Magnus Alm, CEO of Free Lunch Design, has developed and created highly successful video games for all of the most popular mobile and social platforms
Among the various factors influencing business success there has to be a favourable environment and in the case of Sweden’s Free Lunch Design, there is proof of just that.
As Magnus Alm, CEO of Free Lunch Design, confirms, “The video game industry has been thriving for a long time, way before Free Lunch Design was started. In the early nineties, DICE, which produces the Battlefield game series, inspired a whole generation of game creators to start working on their own games”.
He approached the games industry as an editor-in-chief for a gaming magazine would, but his goal, as he himself says, “wasn’t so much to change it [the industry] as to be a part of it”. Alm wanted to put his personal passion as an avid gamer into creating the types of games he loved to play.
Founded in 1998, Free Lunch Design was incorporated into Muskedunder Interactive, a company that focused on developing games for external companies like Disney and Paramount, in 2007. The joint venture was short-lived and now, Free Lunch Design has regained its name and creative autonomy. The gap in its independent existence is where the slogan "There and back again" comes from.
"Creating games for other companies was fun and challenging, but in the end we did not always get the time and budget we felt we needed to make truly great games"
“We wanted,” Alm says, “to make our own impression on the world. Creating games for other companies was fun and challenging, but in the end we did not always get the time and budget we felt we needed to make truly great games. If we control how much time is invested into a game, we can make sure it will be great, or at least very good. We wanted creative control. There is a much larger business opportunity when you develop your own games, but also a greater risk exposure. But without risks there is not much to gain”.
Free Lunch Design has resumed its sprint toward success, developing competitive games that are made with experience and incorporate fun and quality. To ensure a high level of production and to avoid mistakes, the CEO finds that certain parameters must be followed.
“The game needs to be stable, understandable for its intended audience and perform as it is expected to perform but, above all, [it] needs to be fun! The meaning of fun, in a game, is different for all of us, but we still have to find the common denominators and try to make it all work together. If the game isn’t fun then it’s no use having fantastic graphics, amazing music or a great marketing campaign. You need to get the core of the gameplay just right”.
To achieve such goals in this field, the primary strength is in human resources. In this regard, the company's strategy is well-defined. Alm invests in competent people with a multi-sector qualification.
“We have a smaller team so we prefer to hire specialists that also have a broad spectrum. A good programmer that also knows a lot about game design or graphics production is a better employee to us than a programmer that only knows programming. We want people to add value across all development disciplines”.
To ensure the benefits are not one-sided, Alm has enacted a radical change regarding work ethic – at least radical for this specific sector – that is intended to ensure excellent performance in the workplace.
"We want out employees to live healthy and are a very family-oriented company. This is important for company morale in the long run."
“A lot of game developers expect their employees to work overtime and during weekends. We have a 7.5 hour work day, much flexibility around working hours, and provide organic fruit baskets, nice coffee and paid gym cards. We want out employees to live healthy and are a very family-oriented company. This is important for company morale in the long run”.
The future is already what Free Lunch Design is aiming for. Magnus Alm has adapted the gaming industry to a global society by using new platforms, including mobile, web-based, and social networks. As the spectrum expands, offering a wider and more varied audience, paradoxically, the simplicity of games is gaining over sophistication, at least according to Alm’s perspective.
“I think that as we move forward we continue to see that ‘simpler’ types of games will always stay competitive, as the gaming audience grows and plays on various devices. Who would have thought that Angry Birds would be bigger than World of Warcraft in terms of monthly active players?”
The new consumption patterns are certainly having an impact on physical distribution – where is it going and is it being downloaded, purchased or trialed? Such questions have to be addressed before jumping into the business.
“I think that everyone who wants to get into game development should look carefully and think about what the next steps will be. Keep looking ahead and do not get stuck in the old ways, or go with the older platforms and choose a niche product for a niche audience. Some people say that PC is dead as a gaming platform, or will be very soon. I couldn’t disagree more. It’s just a very changing landscape right now: yesterday Facebook was on everybody’s lips, now it is mobile, what about tomorrow?”
Alm created a start-up model that looked at the tradition as an example, a place where the level of excellence in game development could be enhanced and at innovation, all the while taking note of the revolutionary potential of various platforms. He has shaped products in synchrony and harmony with new demands, new consumers and new technology. As for the future, what does that hold?
“We really want to continue making awesome games for awesome people. Icy Tower 2 is doing fantastic in the App Store so we will most likely be doing an Android version as well. ”