Meet the new Danish video game stars

By Thomas Vigild

Denmark’s latest crop of digital games runs the range from dances of death and Broadway-loving gents to digital spin the bottle, space soldiers and brutal gladiator battles. It all adds up to a boom of creativity and diversity in the Danish video game industry.

Diversity, experimentation and fierce determination – three key qualities currently distinguishing the Danish video game industry.

The Danish video game industry may number less than 1,000 more or less regularly employed people, but their total output is staggering, with new Danish games out every month. Typically, games for the big stationary consoles like Nintendo Wii U, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 are too expensive and time-consuming for Danish developers to produce. Instead, most are focusing on games played directly in the browser, on smartphones/tablets or PCs.

Exploring Classic Genre
The games supported under the Danish Film Institute’s Games Scheme run the spectrum from death and gladiators to dance-happy gents and go-getter geezers.

First out this spring is Forced, an action-packed role-playing game that has players working together to beat the game. Game maker Beta Dwarf first received a grant from the Games Scheme and later raised 65,000 dollars via the American crowdfunding portal Kickstarter to complete development of the game.

A similar hit with fans, Expeditions: Conquistador is a Danish strategy game counterfactually reconfiguring 16th-century Spanish expeditions in Central America and putting the player in the boots of a Spanish conquistador. In late 2012, fans raised 77,000 dollars for the Danish developer, Logic Artists, and the game is set for release this spring.

Meanwhile, classic game genres like strategy and role-playing action aren’t the only ones firing up Danish game makers.

A Focus on Music and Play
The industry is also deep into music and creativity. Witness the upcoming Let’s Dance, The Gentleman, Chronology and Kogama, a construction game.

All three games received grants from the Games Scheme in 2012, proving the diversity of the Danish game scene. Let’s Dance takes a comical but artistic approach to the dance of death and the meaning of death through the ages, while The Gentleman is a music game of unbridled joy, Broadway dancing and timeless cool. By rhythmically tapping the tablet screen, the player catapults a mechanic into a ritzy lifestyle where everything is Gene Kelly-cool and swingy.

Chronology, surprisingly, has an old man for a protagonist, but one with the unique ability to travel through time. Kogama creates a gigantic online universe of virtual building blocks for players to construct their own games, digital playgrounds and artistic expressions. In Kogama, you have to play to create.

Physical Contact for Experimenters
Basic play, in particular physical contact between players, is a general trait of several of the more experimental Danish game studios. Game developers like Die Gute Fabrik and Knapnok Games focus on creating digital game experiences that include a different kind of physical contact between players.

Knapnok Games’ latest offering Spin the Bottle, coming out this spring for the Nintendo Wii U console, puts a digital twist on the classic children’s game. Players form a circle around the tablet controller for the Wii U console and play begins. Offering a number of motor-skill and social challenges for every player, the game is all about fostering a more unrestrained and festive mood among the players.

Spin the Bottle last year won a grant from the Nordic Computer Game programme funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers. Knapnok has also won a Danish grant for another physical game called Slowmo Showdown, which pits two players against each other in slow motion in front of the flatscreen.

Other Games in the Field
Other Danish games in the pipeline, which have not received a state subsidy but are supported by big Danish game investors like CAT, include Space Hulk, Mutant Badlands and Soccorama.

While the latter aims to become the world’s first multiplayer football game for Facebook, the first two want to feed our appetite for science fiction by dishing out futuristic mutants and space soldiers. Space Hulk is a mythically popular board game from the English game juggernaut Games Workshop that features space soldiers fighting aliens in dark corridors, while Mutant Badlands is a browser-based fantasy game of survival in a world of mutations and all-around dystopia.



Subway Surfers (Sybo Games / Kiloo)
Race across the tracks and collect coins while avoiding oncoming trains and other hard-hitting obstacles. Totalling more than 100 million downloads to date, this app-based action game is undoubtedly the most widespread and most played Danish game ever, far outperforming Hitman.



MovieStarPlanet (MovieStarPlanet)
Create your own movie star and tag him or her online, while chatting with other players, shopping for clothes and shooting new films. This Danish-developed online game has taken the world by storm, nowhere more so than in the United States. MovieStarPlanet was played in 11 countries in 2012 and has over 50 million users worldwide.



Hitman: Absolution (IO Interactive / Square Enix)
In November 2012, after years of waiting, the Danish assassin finally broke his silence in a slick, fast-paced action game that enabled players to carry out hits on other players online for the first time. The reception was generally positive. The game had sold more than 3 million copies worldwide by February 2013, according to VGChartz.

The DFI Games Scheme

The Danish Film Institute’s subsidy scheme for games development, founded in 2007, supports Danish talent in developing video games for children and young people. The scheme awards approx. 2.7 million euros over the current four-year agreement period 2011-2014 to promising game projects that can strengthen the Danish games industry.

10 games (4 concept developments and 6 project developments) received support in the last application round.

The Danish Game Industry (2011)

Number of companies: 125
Number of full-time employees: 615
Revenue: 58m euros
Hereof export: 32m euros
Source: Computer Game Zone

Links to Danish Games

Forced (Beta Dwarf)

Expeditions: Conquistador (Logic Artists)

Let’s Dance: A Casual Game About Death (Kong Orange)

The Gentleman (Space Time Foam)

Chronology (Progressive Media)

Kogama (Multiverse)

Spin the Bottle / Slowmo Showdown (Knapnok Games)

Space Hulk (Full Control Studios)

Mutant Badlands (Pixel Pandemic)

Soccorama (Big Byte Games)

Heroes & Generals (Reto-Moto)

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