Kalamba Games have worked with Kindred on producing new timed-exclusive Ducks Till Dawn. Ahead of the release we caught up with Andy Sekula, Head of Games at Kalamba, and Marcin Kalbarczyk, Kindred’s Senior Casino Product Manager, to discuss how exclusive titles benefit both supplier and operator, and how the title came to be.
Why did you guys decide to get together to develop exclusive content? What’s the thinking behind making exclusive titles?
AS: It’s great for us, the supplier, because we can leverage operators’ experience and knowledge of the player base when working on the game. It’s a true feedback loop that gives real weight to the design process and puts our developers much closer to our end user, and also gives us insight into the marketing machinery of an operator, which is different to our own.
There are of course also commercial benefits – both in the sharing of development cost and in that we can see two peaks in terms of bets – the exclusive release and later, the release on the network.
MK: For the operator, being able to offer a product that is not available anywhere else, is a very strong, unique selling point. Exclusive games are a great way to differentiate ourselves from competition, especially these days when content saturation in the igaming industry is rapidly increasing.
The second reason, like Andy says, is the commercial reason. Our data from recent years proves that the reduced revenue share makes a massive difference, especially when so many marketing activities are focused on our exclusive releases.
Lastly, we are the experts who know our customer base. Through analysis of features from hundreds released slots, we are able to determine which ones have the highest chance of best performance. By building an exclusive game in collaboration with an experienced studio, we get a chance to implement that knowledge.
What are the benefits for both parties in having suppliers dedicate a game to one single operator?
MK: For both emerging and established suppliers, it’s a great boost for reputation to have their game released exclusively with a big operator. With so much marketing focus being directed at these games, it’s obvious that their reach will be stronger than any regular release.
The financial side is also a strong benefit. Through the upfront fee, suppliers get to partially, or even fully, cover their production cost. In exchange for that, we get a chance to create a game according to our guidelines.
AS: Exactly, there are great benefits for us in working closely with operators when building games, but for the operator having a potential hit on exclusivity will drive more users to the casino and also make the current player base stay engaged for longer in anticipation of content that’s not available elsewhere.
Where does the balance sit in creating a game that is in keeping with the studio’s style yet meets the requirements of the operator?
AS: The most important thing is to find the chemistry between operators’ needs, which are the expression of what makes players excited, and what the supplies feel strong at. In other words there must be a chemistry which I’m pleased to say was in full effect on the production of Ducks Till Dawn! In our experience it’s quite rare to find ‘hard’ requirements as much of the game development process is truly a creative one, but there may be some themes or math models that resonate better than others with a particular operator’s audience, or indeed an operator’s priority list at any given time.
MK: Yes, an open-minded approach is very important here. Sometimes operators want a specific type of game and they look for a supplier that specialises in that particular area, let’s say a cluster slot or a 3×3 one. Then they are comfortable with handing over the production to them because they know this is the kind of game they do best. They don’t have to be included that much.
The situation can be completely the opposite when the operator has unique needs or is trying to introduce innovation in regard to mechanics and features. Then the supplier’s flexibility becomes a priority.
During the Ducks Till Dawn production, the flexibility of Kalamba Games team and some of their already proven mechanics were a perfect mixture.
How did the process of collaboration work between Kalamba and Kindred when creating Ducks Till Dawn?
MK: We worked with a number of suppliers throughout 2018-19 and then in 2020 and Kalamba was very smooth and straightforward to collaborate with. Sometimes suppliers have their set vision of the game and don’t like to implement drastic changes proposed by the operator. Kalamba was very flexible on that point and accommodated all of our feedback on what we thought would resonate with our customers better, which made this a great cooperation.
AS: It went really smoothly, because we all liked the core mechanics of the game which we considered for a while and later decided would be expressed as CASH DUCKS, which we imported from a land based slot. We’ve had regular meetings and a lot of valuable feedback from the Kindred guys, which allowed us to get a better understanding of what might potentially make players feel excited.
Are there any specific features in DtD that you think will particularly appeal to Kindred players?
MK: Definitely the Cash Ducks. This was initially inspired by a slot machine from the land-based casino segment. The Kalamba team showed it to us on one of the first meetings and together we developed it together into a unique mechanic. We all thought it would work very well if the instant win symbols would move horizontally across the screen and that’s when the amusement park shooting range idea was born. Since the release date was already planned just before Halloween, it made sense to add a bit of spooky atmosphere. A great title completed the theme perfectly.
AS: For sure, we’re also confident that the SpinBoost feature will be a big hit because it allows players to have a slightly longer target to hit which makes the game more entertaining and more exciting for a longer period.
More generally, are we seeing greater collaboration between operators and suppliers in the game development process? Do you expect we will see more of these types of collaborations?
AS: Definitely, the collaboration with suppliers gives operators an opportunity to cater for the tastes of their player base in a more customised manner.
MK: It’s a very reasonable choice for both operators and suppliers to go that way, because it usually provides a good balance between investment and return in addition to exposure towards industry and boost to the reputation. Content saturation is currently huge and it’s going to get even more congested, presenting a significant challenge to operators who want to differentiate their offering. We can see that most of the big tier one operators have exclusive offers from time to time – some more frequently but it’s definitely something that is growing in the gaming industry.
Should operators play a bigger role in content creation? If so, how?
AS: Cooperating with game studios will ensure that the needs and wants of the players are met. I’m sure that suppliers can learn a lot from them, which would result in more effective collaboration and better entertainment for players!
MK: Operators are exposed to a massive amount of content during their game selection process. That gives them a perfect overview of what is present on the market and what players might still need. I think operators are often capable of providing valuable input, which suppliers may utilize in their productions. Such collaborations are definitely valuable and should happen more often as it’s a good way to come across the next industry-revolutionizing idea.
Any final thoughts about Ducks Till Dawn?
AS: As mentioned, it’s been a great collaboration and we look forward to seeing how this goes. It’s a feature-packed game which we think will resonate really strongly with players.
MK: I’m very pleased with how the game came out. There were many different ideas during the production process. We went through a couple of different themes that we wanted to utilise in this game. But in the end, all the pieces came together perfectly; the theme, the mechanics; the SpinBoost feature and the title, of course. We’ve created a really really attractive product and I have huge hopes for that to blow away our customer base!