Thunderkick has taken its first footsteps into the Ontario market, hoping to cement its position as a key slot supplier in North America and take advantage of the Canadian province’s market that has become a real hotbed of activity in recent years.

LeoVegas, alongside Flutter Entertainment’s PokerStars brand, are the destinations of choice for an initial move that it hoped will both lead to further Ontarian success, in addition to wider expansion across the much larger gaming ecosystem that the continent has to offer.

In this exclusive interview, Chief Commercial Officer Svante Sahlström expands on the studio’s plans for North American success, touching on what the launch means, the message sent regarding the ability of independent studios to compete against their larger counterparts, if this opens the door for additional growth and much more. 

SlotBeats: After gaining a licence to enter the Ontario online gaming space earlier in the year, Thunderkick has now officially kicked off its Canadian experience. What major opportunities does it present? And how do you plan to take advantage of those?

Svante Sahlström: Ontario is a vibrant, well-regulated market and home to some major operators. As such, it presents us with a great opportunity to get our games in front of a whole new audience. 

We’re confident Ontarian slots players will enjoy them and that they will prove to be great additions to the portfolios of our operating partners. 

Furthermore, I think going live in North America is a real statement of intent for a studio like us and shows we have the product and the ambition to take our games to new continents. 

SB: The company has elected to go live alongside PokerStars and LeoVegas, why was this the case? Why do this pair represent the perfect foundation from which to build?

SS: They don’t come much bigger than PokerStars and LeoVegas, so we’re delighted that they will be our first operator partners. They are known around the world and have established successful operations in Ontario. 

Between them, they give us a great platform to showcase our slots to lots of new players. I think they’ll also put us in the shop window for other operators too. We’re already in conversation with other well-known brands, both large and small, and I’d like to think our presence will open the door to a few more. 

SB: Are there any specific titles from the Thunderkick back catalogue that you believe could have an impact on the market? Or will you look to deliver more bespoke games in order to make significant headway?

SS: We have a roadmap in place to release the majority of our games portfolio to our Ontario operators, which includes an initial offering of the popular titles 12 Bolts of Thunder, Xterminate, Midas Golden Touch 2, Beat the Beast: Dragon’s Wrath and Midas Golden Touch Reborn.

These will all be made available to Canadian players within a month of launch. We will then roll out the remainder of our collection month by month, including any new releases. 

It is important that we monitor and analyse individual game data early on, as this will give us an indication of what themes, features and mechanics resonate with Ontarian players, allowing us to tailor our future approach accordingly.

SB: What does your entry into the Ontario market say about the ability for independent studios to compete and thrive in newly regulated markets?

SS: I’d like to think it says that we can compete with the big guys. It isn’t always easy maintaining our independent status and we have to be realistic about how far we can push ourselves. New market entries come with a significant financial cost. 

Many studios mitigate that cost with aggregator deals, or by partnering with bigger studios. While there is nothing wrong with that, we like having the ability to control our own destiny. I think it’s also healthy that players don’t always get the same, homogenized content and can experience something different. 

SB: Do you believe that through opening the door into Ontario, the province could prove to be a gateway for further moves across the country in the years to come? If so, how will you capitalise on this when the time comes?

SS: We aren’t using Ontario as just a stepping stone, as it is a really important market in its own right. But it is the case that it’s our first real money market in North America, and in the longer term, assuming it’s a success, we would like to branch out when we get the opportunity. 

There is talk that other Canadian provinces may legalise soon, and obviously there are states across the border in the US that have issued online casino licences. A few of the operators we’ve partnered with in Ontario hold some of those licences, so there may be some synergies there. 

We’ve also just launched social versions of our games in the US, which will give us the opportunity to do some proper market research. We won’t run before we can walk, but let’s just say we have forward momentum!