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[Industry Interviews] Jaakko Maaniemi from 10tons

By Brett Hrin Jan 18, 2018

Joining The Switch Effect on today’s Industry Interview is Jaakko Maaniemi from 10tons Ltd., a Finland based indie game publisher. Founded in 2003, the company is home to many top-down shooters, sports, puzzles, RPGs and more games over a variety of consoles/platforms. With Nintendo’s newest console, 10tons has been bringing over and revamping many titles including Sparkle 2, Neon Chrome and JYDGE to name a few. Most recently, Xenoraid, Crimsonland, Spellspire, and Sparkle Unleashed were released on the eShop.

Check out our reviews of Spellspire here.

Check out our review of Sparkle 2 here.

Jaakko, Thank you for giving us this interview. Before we get into it, could you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got involved with the gaming industry?

Like many would probably guess, I’ve been a lifelong gamer. During studies I worked part time as a gaming journalist and I did that full time for about a year after graduating. I did a brief stint in tech (shout out to Meego veterans and the Senna project, you know who you are). Then I made the switch to games development, I think like seven years ago?

What was your first console/game you owned?

I was four or five, so my memories are pretty hazy. I’m pretty sure it was an Atari 2600 or some variant of it. There were cool titles on it. No, wait, I’m not sure I remember any of them. The next one I had had cool titles on it, such as Space and Combat. And some soccer game.

Personally, what new games (besides yours of course, haha) are you most looking forward to playing?

I play a variety of games, but I’ve got a pretty hefty preference for certain kinds of strategy. I’m looking forward to Tiny Metal and Wargroove. Good thing they should be right around the corner!

Growing up, what inspired you to pursue a career in the gaming industry?

I’ve been wondering myself when I got the idea. Growing up, I remember I never had the vaguest idea what I’d do as an adult. I guess I thought of game development at some point, but having zero chops for math or art, I thought that’s it, as back then programming and art were pretty much the roles available. Apparently writing is my thing, which led to games journalism after high school and I suppose the career choice came about roughly at that time. I remember I chose to study project management of interactive media as it was closest to game development I could find at the time and what I figured would suit me. It worked out, more or less. I guess the central inspiration was that as a games journalist, I really looked deeply into games and thought things would be so much better if people asked me what kind of games should be made, haha!

10tons was formed in 2003 and debuted with Crimsonland, an intense top-down twin stick arena shooter. For those that missed out on the chance to play this addictively fun game, it it released on the Nintendo Switch on November 23rd. However, could you describe the process that goes into deciding what type of game publish/develop?

Now that’s a big question! It can be a really complex process. Or it can be really simple, as in someone wanting to make a certain kind of game and then just plugging away. For us, as a multiplatform indie studio employing ten developers, we need to factor in a lot of stuff. We’re actually in the middle of this process right now, as we’re putting in the final touches to Tesla vs Lovecraft, which is the only new title in active development. Even if we’re extremely indie, as in owning the company wholly, using in-house tech, having access to all the platforms we care for, being in a good position financially, these days we need to think of market realities…a lot!

After looking into our strengths, capabilities, weaknesses, likes, dislikes, resources, ideas, and all of that, we still need to ponder really hard on how’d we sell the game, and how might it do? If that doesn’t look good compared to what we think the game would cost to make, we just need to think of something else. For the past three years or so we, like everyone else, have watched the overall sales graphs slide down, and it’s been kind of shocking to see that there’s no end to the slide. So these days, I’d say everything starts with thinking about something lean and mean. Chances for a total flop have never been higher.

Which title has been the highlight to work on?

For me personally, Xenoraid. It was the first full, proper, start-from-scratch title I got to design from ground up and head the team through production. As expected it was really difficult and it didn’t end up exactly as the title we set out to make, but in the end it turned out really quite nicely and we hit a lot of my original design goals. I see it as a good example of the first game of a former game journalist; lots of novel and fresh mechanics, lots of idealism, but didn’t quite have the iron grip of a seasoned design veteran. I’m proud of it though, and definitely learned a lot. 

Let’s “switch” gears a bit. We at The Switch Effect are obviously huge fans of Nintendo’s newest console, the Nintendo Switch. What are your thoughts on the system?

It’s the first Nintendo system we are working with and everything we see is really good. The hardware, the software, the processes, everything is really clever. And crucially clever in the really simple, standard, works-as-you’d-expect kind of way. It’s a pleasure to work with through and through, and we’re so happy to see it becoming Nintendo’s most successful new system in a long while. 

As stated earlier, many titles have already been released on the Switch to much success. Were there any new opportunities or challenges with bringing your titles over to Nintendo’s newest console?

The opportunity was obviously to be among the first publishers on the platform and unfortunately for us we somewhat missed that train. It took a while for us to get a dev kit, but once we did, we’ve been hustling to make the most of it. There were 149 games in the eShop when our first Switch release, Sparkle 2, went live at the end of September. Not a lot by any means, but from our past experience on other platforms we know that every month, even every week we might have gotten there sooner would have registered in our bottom line. It’s still been great though and we’re definitely not complaining.

Half of the race to a relatively empty storefront is about not having gamers starve for content anyway, so it’s good that was covered even without us. The one anecdote that describes well our non-existent challenges with Switch is that we got our dev kit on Monday and submitted Sparkle 2 to Nintendo’s checks on Friday. The port was done mainly by one developer. We had access to the SDK some weeks earlier though, and were able to have everything integrated by the time we got the hardware. 

Any future projects you can tease at this time?

It’s not exactly teasing, but all the games we have on PS4 and Xbox One and don’t have yet on Switch are coming, pretty much as soon as we can bring them. Early 2018 will also see our next brand new title, Tesla vs Lovecraft. Stay tuned! 

Finally, is there anything else you’d like to share?

A big thanks to all Switch gamers who have made us feel welcome on the platform! We’re very happy to finally be on a Nintendo platform after so many years, even more so with the kind of reception we’ve had.

Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with The Switch Effect and our readers. Make sure to download Crimsonland, Sparkle Unleashed and all the other 10tons titles on the Nintendo Switch eShop today! 

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