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Social Casino: building brand engagement

By - 27 May 2020

KamaGames has launched a new app in partnership with the iconic global brand, Hard Rock International. The app, titled Hard Rock Blackjack, contains the most popular casino-style games in the KamaGames portfolio.

G3 speaks to Kresimir Spajic, Senior Vice President of Online Gaming and Sports Betting at Hard Rock and Andrey Kuznetsov, CEO at KamaGames, to find out more about the agreement.

Kresimir, what attracted you to KamaGames’ social casino offering?

Following Hard Rock’s initial success with a slots-focused Hard Rock Social Casino product, we saw an opportunity to give global Hard Rock fans an incremental social casino focused on table games, especially blackjack and multiplayer poker. When we looked at the space, KamaGames was the clear market leader in both the performance and quality of games offered. The fact that their product was available in 28 languages made it even more compelling for the Hard Rock brand, as it matches the global distribution of Hard Rock Cafe, Hotels and Casinos in 75 countries.

Where does Hard Rock Blackjack sit within Hard Rock’s free-to-play games library?

It’s a logical and complementary addition to the Hard Rock free-to-play portfolio. The Hard Rock Blackjack game focuses on the player preferences we weren’t addressing with the existing offering. By creating a wider range of choices for players, we’ll expand the participation of current Hard Rock members and guests while acquiring new players into the Hard Rock universe.

How have free to play mobile games impacted Hard Rock’s level of interaction with guests at cafes, hotels, and casinos around the world? How does one measure brand engagement?

We look at brand engagement from the various Hard Rock free-to-play offerings in a couple of different ways; standard mobile gaming metrics like sign-ups and DAU help us understand the brand exposure and online community we’re building. In the Bricks and Mortar space, we can directly track increased visitation of Hard Rock Cafes, Hotels and Casinos from the player base which is participating in the Hard Rock mobile games.

The additional Hard Rock branded experiences available anytime, anywhere has been fantastic for the global business, and we’re really excited about the Hard Rock Blackjack game to expand on that success as an incremental guest experience.

How do you see the partnership developing beyond the Hard Rock Blackjack portfolio?

Hard Rock is focused on building an expansive online player community by adding complementary player experiences into the Hard Rock free-to-play game portfolio. The goal is to do so through long-term strategic collaborations with select partners. We view the partnership with KamaGames as such a relationship where we will both grow and thrive together; what that means for the future, we’ll have to wait and see!

How does the partnership further Hard Rock’s market ambitions in the social casino space? Is the agreement part of a larger expansion plan?

Hard Rock has been focused on building and expanding its free-to-play online gaming business that allows us to address the existing Hard Rock guest community while bringing new fans into the fold. We operate some of the most popular casino locations in North America, with everything from the newly opened Hard Rock Sacramento at Fire Mountain to the recently opened expansion at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood with the world’s first Guitar Hotel.

Social casino has been a core part of our business since the beginning of our involvement in the free-to-play industry. It serves as a very compelling extension of the Hard Rock Bricks and Mortar casino marketing & loyalty programmes and will continue to do so as a means of 360-degree engagement with Hard Rock fans.

By extending the Hard Rock brand into the social casino space, we’re also expanding the ability for Hard Rock to reach new guests to introduce a vast portfolio of realworld experiences not just through casinos, but also Hotels, Cafes and Live concert venues around the world.

Andrey, could you tell us more about the partnership with Hard Rock? How significant a milestone is Hard Rock Blackjack in the development of KamaGames’ social offering?

Historically, KamaGames’ primary focus has been the development and publishing of our own games and as the most significant part of our revenue is still generated by these products, we are always at the top of our game in terms of innovation in the social casino space.

With any of our partnerships, such as the one we have with Hard Rock, we are not just developing an engine for our partner to then build the end product. We would never enter a partnership without being confident that the end product created by KamaGames would be a resounding success for both partners and thanks to our long-standing industry experience, we are uniquely aware of the potential issues and various nuances a publisher could face.

Time is the most important resource we have and it is always a dilemma as to choose to either spend that time on a new feature or a brand new game of our own, or to dedicate our focus to a joint product with another organisation.

The partnership with Hard Rock is significant for KamaGames as it is a globally recognised multinational company with a vast and loyal audience. Moreover, Hard Rock operates a large number of casinos with a significant portion of its audience having a genuine interest in the type of games we specialise in.

We are confident that introducing a quality 3D blackjack product, alongside an extensive portfolio of other top-class casino-style games to such an audience will make players even more engaged with the Hard Rock brand and in turn strengthen brand loyalty too.

What differentiates Hard Rock Blackjack from other social casino apps on the market?

Firstly, the game engine behind the app, provided by KamaGames, has been proven to be one of the best on the market. Furthermore, Hard Rock Blackjack hosts a variety of worldclass social casino games in a single app, allowing for ease of movement from one title to another. This app will be played by a strong number of online players, connecting people across several different countries and time zones.

Along with the portfolio of quality games already installed within Hard Rock Blackjack, these players will also enjoy frequent updates, new features and new games within the app.

How does the app encourage social interaction between players?

KamaGames has always been proud of our ability to craft socialisation opportunities as a cornerstone of our success in this genre and Hard Rock Blackjack will include a host of our tried-and-tested methods of socialisation.

While we are very proud of the ability of our players to connect with people across the globe, it is important to note that they can also invite real-world friends into the app through our Referral Programme and play any of our games together – even our fantastic slots games.

During a game, players can communicate via our in-game messenger and even select predesigned frequently used phrases to make the process quicker. Beyond this traditional form of communication, players can create their own persona within the game by designing their very own customisable avatar. Players use their avatars to express their distinct personalities to others at the table, much the way they would do in a brick-and-mortar casino.

Another way the app encourages social interaction between players is by allowing them to see which games their friends are playing and each other’s progress in these games. From what we’ve seen, this breeds a healthy rivalry between players, spurring them on to interact and compete with one another.

The Pokerist Texas Poker model is currently the third-largest social poker game in the world. What makes the model so successful?

While we have been very successful so far, we are still a relatively small private company in comparison to some of the much richer corporations we compete with. To sustain this level of competition, we need to be confident that we are doing our jobs better than our competitors. With that in mind, we are laserfocused on what we believe is missing in our genre and the products we develop.

Our business ethos is that we are big enough to cope and small enough to care. For example, we have one of the most efficient support services available for our players. Even outside of our VIP Player support, any issue will be responded to in 10 minutes or less.

While we are already the largest social poker app in Europe and one of the top three globally, our ultimate goal is to make each game we develop and publish No.1 among other products similar to it. We have already achieved this with a number of our products such as roulette, blackjack, Omaha poker and craps, which each hold a strong No.1 position globally on iOS and Android in terms of player base and revenue.

We attribute our success to our constant innovation. This has resulted in the introduction of unique new games, features, and content for players to engage with. We are the only social poker currently holding MTT tournaments and one of a few, if not the only one, deeply experimenting in utilising neural networks within our games.

What opportunities are available for future expansion of the partnership?

Currently, we have either planned or are in the process of developing a number of new features. This includes tournaments, quests, promotions, and events that are set to captivate Hard Rock Blackjack players. We’re also developing a variety of new video poker and slot machines and a range of specialised Hard Rock branded content starting from customised gifts and avatars right up to tournaments and sweepstakes.

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