Kasedo – the digital PC strategy label on 'being indie dev friendly' and the studios that back that up

Developers SomaSim, Dapper Penguin and Bulwark Studios all enthuse about Kalypso's digital-only label
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Jonathan Hales Kasedo Kalypso 16 9

A digital-only label coming out of what is primarily a PC games publisher might seem somewhat unnecessary in this day and age. But when that publisher is German strategy giant Kalypso Media it’s somewhat easier to understand.

For starters, Kalypso concentrates on its big brands, such as Tropico, Dungeons, Patrician and Sudden Strike. Then of course PC games in Germany still sell significant numbers as boxed products. And the company is increasingly moving into the console space as well.

Jonathan Hales heads up the Kasedo label from its Leicester office. He’s a veteran of the industry who cemented his career with a seven-year stint at Codemasters, before leading the digital business at Kalypso for a similar period.

“We would always want to publish games as boxed and digital, but what about if we found an opportunity for a games that couldn’t justify the value of putting it into a boxed product? It’s not about quality, but if you’re looking at a £20 or £30 title it’s difficult to put it to retail and get a return on that investment,” he explains.

“So how do we separate the two? We came up with Kasedo Games, the digital-first division of Kalypso Media. It’s not a separate company, it’s a label within a label. It allows us to try new things, create new opportunities, though still within the genres we feel comfortable with and are recognised for.”

The label started with Crown Takers, but has had its biggest success with Somasim’s Project Highrise, which has sold over 210,000 copies to date. “Kalypso would never have looked at that game because it was a 2D sim tower, fantastic game, but we couldn’t justify putting it to retail. Realistically the price point was £20, so we decided this was a Kasedo game.”

Matthew Viglione, studio co-owner of Somasim, creators of Project Highrise: As a studio, we know that there is a larger audience for games like Project Highrise out there, but on our own, we just don't have the skills to reach those players. Luckily for us, Kasedo Games does. Whether it's the right stream or YouTube channel - or whatever's the next new thing - we know we can rely on them to keep pace with where 'our' players are going to find out about new games. With all of their invaluable expertise in the simulation/strategy space, we’re beyond excited to be working with them.   

Matthew Viglione, studio co-owner of Somasim, creators of Project Highrise: As a studio, we know that there is a larger audience for games like Project Highrise out there, but on our own, we just don't have the skills to reach those players. Luckily for us, Kasedo Games does.

Whether it's the right stream or YouTube channel - or whatever's the next new thing - we know we can rely on them to keep pace with where 'our' players are going to find out about new games. With all of their invaluable expertise in the simulation/strategy space, we’re beyond excited to be working with them.   

MAKING TIME

The key then was making sure these smaller titles got their chance to shine. Kalypso puts out a wide range of titles already and Hales didn’t want Kasedo-branded games to be “the fourth game in the row” when the press came to an event, and them then saying “I’m sorry I haven’t got time for that too.”

And that comes about by having real separation between the two brands: “Because we’re in our own office, there is no crossover, and I mean that in a positive way, as somebody can’t then think, ‘I’ll spend a few hours doing this instead of that’. We have our own PR and marketing, our own product managers and producers, we create our own trailers, write our own press releases, everything.”

And as we regularly discuss in MCV, small publishers are certainly in vogue right now and Hales agrees:

“The timing has been good. Rob [Zubek] and Matt [Viglione] from SomaSim self-published their first game, it sold OK, it got OK reviews, but they didn’t get the discoverability at all, so we found each other. We’ve worked together and we’ve released Project Highrise, and they gave a speech at GDC last year, saying: ‘Why would you not want a publisher, publishers are great’.

“And I’m proud to say we’re now going to work with them again... Proof is in the pudding really. We say to them: ‘You be creative, allow us to do what you need us to do’. Some people need help with QA, localisation, marketing, product management, asset creation...

There’s not one shoe that fits all, it’s a matter of finding that perfect partnership.”

DIFFERENT STROKES

The label is very excited about its current pair of prospects: Adeptus Mechanicus and Rise of Industry. Each of which it came upon in very different circumstances.

“Each game comes about in its own unique way. Rise of Industry I simply stumbled across a video and thought: ‘Wow, it looks very raw, but it’s just what we’re looking for,’” Hales recalls.

Alex Mochi, studio owner of Dapper Penguin Studios, creators of Rise Of Industry: Once, we were sceptical about having a publisher. There are too many horror stories, and coming from the corporate world, so we had little faith in the system. After working for almost a year very closely with Kasedo Games, all those doubts were dispelled. They have proven to be extremely developer-friendly, understanding our job as game creators, and giving us all the freedom and trust required to make our projects as entertaining as they can be. So far and thanks to them, we’ve been able to go to a couple conventions (Gamescom and GDC) with many more planned; not to mention we've had very big content creators open their doors and blessing us with very positive articles and videos. Our relationship is based on mutual trust, something very rare in this often hostile and heartbreaking industry. 

Alex Mochi, studio owner of Dapper Penguin Studios, creators of Rise Of Industry: Once, we were sceptical about having a publisher. There are too many horror stories, and coming from the corporate world, so we had little faith in the system. After working for almost a year very closely with Kasedo Games, all those doubts were dispelled.

They have proven to be extremely developer-friendly, understanding our job as game creators, and giving us all the freedom and trust required to make our projects as entertaining as they can be. So far and thanks to them, we’ve been able to go to a couple conventions (Gamescom and GDC) with many more planned; not to mention we've had very big content creators open their doors and blessing us with very positive articles and videos. Our relationship is based on mutual trust, something very rare in this often hostile and heartbreaking industry. 

The ‘strategic tycoon’ title has a strikingly simple graphical style but that’s not what Hales saw in it: “I don’t care what it looks like, does it play well? And I could see there was something special about the gameplay. So we reached out and made contact [with Alex Mochi, CEO at Dapper Penguin Studios], and a few months later we decided to work together.”

The other upcoming title, unveiled at GDC, is Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus, a turn-based tactical title based in the Games Workshop universe.

“Mechanicus was a completely different way of doing it. We were asked to publish a licensed game for a small indie who had already contacted Games Workshop, but we looked at the game and thought that was not quite right for us,” Hales says. “However, we then got in contact with Games Workshop and they said they’d heard about us maybe using the license and would we be interested in having a conversation... They’re based in Nottingham, we’re based in Leicester, so it was an easy fit.”

Emmanuel Monnereau, studio co-owner of From Bulwark Studios, creators of Warhammer 40K Mechanicus: Bulwark Studios started to work in with Kasedo Games in 2014. We were looking for a publisher to our first PC title, Crowntakers. It was also our first publishing deal and the first thing that surprised us at the time was how confident they were in our work. We had been told we could lose some freedom by going with a publisher but it actually did not happen. After we launched Crowntakers, Kasedo proposed that we keep working together on tech and other games. In 2016 we started to work together on what has become Warhammer 40K Mechanicus. Kasedo Games has been really close to us since the beginning of the project and has offered us a huge amount of support. We built the pitch together and because they have a strong understanding of the game itself and the way we like to work, they deliver regular feedback, help us iterate on the project and offer nothing but great support in all areas of the project. As an indie studio it is a real pleasure to work with a flexible publisher capable of adapting and redefining their strategy as the project evolves. 

Emmanuel Monnereau, studio co-owner of From Bulwark Studios, creators of Warhammer 40K Mechanicus: Bulwark Studios started to work in with Kasedo Games in 2014. We were looking for a publisher to our first PC title, Crowntakers. It was also our first publishing deal and the first thing that surprised us at the time was how confident they were in our work. We had been told we could lose some freedom by going with a publisher but it actually did not happen.

After we launched Crowntakers, Kasedo proposed that we keep working together on tech and other games. In 2016 we started to work together on what has become Warhammer 40K Mechanicus. Kasedo Games has been really close to us since the beginning of the project and has offered us a huge amount of support. We built the pitch together and because they have a strong understanding of the game itself and the way we like to work, they deliver regular feedback, help us iterate on the project and offer nothing but great support in all areas of the project. As an indie studio it is a real pleasure to work with a flexible publisher capable of adapting and redefining their strategy as the project evolves. 

The company had worked with Bulwark before on Crown Takers and so Kasedo took the game to the developer this time. Over time it developed from a 2D title to the impressive 3D game in development today – one that we saw Firaxis staff taking a good deal of interest in at GDC.

“We’ve allowed them the freedom to go and create this, and we’re solid now, but we’ve iterated the core mechanic six or seven times, because we wanted to make a game that played brilliantly,” Hales says.

Rise of Industry is in early access, but Mechanicus will not be going out until it’s finished he tells us: “That’s purely because not one shoe fits all, for Rise of Industry, Alex [Mochi] wants feedback, he wants to iterate the game to the best of his ability, and yes we’ve given some feedback, but it’s a complex game and he has grand plans.”

LESS IS MORE

We ask if Kasedo is planning on scaling up its operation in terms of titles published, but Hales is happy to keep things compact.

“Less is more, so we can give each game the focus it deserves,” Hales says. “It’s nice to grow your team, but not for the sake of growing it. That’s not what we’re interested in; we’d rather have a quantity of quality sales, rather than a quantity of titles just for the sake of having titles.

“We want to work with people again, and with one of the dev teams we’ve worked with, we’ve already signed their next game with only an idea of the concept, because again it’s a perfect match. We don’t have to look for another title in two and a half years time, because we know that’s coming.”

And are their any plans for console titles? “There are plans, but nothing I can announce at the minute, but it’s 100 per cent in the pipeline. We don’t want to restrict ourselves in any way, or our partners. If they can bring it to console and it’s right then we’ll do it.

“Realistically the whole evolution, the way Kalypso has grown organically is important, and Kalypso allowing Kasedo to do the same, I think that’s what we want to do, that’s our story really. We are flexible, we are approachable, and we like to think of ourselves as the indie dev team friendly guys – and that’s it.”

With the experience of Kalypso and the agility and focus of a small team, Kasedo certainly looks to have something going for it. 

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