games is not solely looking at the games or existing IP the studio has already launched. They look at the studio, the team behind it and their culture. The games are an output of the inner workings, vision and ambition of the studio.
  • Success is built by people: In contrast to other tech startups, it can be very hard to rely on financial KPIs and previous traction in the games industry. For that reason, Nordisk Games looks instead at the key people in the studio. Who are the founders and the executive team? What are their ambitions? What did they do in the past – not in terms of degrees, but what funky development-mistakes did they make and what lessons did they learn from them?
    If they did make some mistakes and survived, it’s a great indicator they won’t make them again. If that is combined with a good understanding of creative processes, production methodology, the ecosystem of game making, publishing and market, then the right ingredients are all there.
  • The 80-20 Rule: Even for seasoned games investors, it’s impossible to strike gold with every game. The success rate in game development is small. Actually, most games don’t sell that well. For every one outlier success you see, 99 product releases fail. In general, the 80-20 rule applies – 20% of the new product releases are successful and need to carry the 80% that aren’t.
    Successful outliers are born by thinking completely out-of-the-box. That has to come from thoroughly passionate and creatively inspired developers, combined with similarly crazy financial investors, who trust the creative vision of the development team and actively support it. Only then will you get a chance at an outlier effect.

 

This article is part of the theme “Games as a Business 2021”. You find the next part of the series right here:

Private Danish Investment Funds Eye Potential Investments in the Gaming Industry