During his speech at GDC Europe – exhaustively titled "From Max Payne to Alan Wake: Creating Intellectual Properties the Remedy Way" (air!) – Remedy Managing Director Matias Myllyrinne laid out the seven pillars the company uses for its games:
1. Strong Lead Character -- Main character is iconic and easy to get on the surface. Things went wrong when Myllyrinne wanted the Max Payne sequel to simply be called The Fall of Max Payne. The compromised title admittedly didn't work out in the sales department. He didn't mention anything about Rockstar's reimagined Max Payne in the latest sequel.
2. Mainstream approachability -- Avoiding niche and cliché settings (for video games that would mean no WWII setting, dragons, sci-fi, etc.). Having gameplay mechanics that are approachable (low barrier of entry to start playing the game).
3. Cinematic -- Taking lessons learned from movies. The presentation of Max Payne makes this pretty obvious. With Alan Wake the company is focusing on the trinity of the flashlight, Alan himself (see: pillar one), and the gun. This also lead Myllyrinne to an anecdote about presentation, saying "It's not what things are, it's what the audience thinks things are." He mentioned the Ingram gun was made bigger in Max Payne because people expect that gun to be larger than it actually is in real life.
4. Real World Believability -- The game premise and the setting are familiar for a wide audience. Alan Wake's "idyllic" location is based on series like Twin Peaks, Gilmore Girls and Northern Exposure.
5. 3rd person perspective -- Allows for focus on lead character. Again, see Max Payne and Alan Wake.
6. Story depth and atmosphere -- Max Payne's noir setting; Alan Wake's entire world and fiction. It's not hard to see Remedy believes in this pillar.
7. Action -- Of course it's important!