Kwalee & Tictales: Sharing the Same Philosophy On High-Quality Games

Kwalee CEO David Darling and co-founders of Tictales, Harouna Camara and Christophe Chocho, told us about the recent acquisition and new opportunities it brought to the companies and discussed the companies' shared philosophy on what it takes to make high-quality games. 

At the end of January, British hypercasual studio Kwalee made its first acquisition, a French developer that specializes in creating interactive story apps, franchises, and services. We talked to Kwalee CEO David Darling and co-founders of Tictales, Harouna Camara and Christophe Chocho, to ask them about the acquisition and what opportunities it will bring to both companies as well as discussed the companies' shared philosophy on what it takes to make high-quality games. 

Introduction Please, introduce yourself and your teams. Could you tell us how and when did you start working? What were your aims?

David Darling: Kwalee has been making and publishing great mobile games for more than 10 years. When I founded the company after more than 20 years of leading Codemasters, the aim was simple: to bring amazing games to players worldwide through digital distribution and marketing. 

That’s obviously all come to pass in the last decade, and our games have racked up more than 750 million downloads in total. In hypercasual games, we found the perfect outlet for our love of rapid prototyping and our freeing approach to idea generation which has allowed us to develop and publish massive hits like recent #1 Airport Security, Draw It, Traffic Cop 3D, and Teacher Simulator. 

Harouna Camara: My partner Christophe Chocho and I co-founded Tictales in 2015 with a vision to redefine interactive storytelling on mobile for the Gen-Z and Millennial audiences. 

With 14 released games, all original IPs, we’ve had more than 6 million downloads and over 350 million hours played. Our focus on the romance genre has shown that there is considerable space in the casual mobile games market for compelling story-led content and underexplored genres, so we want to keep serving these extremely engaged communities. 

The Acquisition This is Kwalee’s first acquisition in its 10-year history. What makes you think it’s going to be a good alliance? How long did it take to execute the acquisition deal agreement?

David Darling: Once I and our COO Jason Falcus got to know Christophe and Harouna, and learned the story of Tictales, it didn’t take long at all to get excited about their studio.

The mutual benefit is clear and this is what makes us so enthusiastic. We’re broadening our focus from purely hypercasual to also encompass hybrid-casual and casual games, so welcoming Tictales with their casual gaming expertise makes perfect sense. 

Meanwhile, we think we can offer something really valuable in terms of our marketing and publishing expertise that can help Tictales’ games reach an even bigger audience. 

Christophe Chocho: We’re convinced this will be a good alliance because we share the same philosophy of launching high-quality games. Our games are different from Kwalee’s releases to date but it’s clear to see how both teams can complement one another and that’s what excites us the most.

New Opportunities How will Tictales operate now? Will it be less independent than it had been before? If yes, in what way? What opportunities did the acquisition bring to the company?

David Darling: We want them to run Tictales as an autonomous studio and we will do everything we can to help them by providing them useful services.

Harouna Camara: Tictales will still operate as before with autonomy with now more resources to help us expand the team with more talents and continue to innovate. We will keep our culture and identity. We believe from day one that the future of entertainment will be mobile games with great stories and we will keep doing that!

We are entrepreneurs, game designers, and storytellers that are passionate about building the future of this industry, and our ambition is fully aligned with Kwalee. 

We will work in synergy with Kwalee in order to create amazing products, scale them and do more live ops to reach millions more players around the world. For us, it was also important that  Kwalee was a good cultural fit and a great home for the next phase of Tictales.

The acquisition brings lots of opportunities for us to be able to work alongside all the different departments within Kwalee from tech, marketing, and design to QA. Our expertise and that of Kwalee to create amazing hit games will result in exciting new games. 

Romance Narrative Games Tictales currently specializes in free-to-play romance narrative games. Will the studio keep working in this direction or will it develop some other games when the acquisition deal is executed?

David Darling: We decided to work with Tictales based on the studio’s strengths, so we have no intention of pushing them down a different route when their own creativity and style have brought them this far.

It’s a specialist studio with a dedicated community of players and we’re here to support that, not detract from it. 

We’re keen for both teams to learn from one another; there are many lessons from successful games and successful marketing, regardless of the genre. And at Kwalee we don’t want to be defined by one type or style of game, but many. 

Christophe Chocho: We’ve been committed from day one to interactive fiction and nothing has changed. It’s an area we’ve proven our success in with constant, rapid development of new content, and our team is very passionate to keep improving this. 

Collaborating with Kwalee just empowers us to do even more of the work we love!

Shared Philosophy You’ve mentioned that both of your companies "share the same philosophy about high-quality games". Could you share this philosophy with us? What makes casual and hybrid-casual games successful?

David Darling: The Kwalee philosophy has never been complicated, really. We saw that digital distribution and digital marketing had the potential to effectively remove the biggest barriers to gaming, and believed in the idea that huge global audiences would want to engage with games that look and feel fun. This fundamental belief still drives us, more than 750 million downloads later.

Hypercasual games are a very pure expression of this idea due to their mass appeal, but we’ve never limited ourselves, whether by platform, genre, or business model. Just like hypercasual, a combination of great gameplay, visuals, and marketing can make casual and hybrid-casual games successful. That’s what makes us confident that our partnership with Tictales will yield more success for us both.

Working Culture What do you think will happen to the working culture in the Tictales? Are there going to be any changes?

Harouna Camara: For us, being now part of an international company will bring even more diversity to our team, set of talents, and ambition to our vision. Our core value will always stay the same: deliver high-quality content and products, delight our fans and continue our scale with the help of Kwalee to reach millions of players. We are already amazed by the positive working culture at Kwalee.
Christophe Chocho: The blend of our two cultures will help us produce quality products for many years to come. Our two areas of expertise, hypercasual for Kwalee and Casual interactive stories for us, will create amazing opportunities to branch to different genres like Hypersims. So this culture around the conception of hypercasual’s title will be a welcome change for us at Tictales.

Roadmap What's your current roadmap? What did you plan for 2022? What will we hear again from you?

David Darling: It’s quite tricky to provide a solid roadmap in our market, simply because it’s so fast-moving. A hypercasual game can be made and brought to market in a matter of weeks, not months. 

So frankly, we don’t know exactly what updates we might have later in the year! It’s a really exciting and creatively fulfilling way to work. 

Obviously, the situation with hybrid-casual and casual games is a little different, with longer development times involved. But you will certainly hear more from us and Tictales as new chapters are released and upcoming projects take shape too.

David Darling, Harouna Camara, and Christophe Chocho, CEO of Kwalee & co-founders of Tictales

Interview conducted by Ana Kessler

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