Three reasons why the Dutch games industry doesn’t suck.

Next week I’m speaking at the Festival of Games in Amsterdam. It’s a curious thing, really, considering how tiny Holland is, and yet how active its games industry is. There are only a handful of internationally known game companies, such as Guerrilla Games (Killzone!) and Spilgames. But there’s a substantial number of small and medium-sized companies out there. So I figured I’d go and check it out.


Over the years, I’ve encountered many of them at game conferences all over the world. Say what you will about the Dutch, but they get around. What I’d like to know, of course, is whether there’s a chance for the Dutch game scene to rival its Scandinavian neighbors. Up north, the success is apparently never-ending, much like their winter.

But while there are ample game companies that seem to do well in in the mud-rich Holland, one of my colleagues from the world of academia recently claimed, “It’s all a bit amateurish.” And so as a fierce defender of my motherland, I’m determined to proof him wrong, of course. Of the top of my head, here are three Dutch companies to watch:

Distimo. An app store technology platform that works with most, if not all, of the
major game publishers. (They work with a lot of different companies in different industries, but who cares about those?) They’re really nice guys, and managed to build their company with no outside funding (unlike their competitors). Their mobile store data is highly accurate (I tested it myself), but also expensive. Definitely worth a try if you have an app on any mobile or tablet platform. I know they’ve recently brokered a few deals with several other major companies active in the games industry, and they’re making great headway into North America.

Vlambeer. These guys make really well-designed games like Ridiculous Fishing (iOS) and LuftRausers (PC, MAC, Linux, and PSN). And they’re pretty outspoken, which always makes for good headlines. Unfortunately, their game got totally copied before it even launched. But, hey, if it’s good, it’s good. I’m glad they finally did get their version out and are making some nice revenue. Here’s an interview from PAX East 2013 with Rami Ismail, if you’re not convinced.

Cook & Becker. This company specializes in artwork from, among others, designers from the games industry. And so in their inventory you find large, high resolution prints from well-known games like Mass Effect and Mirror’s Edge. I mean, let’s be real, a lot of these games we play nowadays look good enough to hang on the wall. The insight to make these prints available could only come from a country with a rich history in appreciating pretty pictures like the Netherlands.

So there you have it: three reasons why the Dutch games industry doesn’t suck. What’s great about running a successful business in a small country is that it sets you apart from the rest of the world, or as Dutchies like to say: “Waar een klein land groot in kan zijn.” (“How a small country can be great.”)

If you’re attending the Festival of Games, come see my talk on Wednesday at 11:15 am. Looks like I’ll be talking about “Business Principles and Market Trends for Multi-Platform Games.” Better make those slides.


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About Waffler

Joost is fascinated by games and human behavior. His research explores video games as an entryway to contemporary media culture. After completing a Master's degree in Media studies in Amsterdam, he continued his research in New York. There he was project manager on a landmark investigation of three decades of ownership trends in the American media landscape, the results of which were part of a congressional testimony, a series of articles and a book. In 2010 he received his doctorate from Columbia University for his dissertation titled "Social Gaming and Communicative Exchange." Joost currently teaches at the NYU Game Center.

In addition to his academic pursuits, Joost is also founder and CEO of an online games research firm called SuperData. In early 2010 the company secured multi-year seed funding, and today employs five people. Clients include publishers such as Electronic Arts, SEGA, and Pokémon as well as all the major Wall street firms.

Joost lives in the East Village with his wife Janelle and son Maximus.

Selected Presentations
  • Video Game Data & Trends, Ottawa International Game Conference, Canada, 2013.
  • Business Principles and Market Trends for Multi-Platform Games, Festival of Games, Amsterdam 2013.
  • 2013 Game Changers: How Will Devices Impact Your Future Growth? (keynote), Game Developer Conference, 2013.
  • Free-to-Play State of the Industry, Game Connection Paris, 2012.
  • Online Games Research: Getting Publishers to Play Nice, New Media, New Demand Measurement Methodologies, 2012 Columbia University.
  • The Great Unboxing: Major Trends in the Transition to Digital and Free-to-Play Gaming, DCM East, 2012.
  • The Rise of Free-to-Play, moderator and co-organizer, Re:Play - The Theory, Practice, and Business of Video Games, 2012, NYU.
  • Trading Card Games: Delivering the Digital Promise, PAX East, 2012.
  • From Asteroids to Zynga: Three Decades of Game Design and Revenue Models, GDC Online, 2011.
  • Video Game Industry, 2010 Fordham University, 2010.
  • Social Media and TV, LATVfest, 2010 Los Angeles.
  • Top 5 Trends in Gaming, NY Games Conference, New York, 2009.
  • Kids, Tweens & Teens, State of Play IV, New York Law School, New York, 2009.
  • Game Theory, Play Money, Columbia Business School, New York, 2008. (event organizer)
  • Media Economics: The Question of Ownership, Hunter College, New York, 2008.
  • On Game Mod Communities, 106th Annual Meeting of American Anthropological Association, Washington, DC, 2007.
  • Game Mods & Post-Industrial Play, CITI Visiting Scholar’s Brown Bag Lunch Seminar Series, Columbia Business School, New York, October 2007.
  • The Video Game Vocabulary and the Production of Meaning, MiT5: Creativity, Ownership and Collaboration in the Digital Age, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, April 2007. (abstract)
  • Cities, Games and Media: Playing with and in the Urban Setting, Time|Space Dynamics in Urban Settings, Technishen Universität, Berlin, May 2007.
  • The Aesthetic Vocabulary of Video Games, Seventh Annual Convention of the Media Ecology Association, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, November 2006.
  • Haussmann’s Media Environment (revised), Sixth Annual Convention of the Media Ecology Association, Fordham University, New York, May 2005.
  • Media Technology & Society: Video Game Theory, Dissertation outline, Columbia University, New York, April 2005.
  • Good Day New York, Fox Television, aired August 20th, debate with Attorney Sanford Rubenstein on videogame violence, August 2004.
Contact: joost at waffler dot org

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