Sophie Vo, Berlin studio lead Voodoo
Sophie Vo is game lead and director of the Berlin studio of successful French mobile game startup Voodoo. At GamesCapitalBerlin she gives an insight into the world of hypercasual games, the Berlin ecosystem and talks about the variety in the industry.
Voodoo is sky-rocketing, broadening the view to all hyper casual games. Tell us more about the company and your recipe for success.
I recently joined Voodoo, so I will comment from the point of view of a recent joiner with fresh eyes on the company. From my long experience in gaming and having worked for multiple organisations, I would say what is unique to Voodoo is its culture. There is a strong focus on the people, our values and how they translate in how we do things. The values are public on our website, and haven’t changed since the founding days. One value which is the strongest to me is the Ownership, and it’s not just a nice word on a wall. We are given a lot of autonomy, trust and responsibilities in our jobs and that has allowed the company to move fast and be innovative in how we do things and the games we make, leading to the success it knows today.
Voodoo just landed in Berlin a few months ago. What made you choose Berlin as a new location and what is the company looking to achieve here?
Berlin has always been a personal city in my heart: the art, culture, the big parks and lakes around, my close circle of friends. I was living here for 3 years before I moved to Finland for another job. Then, the opportunity of building a new game studio with Voodoo came so I considered to return to Berlin. I had the choice of the city where I could start and I chose Berlin!
As for the professional reasons, Berlin has grown a lot over the past years as a game hub in Europe. More game companies chose to open a studio here (i.e. Etermax, Ubisoft, Huuuge games, Voodoo…) and new interesting indie companies forming each year. I have enjoyed a lot the connection with the gaming community in Finland and I see the potential of doing the same here now with all the game companies in Berlin. The city is also a very attractive place to live, international and at a reasonable cost of living, which makes it appealing to onboard great talents from all over the world.
At the moment, I am building a very diverse and international team.
Sophie, you worked many years as Product Lead and Game Lead at Wooga in Berlin, and at Rovio in Helsinki. Can you tell us a bit more about why you decided to come back to Berlin with Voodoo?
After 10 years of experience in games (working on all phases of development of a mobile game), I felt ready to start to build a studio with my creative vision and explore new types of games. It was a perfect match with Voodoo with their solid position on hypercasual games, and myself with the background on mature casual mobile games. I’d like to explore with the new studio deeper experiences beyond the hypercasual games, serving a wide audience of non-gamers on mobile.
For years you have been helping to make the games industry more diverse. What are changes that still need to happen, in your opinion?
It has been a very important topic to me as unfortunately, I have seen myself often as the only female Game lead in the organization (or the only woman in the team sometimes!). I’d like to see more women leading game development in the future, especially if we claim to make games for a global audience. I’m happy to see how it has been ahead in Finland with few women CEOs, but there’s still a lot of work to do!
With my position in the industry, I believe I can give visibility to more women to the exciting positions we have in games, coach other women to lead the development of games so one day we see more balance in the leadership of games.
But it’s not only about genders when I think of diversity in a team, it’s about having different viewpoints and perspectives in a group. This comes from gender diversity, but also cultural or educational diversity for example. To make it happen, we need leaders who understand the importance of it and who identify these differences as a strength and not as a threat.
What projects and ideas are already in the pipeline for Voodoo’s future?
Voodoo is exploring in different areas beyond hypercasual and publishing of games. We are working on apps for example. We’ve also recently acquired a London-based studio called Gumbug. They come from midcore and will be working on the LiveOps of our hit games, a strong area of focus for us at the moment. We want the partner studios to continue to do what they truly love: making new innovative games, and we ensure these games have the best lifetime possible with the tech, people and tools we provide.
As for my studio, I’d like to explore a bit further experiences designed for a non-gamer audience. The team will be formed by the end of the year, and we’re all super excited to start experimenting on it!
The interview with Sophie Vo was first published on GamesCapital.Berlin you can find it here.