From the viewpoint of game development, Kajaani is an interesting place. In the 1990s and 2000s regional development funds were directed to RAMK college and their game programming course in Rovaniemi or starting of 3D studies in Outokumpu college. Regional development turned out to be a difficult task. It was difficult to find enough applicants in order to keep up quality education and generate good results. Kajaani - tiny town with a population of ca. 37.000, located 560 kilometers north from Helsinki - managed to pull it off. Starcrossed (Kind of a Big Deal) Dare to Be Digital finalist
What went right?
Nothing happens overnight. Kajaani University of Applied Sciences (Kajak) is the key factor of the success. Kajak started offering education in game programming in 2006. In 2009 the focus shifted from sole game programming to game development introducing four different specializations: game programming, graphics, design and production. In 2012 design and production specializations were combined, game audio design and game technology (in engineering) were introduced. Kajak teams have actively taken part in different game development competitions. In 2012 the first ever team from Finland took part in Dare to Be Digital game development competition and they were one of the three winning teams (15 teams participated). As one of the three winners they are nominated for BAFTA 'Ones To Watch' category. The BAFTA gala will be held during March 2013.
In 2010 Kajak Games co-op was founded by students to function as a publisher and supporter for student developed games. 2nd and 3th year students offer Code and Art Clubs as extra curricular activities for first year students after school. Kajak Games has worked closely with various student teams, held game dev student events and has offered subcontracting jobs for it's members (customers include Futurecode, Wooga, Kainuun Sanomat and YLE). During the first or second year of studies, students are offered the chance to join Kajak Games as a member to acquire full support and services. In 2013 an EU funded project called Kainuu Gaming Cluster began in order to create a major game development cluster in Kainuu region. The project's main goals are to bring already existing companies in Finland into the Kainuu region, give birth to new companies, support existing ones and support our push game development teams towards start ups.
The building blocks at the moment are the KUAS school, Kajak Games co-op, Kainuu Gaming Cluster project, Innova project and Kainuun Etu Oy (municipality-owned regional development company).
Kajaani based game development studios
What drives or supports regional growth
At the moment Kainuu Gaming Cluster offers resources and guidance in starting up a games company and finding funding. Kainuu Gaming Cluster also steers existing companies towards growth and success for example by offering mentoring by industry professionals around the world. Kajaani University of Applied Sciences brings enthusiastic and energetic people who are interested in game development together, and offers them education, hardware and software. These people form the working force of the future to support regional and national growth.
Local community driven by student activities
Currently students are the major driving force. Local companies exist and their numbers are growing steadily.
Kajaani tips & tricks - how other regions could succeed the same way?
1. Take it in our direction; use all means possible to create supporting infrastructure around education and entrepreneurship that keeps the talent in the area. So that there is something concrete (funding, work environments, hardware etc.) to help them to start up companies and support already existing companies. Regional development projects are one possibility.
2. Networking with the Finnish game development industry is a key for getting the area noticed and putting it into the map.
We will have substantial growth in the number of SMEs in the area; a critical mass of ~40 companies. Kainuu will be known globally for its game development cluster and education. Big players (EA, Activision-Blizzard, Ubisoft) are highly interested in the area and already have some activity in the area. A new business entity concentrating to games publishing is to be launched this spring. CSC with Finnish government. IBM built data center in Kajaani last year; there will be close cooperation in making cloud gaming concepts.
Interviewees: Janne Mustonen, Julius Fondem & Kimmo Nikkanen Kainuu Gaming Cluster Kajak Games