BY Sam Wakoba
Move over Rovio’s Angry Birds and Bad Piggies. Gaming startups in Africa are changing the game scene on the continent, slowly replacing internationally popular games.
Nigeria’s Maliyo Games is at the moment pushing for local content for the more than 160 million people online and the one billion mobile subscribers in Africa. According to Hugo Obi founder of Maliyo Games, the lack of African themed games both online on mobile phones left a gap which even popular Nollywood movies could not fill. When they began, no one was developing games specifically for Africa.
Oluseye Soyode-Johnson, consultant at Maliyo Games says the games are everyday Africa experiences which people easily identify with. Mosquito Smasher, one of the popular games from Maliyo involves a player smashing mosquitoes symbolizing the fight against the bugs and malaria and other issues people face on the continent.
Maliyo’s Okada Ride,depicts a player riding a motorcycle on a hot and busy day trying to get to work quickly. The rider has to go through numerous obstacles such as pedestrians, hawkers, road barriers and law enforcement agents on his way to work. Amidst all the obstacles, one has to reach their destination as quickly as possible and without crashing to win.
Other games from Maliyo include Kidnapped, My Village , Class Eight, Adoma, The Tribes, Football Goalie and Aboki.
Mobile is Key
According to the team, mobile is key. Maliyo games which Obi expects to be a hit on the continent as Africa’s mobile subscription grows is steadily developing games for mobile devices. They believe the games will help them tap into the growing mobile population.
The games are now available on the Nokia App Store, on the Facebook App Centre and an Android version is underway. Maliyo has recently started working with corporate institutions especially banks and it won’t be long for it to take on other institutions.
However it is not the only firm in the gaming scene in Africa.
Kenya’s Planet Ruckus is also giving gaming enthusiasts in the country and on the continent a taste of both worlds-an addictive game, humor with a lesson learnt after every stage.
Planet Ruckus’s Ma3 Racer is interesting. Players race on a congested city street eluding traffic police officers, on rugged pot-holed roads avoiding accidents with much caution.
Joe Muriithi Njeru of Planet Ruckus says they were inspired by the rowdy Nairobi Matutu drivers who race to beat others for space and passengers and escape corrupt police officers. The game is simple, “Players drive through the busy streets of Nairobi and should be careful enough to avoid ramming into other cars, pedestrians and racing against time as they compete with others for passengers.”
According to Njeru, Ma3Racer August hit 46,000 downloads in just 9 days after their August release and was among the Top 30 Most Downloaded New Games on the Ovi Store. Now with over 890,000 in the Nokia Ovi Store the team is working on a new version.
Njeru says they are working on an Android version they expect to be out by second quarter of 2013. They also cite lack of monetization as the Nokia Ovi Store downloads are free unlike the Android downloads.
Njeru promises Mathree will be a hit when its new version comes out.
Apart from the Maliyo and Planet Ruckus, there are several other gaming firms spread across the continent but they all earn less revenue compared to their counterparts in US and UK.
For example, the 1982 founded Electronic Arts Inc, EA posted GAAP net revenue of $4.1 billion in its 2012 fiscal year and recently partnered with Nazara to distribute its games in Africa.
UK’s King.com founded in 2003 with the goal of becoming the premiere destination for skill gaming on the internet currently has more than 150 games with over 40 million monthly players and more than 3 billion games played per month globally in 14 languages.
The firm is considering a US flotation in 2013, saw revenue of €44.7m (£36.2m) in 2011, and a €2m profit.
California based social gaming firm Zynga Games had over 306 million monthly active users by July this year and announced a revenue of US$ 317 million.
Worldwide the global gaming industry is expected to be worth has $110 billion by 2015. Game developers in Africa therefore need to do much to scale to there level.
And its not rocket science.
Maliyo Games can build an empire out of its games.Public health NGOs can use the Mosquito Smasher to educate masses in Malaria prevention. Okada can be used to teach road safety.This applies to all its other games which are set on a particular theme.
Maliyo games can also use advertising which is under its business model to expand its revenues. Its launch of adventure games dubbed Sharpsule to win clients for Wema Bank is a great move as Johnson says other banks are interested too.