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Digital All Stars is a series of 24 articles which aims to celebrate the best of South African digital. The articles, which will appear on Memeburn and Ventureburn, recognise and celebrate South Africa’s best digital entrepreneurs, business people, advertisers, and media professionals among others.
The All Stars listed in the articles are compiled using a combination of our editorial team’s own knowledge and that of experts in the fields covered by each article.
Gaming development has been growing in South Africa over the years and is growing into a multi-million Rand industry.
There is a large community around game development, with groups such as MakeGames SA holding monthly meetings for discussions, with Wits and UCT having courses in, or featuring, video game development.
In this article, we will feature some of the best video game startups and entrepreneurs South Africa has to offer*, whether they’re developing games for themselves or as outsourced work. The names featured are listed in no particular order.
*If you feel there is a startup we missed then please email firstname.lastname@example.org. All entries will be taken into consideration by our panel of judges.
This Stellenbosch-founded gaming startup is the result of Francois and Leon van Niekerk, and Hilgard Bell’s collaboration. Besides working on projects outsourced by other companies, Clockwork Acorn is currently busy with Monster and Medicine, which is being overhauled for a Steam release.
Unlike some of the others on this list, 24 Bit Games is an outsource company that is used for programming support and porting of titles for other developers. Most of their work comes from Disney. It is founded by Luke Lamothe and has worked on the likes of Vietnam ‘65 and Bladeslinger.
This one-man indie studio, founded by Peter Cardwell-Gardner, is currently working on the Steam Greenlight title, Cadence. This startup’s first game, Toward the Light, found success at the international 2012 7DFPS.
Founded by Danny Day and Mark Luck, QCF Design is one of the most famous indie game development studios in South Africa. The company’s most notable game, Desktop Dungeons, has launched to critical success and is available on a variety of platforms.
Founded by Richard Pieterse, Jason Sutherland, and Ben Rausch, Team Lazerbeam is known for their first date simulator, Snow Cones. Not to mention other games based on tears and pizza.
RuneStorm is known for its fantasy deathmatch/arena game, Rooks Keep, as well as Viscera Cleanup Detail, a game based around janitorial duties after an alien invasion. The company first came into existence after creating a ‘Ballistic Weapons’ mod for Unreal Tournament 2004, and went on to win various prizes in Unreal development-based competitions. The team consists of Nolan Richert, Arn Richert, and Logan Richert.
This Johannesburg-based gaming company came out of the Wits Game Dev programme. Founders Cukia Kimani, Ben Myres, and Sean Goncalves are often involved in creating titles for Game Jams. It has made great strides with its title Squeeze Me. The company’s fourth member, Judd Simantov, is an ex-Naughty Dog technician who has worked on the likes of Uncharted and The Last of Us. He continues to work for AAA game studios such as Blizzard and Valve.
This studio’s first game, Stasis, is an isometric science fiction horror title. Upon release, it won numerous awards for best music, adventure games, sound design, and more, and was praised internationally by the likes of IGN and Kotaku. Stasis is one of the few games on this list available from Steam, GOG, and the Humble Store.
One of the largest names in SA game development, the company works on outsourced software, such as Jungle Beat: The Game and Scorch Runner, as well as its own hit title A Day in the Woods. The company, founded by brothers Niki and Keith Boshoff, believes in hiring self-taught programmers with exceptional talent.
This startup innovates in the education, museum, and visitor centre spaces. Consisting of a range of interactive, experience, UI, and digital game designers, the company creates interactive experiences for its clients in order to “tell a story”.
In collaboration with RetroEpic Software, Every.Single.Soldier creates simulation strategy war games. To date, the company has released Vietnam ‘65, with Afghanistan ‘11 and CVN 76 Carrier Deck on the way. What makes this startup unique is the calibre of gaming content created by the only employee, Johan Nagel.
Currently one of the indie darlings, this startup’s claim to fame is Broforce, a cooperative side-scrolling platformer shoot-em-up. Upon release, the title received much praise from international publications. The team also supports other local devs by having regular game jams.
Founded by Gareth Fouche, video game System Crash has been on the company’s development table for several years, but has recently received the Greenlight on Steam. It’s a collectable card game based on the likes of Blade Runner and Net Runner.
A big name in the Cape Town 2D film development scene, Sea Monster has also been responsible for a number of games. These titles include mobile game Chemistry Creative Chaos, and property development title Howz-It. Sea Monster has also dabbled in augmented reality projects.
Formed in 2011, this studio specialises in the experimental sector of augmented reality as well as development on digital platforms. Its first title, Soccer Moves, reached the number one spot in 52 countries across a range of charts. The company has also worked on the likes of Split/Second, Disney Universe, and Championship Manager.
What could be considered the grandfather of indie video game development in South Africa, Celestial Games released the popular platformer Toxic Bunny in 1996. The company was also part of publisher Electronic Arts for a time. Since then, it has released numerous other titles, as well as an HD version of Toxic Bunny in 2012.
Run by Steven Tu and Loet Jansen, the company has worked on interesting titles, with their card game Cartel being a Cardboard Edison finalist.
This startup curates games from a global range of titles based on the existing South African primary school curriculum, generated over multiple global game games. It is founded by Regina Luki.