With the popularity of mobile phones and climbing internet penetration, African game developers are taking advantage of the growing demand for games. Africa’s tech scene is buzzing, and out of this evolving and exciting community we are seeing innovations in industries, ranging from agriculture and financial to medical and, of course, entertainment.
The global mobile gaming industry is said to become a massive US$83-billion industry by 2016 and as internet accessibility and mobile use advances, key African startups have started establishing themselves.
By using cultural relevance to narrow down target markets to educational or puzzle solving games, developers across the continent are becoming involved with what seems to be an extremely exciting and growing industry. Here are some of them:
Started in 2011, Kola Studios has since launched five known applications including Twendele — a friend finder app. The Ugandan-based company’s most popular game is probably Karata which is a well-known traditional Kenyan card game. The company focuses on creating both social and cross-platform games for the mass market.
Another example is Zword which is similar to hangman where every correct letter you add, you knife a zombie. If not, then it’s bye-bye brains from there on out. Zword is a good example of combining educational relevance with popular entertainment to attract more users. About a month ago Kola Studios managed to gain seed funding from prominent Kenyan-based accelerator Savannah Fund.
Play, inspire, impact. This software developing company recently won third place at Dragon’s Den which was held by the World Bank’s infoDev in South Africa. The startup “creates uniquely African mobile applications and tools for social development agencies and corporate enterprises keen to spread educational and branded messages across the continent.” Founder Anne Githuku-Shongwe won the Schwab Foundation’s Social Entrepreneur of the Year 2013 award.
One of the company’s most notable titles is Haki (meaning “rights” or “justice” in Swahili). This game follows a character fighting “to mend the wrongs that tear at the social fabric” such as overcoming environmental or civil issues.
Ghana-based Leti Games is mostly known for its stunning artwork as well as its very talented software development team. Founded by Eyram Tawia and Wesley Kirinya in 2009, the company’s mission is to create the next African superheroes via comics and games. With the help of the Norwegian nonprofit the Meltwater Foundation, Leti Games released its first for Africans by Africans game titled iWarrior in 2009.
The popular US gaming website Polygon recently did an in-depth feature piece featuring Leti Games. As the company mentioned “a game like iWarrior, though small, is a good step to culturalising games to [its] specific setting.” Leti Games further wants to bring African games to the global market.
This South African company was launched earlier this year and has since raised enough funds from its current shareholders to develop Snailboy, an iOS and Android game set for release in the coming months. Its founders are David Moffatt, Mark Tomlinson, Simon Spreckley, Larry Katz and Rw Liebenberg.
Although still a young company, its new game seems on par with international standards with stunning artwork, graphics and quirky character design.
Tasty Poison Games
After launching Pocket RPG in 2011, this South African-based studio has received a helpful hand from the owner (industry veteran Steve McIvor) and was founded in 2010. After friendly reviews and success for Pocket RPG, the company has been able to continue developing games. Another impressive title is Dig! (which is currently available) and the company is planning on releasing Neon Shadows which is a first person action shooter.
Inspired by US-based Zynga Games which is responsible for popular online titles such as Farmville and Mafia Wars, this Nigerian-based company wants to bring local narratives and stories to Africa’s growing internet and mobile culture. Founded in 2012, the company is responsible for Nigerian-themed titles such as Okada Ride, Aboki, Kidnapped, and Mosquito Smasher.
Co-founder Hugo Obi says that “Nigerian music and Nollywood movies have a strong appeal to the local and diasporan consumers. We are riding this trend and thus far we are seeing traction.” His work has been featured on BBC, CNN and has been presented at DEMO Africa.
The Nigerian-based company was launched in 2012 and has since released about 52 casual games. Kuluya focuses on telling the African narrative, and has proven popular with the diaspora and local gamers alike. Within six months after its launch the company managed to secure another seed stage investment totalling the company’s value at US$2-million.
Oga @ The Top is probably one of the site’s most popular games that lets you propel a character through the air by gaining momentum as you catch more letters. Head of Kuluya, Kunle Ogungbamila, encourages a hybrid commerce platform that involves social, advertising and betting as some of its methods to monetise.
This is also another worthy mention. This South African-based group of developers managed to raise US$4000 on the crowdfunding site IndieGogo out of a total goal of US$10 000 for the game The Maker’s Eden. Using impressive sketched comic art, the game is a niche first-person point-and-click adventure set in the far future. There has since been a demo released. We hope to see more in the near future.
These are of course not the only game-focused startups in Africa but they do represent ongoing trends of the industry. If we left out any other noteworthy ventures please let us know in the comments.
Image via Afroe Games