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Meet the Studio Head of Starbreeze, Fredrik Malmqvist

1. What initially attracted you to the industry, and how did you break into the games industry?

I originally joined the gaming industry in search of a consumer product I was genuinely interested in. Having worked in software development for a while, I wanted to be part of building a product I would get to use and enjoy myself. Ending up working in games,
specifically, was by pure chance. In my search, I was pitched to DICE by a recruiter. Having grown up in the NES and Sega days of the late 80s/early 90s it turned out to be a perfect match.

2. You’ve successfully navigated your career from support technical to Head Of Studio. In this notoriously turbulent industry, what qualities do you feel helped you navigate this path?

I have for the longest time genuinely enjoyed my job. I got into computer engineering because I had always tinkered with programming in my spare time. I fell in love with games after getting the Sega Master System in the late 80s. In addition, I’ve always had a healthy distance between the job I have and the person I am, which I believe helps a lot to put things in perspective.

3. For those beginning their career, can you explain what “Head of Studio” does, what impact they have on the finished titles, studio etc.?

Well, my job is basically to make life as easy as possible for all the talented game developers we have. I help set the framework through which we build our games, I take a leading role in establishing the right culture in the studio and I do my very best to make sure we have the people, funding and processes to produce world class entertainment. My goal is always to make sure we are ready for today as well as for whatever comes five years into the future.

4. As we move through the COVID pandemic, what do you think are the lasting impacts on the games industry, good and bad?

I think it’s a little to early to say that we know what the lasting impacts are of such a generational event. And I don’t want to undersell all the challenges people have gone through over the last almost two years. But in the context of the world that is the games industry, it seems like more people than ever have been exposed to what I believe to be a great way to entertain yourself. Hopefully this leads to an ever-bigger generation of gamers as well as game developers. On the negative side, it seems like it has been harder for smaller developers to find the platform to be able to make their ideas a reality, which may very well have robbed the world of some really interesting games.

5. As a Studio Head, how can you adapt to post COVID industry landscape to provide positive results for your organization?

The biggest change in the landscape post COVID is most certainly going to be the way we think about the office as a natural place to be. Even if it was rocky at the start, it seems obvious to me now that we can still be as productive as an organization without being in the same physical space all the time. However, I do think it will take a little bit of time before we understand exactly how to implement a more flexible work situation going forward. I feel that it is important to differentiate between trying keep work going during a pandemic and setting up a sustainable work environment for the future.

6. You are very passionate about supporting and developing the Nordic professional games industry. How does the Nordic landscape differ from the other regions, what support does it need how has the Nordic market grown in recent years?

It naturally depends on who you compare the region to, and every Nordic country has its own rich history. With that said, the Nordic population is about a third as big as the German or just under half of the population of the UK. So, the fact that we have so many successful gaming companies is something to be proud of. One thing that has been pointed to as a contributing factor, at least in Sweden, is that the government in the mid-90s made it easier for everyone to put a PC in their home though a targeted program. Having a computer savvy population has surely helped not only the gaming industry, but many others as well. With more studios comes an increased need of game developers, and with a smaller population this is looking to be our next challenge. Luckily, as mentioned above, we have a changing landscape when it comes to the importance of physical location. There’s a great opportunity ahead of us to bring on team members with backgrounds from all over the world, something I’m really excited about.

Photo: Redesigned Starbreeze Studios offices in Stockholm, Sweden by Selux Corp. | Photographer: Jason Strong

7. Is there anything you can tell us about your vision for the future of Starbreeze?

Short term we are definitely looking to give our community a great next chapter in the Payday franchise. Currently, we are hard at work making Payday 3 the best game it can be. Beyond that, our ambition is to lead the way in making co-op experiences that engage our players for years to come. In addition, I am absolutely convinced that our team has a multitude of great game pitches brewing that we hope to get the opportunity to realize in the years to come.

8. With the team expanding, what roles are you looking at filling, and what type of talent are you looking for?

As with most studios, we are always looking to hire passionate game developers. We have all our current open roles on, but for anyone who is excited about Starbreeze we would love to come in contact with you. With Payday 3 being a multi-platform title, it’s especially interesting if you are passionate about digging into non-PC related frameworks.

9. As a seasoned game professional, why should I consider Starbreeze?

It’s a unique opportunity to help shape the future of a studio with a rich history, as well as an opportunity to join a great team. If helping to build world class live service games in the co-op sphere is your thing, Starbreeze just may be what you have always been looking for. We have offices in both Paris and Stockholm, which you can work at if you so choose. If working in the city of light, with everything it has to offer from world class dining to the city’s rich cultural heritage, is not your cup of tea, Stockholm is there for you. The saying here is that the Swedish summer is the greatest day of the year. It is pretty great, and in all seriousness, it lasts a little longer than that. I promise.

10. Finally, I am considering growing a beard. What is the perfect length for a beard considering I live in San Francisco and the weather is milder?

My take on beard length is that you model it on your favorite childhood cross country skier. I grew mine for my first Vasaloppet. With cross country skiing maybe not as popular in the US, I would look to something like the NFL or NBA instead. May I suggest modeling it on Brett Keisel, Logan Mankins or James Harden. Having a beard in milder climates is a commitment. As long as you stay away from the Alexi Lalas-look of the 90s you’ll be fine.