Supercell CEO Ilkka Paananen has had some spectacular successes in mobile games since starting the Helsinki company in 2010. His team of 240 people has created games such as Hay Day, Clash of Clans, Boom Beach, Clash Royale, and Brawl Stars, the most recent collection to its stable.
A year ago, the company said it had 100 million people play its games in a day. And in 2017, the company generated $810 million in profit on revenues of $2 billion. Creating that kind of value explains why the Chinese social networking and gaming giant Tencent led a consortium in 2016 to acquire the bulk of Supercell at a $10.2 billion valuation.
But Paananen doesn’t view himself as a powerful CEO. He says his job is to make sure that his employees — all veteran game developers, working in small “cells” — have the freedom to make their own decisions, especially about killing games that shouldn’t go forward. Supercell has cut more than a dozen projects in its history, mostly after employees decide that the game wasn’t living up to expectations or resonating during play testing in small markets.
I interviewed Paananen at the recent Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, where he talked about the cell-like management style where employees make the decisions.
Here’s an edited transcript of our interview.
GamesBeat: Was there a twist this time? I’ve heard you talk about this before, so did you do anything different?
Ilkka Paananen: I probably gave a few more detailed examples about what the…