Metacore is the company where players are the closest thing to a boss. What that means and how they achieve that, you will learn from our latest interview with Mika Tammenkoski, CEO and Co-Founder of Metacore. The mobile games company recently opened up their new studio in Berlin, and we took the opportunity to talk to them about their approach to game development and the reason they expanded to Berlin.
Metacore has been a well-established company since 2020 in Helsinki. Why did you want to expand to another country and why did you choose Berlin?
Our main reason for expansion is supporting our growth and talent attraction. Metacore has grown extremely rapidly over the past years – scaling our team from 15 to 200 – and getting the right talent on board is the biggest bottleneck of our growth.
When we started looking for cities to expand to, Berlin felt like a natural choice: it’s a strong hub for games, but also has lots of talent working across tech, entertainment and the creative industry at large. An added bonus is of course the close proximity and small time difference to our Helsinki HQ. We want everyone to feel included at Metacore and our culture, and Berlin offers us a great opportunity to expand while keeping the new Metacoreans close.
Since you have been in the #gamescapitalberlin, what is your impression of the city’s games industry and network?
Berlin has a strong reputation for being a games industry hub – and even though we’ve only just dipped our toes in the ecosystem, we can already see why. Here, pushing the industry forward seems like a joint effort: besides the around 300 game companies in the city, there are a lot of gaming-related study programmes, events, funding and institutional support even on a senate level. Berlin wants to grow the amount of game companies and people working in games and it's seen as a future industry. We can’t wait to learn more from and contribute to this vibrant ecosystem!
Your focus lies on long-term game development and the wishes of the players. With 50 million players engaging in your first game Merge Mansion come 50 million wishes for the game. How do you choose which way to follow?
As any game developer will know, this is one of the key challenges of operating a live game and keeping it entertaining and engaging for our players. One of our guiding game development principles has always been that we make games for our players, not for ourselves.
This doesn’t mean blindly following all feedback or not having conviction as a game team. We’re constantly experimenting with the game, forming hypotheses about what might entertain our players, and then seeing how players respond. If players say one thing and do the other, then the data speaks. We are happy to have such an active player community and develop the Merge Mansion further in collaboration with them!
In 2023, we opened up a new area in the game and finally let players step into the Mansion – something our our fans had been asking for repeatedly.
Then there are the steady pleas for a Netflix or HBO series – we’ll see how quickly we’re able to deliver on those requests!
Keeping one game alive for decades can be difficult. What is your approach to keep your games fresh and engaging?
Merge Mansion is a three-year old game, and although it has recently surpassed a major milestone with 50M downloads, we’re still at the beginning of the game’s journey. We have huge ambitions for the game – our mission is to entertain people for decades to come – so we’ll no doubt have lots of new learnings along the way. We also want to push the envelope and see what’s even possible within a mobile game and beyond it.
Right now our guiding question when it comes to our story, narrative, gameplay, features and events is: what would surprise and entertain our players next?
You not only want to build mobile games but entertainment with strong creative storytelling in your games, marketing and beyond. What does such a campaign look like?
What we’re building with Merge Mansion is, above all, great entertainment. This means it shouldn’t matter whether you’re a devoted Merge Mansion player, or whether you enjoy the lore, watch each ad, or can’t get enough of Grandma’s sassy social media presence – they all tell the same story, reinforcing the same relationships between characters and adding to the same sense of mystery.
Our end goal is to create something that’s bigger than a mobile game and bigger than just one star-studded campaign. We want to create something that people can relate to and enjoy in many ways – just as the greatest movies and their spinoffs have done for decades.
You say that you’re “the game company where players are the closest thing to a boss” – what does this mean, and how does that work in practice with a company of over 200 professionals?
This highlights two very important things about our culture. First and foremost, our approach to making games: as mentioned, we make games for our players, which is different from the standard practice of making games that the developers want to play. This means that data and player feedback is our number one criterion when deciding when to scale, pivot or kill a new game concept. No matter how excited we at Metacore are about it.
However, it also speaks a lot about our culture, where autonomy and responsibility go hand in hand. We’re not fans of strict hierarchies (don’t get me wrong, of course we have structure), but we believe in giving people a lot of ownership over their respective areas and roles. We want to create a workplace that cultivates trust and psychological safety.
What’s next in store for Metacore? Can you tell us what 2024 looks like?
2023 was a year of strong growth for us and we have equally high expectations for 2024, too. Merge Mansion will remain a key focus area for us – the game is only three years old and we’re very much at the beginning of that journey. We’re excited to keep scaling the game and pushing the boundaries between games and entertainment.
At the same time, we’re also working on new game projects and investing in new games development and have recently appointed a leader to steer this work. As you might have seen, our new CTO Sérgio Laranjeira has just joined our team in Berlin to start building up our tech stack to support a portfolio of hit games.
All of our growth plans are of course dependent on our ability to find and onboard new talent to our growing team – so recruitment and onboarding will remain big priorities throughout the year, in both Helsinki and Berlin. We’re particularly excited to start expanding Metacore Berlin.