Why Malmö is the hottest gaming city in Europe

Massive Entertainment may have put Malmö on the map, but there’s more to the city’s gaming industry than its best-known player.

Why Malmö is the hottest gaming city in Europe
Photo: Werner Nystrand

In Malmö, Sweden’s third-biggest city, games are something that are taken seriously.

After all, developing a game that makes $330 million in its opening week is no child’s play. But that’s exactly how much Tom Clancy’s The Division generated for Malmö-based game studio Massive Entertainment when it was released in March 2016.

Its success was soon outshone by news that Massive would partner with Lightbox Entertainment and Fox Interactive to develop several games based on James Cameron’s Avatar world.

The deal will lead to hundreds of new jobs in Malmö and the chance for international developers to work on one of the biggest projects in the world right now.

“Massive has been like a vacuum, sucking up talent from all over the world and bringing it to the region,” says Peter Lubeck, CEO of non-profit, community-driven organisation Game City.

Tom Clancy's The Division was developed by Malmö-based studio Massive Entertainment. Photo: BagoGames/Flickr

He adds that since the gaming behemoth established in Malmö twenty years ago, it has pulled in some of the world’s hottest developers. Many have since gone on to found their own studios in the region or join other emerging companies, expanding the region’s gaming ecosystem.

Start planning your trip to Malmö

There are now around 30 gaming companies in Malmö, ranging from Midnight Hub — a small indie studio of five developers who are currently working on the upcoming mystery game “Lake Ridden” — to gaming giants Massive and Candy Crush developer King which has a studio in the city.

“The gaming industry is Malmö is very supportive and inclusive,” says Sara Casen, studio manager and producer at Midnight Hub. “Big studios rub shoulders with smaller teams and share knowledge over the borders.”

The Midnight Hub team. Photo: Midnight Hub

It’s this community spirit that led the companies to collectively set up Game City in 2013. The member organisation’s goal is to increase collaboration and turn southern Sweden into Europe’s leading game region.

“We’re now the hub for anything to do with game development in the region. We interact with public officials, politicians, and people from other industries that are somehow interested in the games industry or want to collaborate,” explains Lubeck.

It’s the first port of call for anyone looking to get in touch with any of the game development companies in Malmö, organising everything from developer meet-ups to knowledge-sharing sessions, workshops and talks.

Most recently, Game City cooperated with Minc, an incubator for startups and entrepreneurs, to start Minc Game. The extension focuses solely on helping startups turn game ideas into game businesses.

“The games industry has a very specific combination of factors that makes it hard for people outside the industry to understand or support it. So we started Minc Game to help the Minc team with the game companies.”

Start planning your trip to Malmö

In its bid to become Europe’s gaming capital, Malmö is doing much more than nurturing the existing talent. It’s also training up the gaming talent of tomorrow at its university and at the university in nearby Lund to guarantee future growth.

Likewise Malmö’s Game Assembly, an organisation that trains game artists, game programmers, level designers, and technical artists, has educated seven percent of the Swedish games industry. It was named the second-best game design and development school in the world by The Rookies, an annual awards and mentor platform.

But Malmö’s strength as a gaming capital lies in the diversity of its gaming community, which encompasses much more than developers and designers.

In November 2017, Ludwig Sandgren set up The Final Tribe, a new eSports club based in the city. 

The fast-growing electronic sports (eSports) industry sees teams compete in gaming tournaments for prize pools upwards of $24 million.

The DreamHack Masters was hosted in Malmö two years running. Photo: Adela Sznajder/Flickr

“We want to build an eSports legacy based here in Malmö,” says Sandgren. “The plan is to become one of the best eSports companies in the world.”

Along with Malmö e-sport, a non-profit organisation that organises e-sport tournaments and creates training sites for players to meet, there’s huge potential for The Final Tribe to put Malmö on the map for eSports as well as game development.

The Intel Extreme Masters World Championship in 2017 reached over 46 million unique viewers — around 15 million more people than Nielsen reported watched Donald Trump’s inauguration.

Originally from Gothenburg, Sandgren moved to Malmö to form his team and says he feels as though in Malmö he has the chance to make a difference.

“It’s such a vibrant place to be. Coming from a bigger city, it feels like we’re really adding something to the ecosystem and contributing to the growth with something new.”

Indeed, Malmö’s multifaceted gaming ecosystem is what makes the city a bona fide contender for Europe’s gaming capital.

There’s just one final but crucial factor that truly propels it ahead of its competition.

The people, says Lubeck.

“People here are very keen on helping each other. The gaming community in Malmö is the friendliest and most supportive in Europe.”

This article was produced by The Local Client Studio and sponsored by Malmö Stad.


Denmark’s ‘freetown’ Christiania hangs onto soul, 50 years on

A refuge for anarchists, hippies and artists, Denmark's 'freetown' Christiania turns 50 on Sunday, and though it hasn't completely avoided the encroachment of modernity and capitalism, its free-wheeling soul remains intact.

Denmark's 'freetown' Christiania hangs onto soul, 50 years on
Christiania, one of Copenhagen's major tourist attractions, celebrates its 50th anniversary on Sunday. JENS NOERGAARD LARSEN / SCANPIX / AFP

Nestled in the heart of Copenhagen, Christiania is seen by some as a progressive social experiment, while others simply see it as a den of drugs.

On September 26th, 1971, a band of guitar-laden hippies transformed an abandoned army barracks in central Copenhagen into their home. They raised their “freedom flag” and named their new home “Christiania, Freetown” after the part of the city where it is located.

They wanted to establish an alternative society, guided by the principles of peace and love, where decisions were made collectively and laws were not enforced.

Soft drugs were freely available, and repurposing, salvaging and sharing was favoured over buying new.

It was a community “that belonged to everybody and to no one”, said Ole Lykke, who moved into the 34-hectare (84-acre) enclave in the 1970s.

These principles remain well-rooted today, but the area has changed in many ways: tourists weave through its cobblestone roads, and the once-reviled market economy is in full swing.

Perhaps most importantly, it is no longer a squat. Residents became legal landowners when they bought some of the land from the Danish state in 2012.

Now it is home to some 900 people, many artists and activists, along with restaurants, cafes and shops, popular among the half a million tourists that visit annually.

“The site is more ‘normal’,” says a smiling Lykke, a slender 75-year-old with ruffled silver hair, who passionately promotes Christiania, its independence and thriving cultural scene.

Legislation has been enforced since 2013 — though a tongue-in-cheek sign above the exit points out that those leaving the area will be entering the European Union.

‘Embrace change’
It is Christiania’s ability to adapt with the times that has allowed it to survive, says Helen Jarvis, a University of Newcastle professor of social geography engagement.

“Christiania is unique,” says Jarvis, who lived in Christiania in 2010.

“(It) endures because it continues to evolve and embrace change”.

Some of those changes would have been unthinkable at the start.

Residents secured a bank loan for several million euros to be able to buy the land, and now Christiania is run independently through a foundation.

They also now pay wages to the around 40 people employed by Christiania, including trash collectors and daycare workers.

“Money is now very important,” admits Lykke, who is an archivist and is currently exhibiting 100 posters chronicling Christiania’s history at a Copenhagen museum.

But it hasn’t forgotten its roots.

“Socially and culturally, Christiania hasn’t changed very much,” he says, noting that the community’s needs still come first.

‘Judged a little’
Christiania has remained a cultural hub — before the pandemic almost two dozen concerts were held every week and its theatres were packed.

But it is still beset by its reputations as a drugs hub.

Though parts of Christiania are tranquil, lush and green with few buildings, others are bustling, with a post office, mini-market, healthcare centre, and Pusher Street, the notorious drug market.

Lykke says it’s a side of Christiania most could do without.

“Most of us would like to get rid of it. But as long as (marijuana use) is prohibited, as long as Denmark doesn’t want to decriminalise or legalise, we will have this problem,” says Lykke.

While still officially illegal, soft drugs like marijuana and hash are tolerated — though not in excess.

Since early 2020, Copenhagen police have seized more than one tonne of cannabis and more than a million euros.

“Sometimes I don’t tell people that I live here because you get judged a little bit. Like, ‘Oh, you must be into marijuana and you must be a smoker’,” says Anemone, a 34-year-old photographer.

For others, Christiania’s relaxed nature is part of the appeal.

“It’s different from what I know, I really want to see it,” laughs Mirka, a Czech teacher who’s come to have a look around.