Why Are Scandinavians So Good At Creating Apps?

March 3, 2015 - Written By Chris Yackulic

What do Clash of Clans, Hill Climb Racing, Subway Surfers, Candy Crush Saga, and Angry Birds all have in common? Yes, they are all highly addictive games (all five of them making App Annie’s 2014 top 10 Most Downloaded Games list); however, more interestingly, all five of these games come from Scandinavian countries.

Why are Scandinavians so good at creating apps?

The Scandinavian Android and iOS app developers are on a level in which the rest of the world continues to fall short; we all look up at them in Asgard (the heavenly dwelling of the Norse gods), wondering what their secret is…

Angry Birds 1

Rovio, Angry Birds creators, offices

Until now.

We finally know how these nations, formerly known for their aggressive control as Vikings over Europe, have moved on to fiercely dominating a more relevant world, the world of handheld gaming.

When you look at charts and graphs that represent each of these individual nations, one notices that the populations are rather small and that they don’t even rank in the top twenty of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). At first glance, there is nothing to explain their seemingly-exponential success with gaming apps; however, with some digging, we found that Scandinavian countries make better apps, not by luck, but through investing, learning from its previous successes, and large-scale marketing.

Hill Climb Racing

Hill Climb Racing  Another addictive Scandinavians app

Research and Development, and Education

Scandinavian countries spend a high percentage of their GDP on research and development (R&D). When ranking all of the nations in the world that spend the largest percentage of their GDP on research and development, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark rank 4th, 5th, and 8th, respectively.

With Scandinavians taking steps to investment so greatly in R&D, it should also come to no surprise that these countries also rank very highly when it comes to spending on education. Norway, Denmark, and Sweden, all rank in the The 10 Nations That Spend The Most On Their Students.

With so much of Scandinavia’s budget spent on technology and education, it is no wonder that these nation’s employees are technically savvy and so intelligent.

Nokia Snake

Nokia’s Snake

Possibly the strongest explanation as to the success can be found in the history of Nokia. Anyone who owned a phone in early 2000s played Nokia’s Snake. Although not the original creator of Snake, Nokia offering up Snake as a pre-loaded game on their mobile phones, in 1998, brought forth a resurgence of interest in the late 1970s game. In doing so they inadvertently created an interest in handheld phone gaming.

While the game was successful enough to guarantee seven more Snake game releases, Nokia was originally unaware of the impact it would have on mobile gaming. Quickly seeing the future of gaming, Nokia acquired Sega.com, a branch of Sega, in September 2003, and developed the

Nokia N-Gage device. While the concept of Nokia’s N-Gage was innovative, the device was ultimately a flop—even the CEO of Nokia regarded the N-Gage as a failure, being outsold by its competitor, Gameboy, 100-1.

Tero Kuittinen, proclaimed a Finnish app expert by BGR, believed that as Nokia saw the success of Snake, it began to heavily invest in handheld gaming. Therefore, once Nokia’s handset business started to decline, their large talent base ventured out to create new brands and games, many of those games which you can probably find on your own phone.

From: A Small Community, To: An International Markets

Another explanation is that Scandinavian economies feature small domestic markets. With such a limited market within Scandinavia, it did not make economic sense to only cater to such a small percentage of the mobile gaming market. Because of this, game companies such as Rovio, Supercell, and King intentionally created games that have universal appeal.

“Whether you are using birds to destroy structures or playing poker with newfound friends from all corners of the world, catering to an international market is the only way to guarantee success in the arena of app development,” said John Tardy, an app developer for LuckyAdmiral.com, in a 2014 App Expo interview.

Supercell, Clash of Clans creator, touts on their website that “the best people make the best games.”

They, like all the previously mentioned successful app makers, practiced the same philosophy: use local talent and create games for the masses.

Whether you firmly believe in the aforementioned facts and opinions of experts, or you simply believe that they make great apps because they bang out programming bugs with Thor’s hammer, there is no arguing that the Scandinavians have found an arena in which they can dominate.