Hitman puts Denmark on the computer games world map

Illustration: Hitman

COMPUTER GAMES: Two of the world’s top-selling computer games – Hitman and Kane & Lynch – have been developed by the IT company IO Interactive in Copenhagen. Connoisseurs rate them to be among the most sophisticated games.

BY NIELS BJØRN-HANSEN

“There is no doubt that IO Interactive with the Hitman game – and recently Kane & Lynch – has placed Denmark on the computer games world map. So far, seven million copies of Hitman have been sold worldwide, and more than a million copies of Kane & Lynch in just a few months,” says development director Jonas Eneroth, IO Interactive. The company might by a dwarf in an international context, but it is a strong player. Jonas Eneroth has been the development director for eight months, but was in the company when the first computer game was developed.

IO Interactive was founded in 1998 by a group of youngsters with mixed professional backgrounds – both graphics and computer science were represented. “I am not sure whether any of them except creative director Rasmus Kjær, who graduated from Dan-marks Designskole, were formally trained at the time. They were very self-assured and convinced that they did the right thing, and so it turned out too,” says Jonas Eneroth. So far, the company’s production includes five Hitman games, and from November 2007 also Kane & Lynch – Dead Men.

CREATIVE FREEDOM

Over the years the number of staff, headed by managing director Janos Fløsser, has steadily grown to around 220. The programmers, software engineers, mathematicians, graphic designers, animators and concept artists come from all over the world, and have the common characteristic of being highly creative and having extensive knowledge of developing and programming games. Hitman was developed in collaboration with Nordisk Film and the Egmont group.

In 2004, IO Interactive was sold to the British company Eidos, which develops and distributes computer games, but the development division is still located in Co-penhagen, and this Jonas Eneroth considers to be very positive.

“There is plenty of creative freedom,” continues Jonas Eneroth. “One could have feared that a new owner would interfere in the projects, but that has not been the case. We have actually gained greater creative freedom and more development opportunities, which we would not have had if we had been on our own. Eidos is sort of a security network to us. We do not need, as a single player, to stake everything on either red or black. We are independent and can afford to put our stake on the wrong thing. That creates an amazing work balance and so it is not difficult to attract new staff,” says Jonas Eneroth.

LARGE SUMS AT STAKE

The staff are divided into four or five teams, which develop the various games. As development director and executive producer, Jonas Eneroth makes sure that the teams have the necessary resources, time and opportunity for quality planning. Each team has its own producer, game director and technical producer. It is not a 9 to 5 job at IO Interactive. There are people in the headquarters round the clock, and up to the deadline for a game, it is not uncommon to have 20 hour working days.

Large sums are spent when a new game is developed. According to Jonas Eneroth, it can cost from EUR 3 million to perhaps EUR 20 million to produce a new computer game. IO Interactive’s managing director Janos Fløsser put it in this way to the newspaper Information: “Computer games are audiovisual media products and certainly not something you deal with in your spare time. Hitman 2 – which was published in 2002 – had a production budget of EUR 3.5 million and cost 30 men 16 months of blood, sweat and tears”.

GAMES FOR ADULTS

Seven million copies of the five Hitman games have been sold worldwide. “It is an international game based on logic,” says Jonas Eneroth. “When you play it, you feel as if you are part of a film. You have to do a number of tasks, which can be carried out in various ways, and it’s not necessary to kill everybody. Only the bad guys”.

USA and Europe are the major markets for computer games. In USA, IO Interactive has gained an agreement with the Wal-Mart chain. In Europe, the most important countries are the UK, Germany and France. The computer games are available not only in English, but also in German, French, Span-ish and Italian versions.

“It is not the very young ones who buy our computer games,” continues Jonas Eneroth. “The age group ranges from 22 to 38 years, and that is probably because the games cost a bit. Those who buy our games are young adults who typically buy three to five games per year. The games are an adult experience. It is not something for my three year old daughter.” The computer games are tested by students and special focus groups, who check whether the games work.

There is a new Hitman game on the way, according to Jonas Eneroth, and there are three to four other projects on the drawing board, but what they are about is a secret due to the tough competition on the market for computer games.




Denne side er kapitel 12 af 18 til publikationen "FOCUS Denmark".
Version nr. 1.0 af 28-03-2008
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