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Nigerian mobile games company, Gamsole, has launched a new competition offering US$4,000 in prizes and career opportunities for five talented illustrators. Founded by Abiola Olaniran, Nigeria’s highest paid Windows game developer, Gamsole creates games for the Windows phone platform, taking advantage of its fast growth and unsaturated gaming market.
The competition will be running until 23 November and entrants must submit a graphical concept for a game, including character design in different moods and positions. Gamsole will be offering a US$3 000 prize for the best illustrator, with the runner-up receiving US$1 000. “The top five will be offered permanent positions at Gamsole’s offices in Lagos, giving them the chance to own equity and be part of a high-growth, fast-paced startup,” says Abiola.
With a passion for mobile application and design, the computer science and mathematics graduate started his business two years ago. In just six months of launching games on the Windows Phone Store Abiola had over three million players worldwide who fell in love with the addictive gameplay experience, from China to Brazil.
“About 38% of mobile phone users all over the world consume games, second to the use of social networks. People never get tired of gaming. On an everyday basis, millions of people are experiencing little boring moments: the long queue at the supermarket, the traffic, a 13-hour flight. Apart from providing the entertainment factor for scenarios like this, mobile gaming also serves as a great tool for education.”
After being one of the first African startups to be awarded an innovation grant from Microsoft 4Afrika, Abiola’s games now top over nine million downloads. Popular games include Juicy Links and Cookie Jam.
“We want to focus on creating high-quality games for mobile and desktop with a distinct African flavor, for example, educational and African-themed are a great way to engage people in local stories and issues in a fun way. Excellent graphics are an essential component of game development and we require the best illustrators to take the company forward.”
Finding the right skills is a challenge facing many businesses, especially startups that can’t always compete with the salaries that larger corporations can afford. “There are so many benefits of being part of a smaller enterprise,” says Amrote Abdella, Director of Venture Capital and Startups at Microsoft. “Not everyone can be an entrepreneur, but startups offer young talent the chance to become part of the entrepreneurial process, helping grow the enterprise and being part of the strategic decision making process from early on. Startups offer creative freedom and a dynamic, high-energy environment.”
With the help of the Microsoft 4Afrika grant awarded in February this year, Gamsole has gone from strength to strength and with the additional five designers will have 12 employees by the end of the year with the view to adding more coders in 2015. Abiola is also exploring alternative opportunities for monetisation with advertising opportunities for brands that want to reach a young, tech-savvy audience.
“Prior to the grant we had engaged several investors, but couldn’t agree on the terms,” says Abiola. The 4Afrika grant meant we didn’t have to give up any equity and we were provided not only monetary, but technical support.”