Amidst the pandemic and with the UK recently leaving the EU, leading interactive entertainment company Avalanche Studios Group, had an aspiration to establish in the UK market – and
successfully did so. With Liverpool offering a thriving game development scene and a huge talent pool, Avalanche received a grand welcome following its expansion in 2020. “The response was overwhelmingly positive, and we got over 2,000 applications for 20 open positions. In December 2020, our team had grown to 25 developers,” says Pim Holfve, CEO of Avalanche Studios Group.
Avalanche Studios Group is a leading interactive entertainment company, offering a rich portfolio of games from three divisions: Avalanche Studios, Expansive Worlds, and Systemic Reaction. The company was founded in 2003 in Stockholm, Sweden, and since the release of Just Cause in 2006, Avalanche has been at the forefront of the open world genre, continuously producing one popular game after another, such as the Just Cause franchise, as well as the Hunter: Call of the Wild, Generation Zero, Second Extinction, and the recently announced Contraband. Its games have been played by millions of people across the world, and today the company consists of over 500 creative talents based in Stockholm, New York, Malmö, and most recently – in Liverpool.
Expanding to the UK
For Avalanche, it has always been important to be located in inspiring cities, where talent is and where they feel they can contribute. Pim Holfve, CEO of Avalanche Studios Group, considers the UK, and especially Liverpool, as one of those places. “As with our other locations, Liverpool has a thriving game development scene. We think that we have a lot to contribute to it in terms of our unique open world games and culture of creating a truly sustainable workplace for our employees.”
Expanding to Liverpool
The first steps to expand to Liverpool were taken in 2019, and after that, the whole process moved quickly. “During 2019, we found our founding team members, and in June the following year, we announced our opening. The response was overwhelmingly positive, and we got over 2,000 applications for 20 open positions. In December 2020, our team had grown to 25 developers,” says Pim.
"We have been in contact with organisations that provide help to companies expanding into the UK, such as the Department for International Trade and Growth Platform in Liverpool."
This establishment was slightly different from previous expansions due to the challenges of opening up at a new location in the middle of a pandemic. Since the opening last June, the whole office has been working entirely remotely – no small feat according to Pim: “I could not be more proud of what we have achieved in such a short time, and I am excited about our plans to open our actual office in August, which is our next major milestone.”
The importance and unimportance of physical presence
When asked about the importance of physical presence in the UK while conducting their business, Pim explains that they have learnt a lot working from home, including how surprisingly little impact the absence of physical presence has had on maintaining strong business relationships. He believes there is great value in the team working together in real life, however, the remote work has no impact on Avalanche’s ability to run its business. “Being together in the same office is a great way for us to come together as a team and foster our culture of creativity, collaboration, and learning. Even though all of our locations are important in the sense that we can tap into local talent pools, they do not impact our ability to run a sustainable, global business,” says Pim.
Brexit and the UK market
With Brexit, new challenges evidently arose for companies looking to establish in the UK, but for Avalanche, the benefits overcame the challenges. “Brexit has made things more challenging due to its increased complexity. However, the UK has a rich gaming history and a fantastic talent pool, and we always focus our growth around the need of our projects and where we can find the best talent,” Pim says.
When establishing in Liverpool, Avalanche discovered some aspects of the UK market that differ from Swedish business culture. “As a Swedish company, one thing that is different is how strong our focus is on offering our employees a sound work-life balance – it really stands out in the UK. For us at Avalanche, it is a fundamental part of creating a sustainable workplace, where our goal is for each employee to stay with us for the long run rather than doing contract work, which is all too common in the games industry. From a company culture perspective, Avalanche Studios Group is a flatter company compared to many companies in the UK,” Pim explains.
Advice for businesses looking to establish in the UK
Its establishment in the UK has meant that Avalanche has learnt many lessons. Pim advises prospective UK investors to reach out to national trade bodies and organisations. “We have been in contact with organisations that provide help to companies expanding into the UK, such as the Department for International Trade and Growth Platform in Liverpool. We are also members of the UKIE, the trade body for the UK’s gaming industry,” says Pim.
Year of establishment
Sweden: 2003 / UK: 2020
Number of employees
500 in total, of which 25 in the UK