Video game developers are taking advantage of Africa’s booming mobile app market
Two manga-like avatars lock swords against a comic book background, as Alexander Poone explains the different worlds of The Traveler – a video game based on a graphic novel.
The 27-year-old from Johannesburg showcased his creation at the annual African Games Week in Cape Town.
The organizers of the continent’s largest gathering of game developers aim to help the gaming industry meet the demand for African-made content and boost the potential of local talent.
Most of the games on the market come from America, Europe and Japan, but African content is negligible, Poone said.
There’s “a lot of content that’s new that hasn’t been fully explored yet,” said Poone, founder of Dream Shards.
The hybrid event wrapped up last Friday, attracting some 2,500 developers, coders, designers, investors, and publishers, including 600 in person.
Event co-founder Nick Hall said many publishers say they want African-made content.
“One Billion Players”
“There is a huge opportunity. Now it’s . . . the best time to make games or try to get into the games industry because hopefully in the next few years we’re going to see a massive increase in growth,” he said.
Plagued by poverty and infrastructural issues such as unreliable telecommunications and electricity supply, Africa has traditionally lagged far behind other continents when it comes to gambling.
But recent years have seen an extraordinary boom – gamers in sub-Saharan Africa grew to 186 million in 2021 from 77 million in 2015, according to research by gaming analytics firm Newzoo.
Of these 186 million, 63 million are paying for games as the continent embraces digital currencies.
Nine to five percent of the market is mobile, reflecting the continent’s improved internet access and affordable smartphones.
It used to be that many Africans got their virtual fix of computers in internet cafes.
Africa, along with China and India, is expected to top 1 billion gamers, and the continent is home to the industry’s “last untapped consumer audience”, Hall said.
He predicts that Africa could reach one billion users in the next five years.
To capitalize on Africa’s gaming boom, big developers need to work with local content creators, such as streamers or You Tubers, Hall said.
“New El Dorado”
South Africa is by far the largest gambling market on the continent with 40% of its population gambling, followed by Ghana and Nigeria. And many more are to come.
Born in the Central African Republic, Teddy Kossoko founded Masseka Game Studio, which is based in Europe and creates games that tell stories about African cultures and history.
He is very optimistic despite the lack of resources to train young Africans to become professional players.
“For me, the future of this industry, and not just this industry, is in Africa – it’s the new El Dorado,” he said.
“Centuries ago, there was a gold rush in America. Today, I believe that this gold rush is happening here on the African continent, and we (Africans) must be the first “.
Other developers create games not only for fun, but also for social causes.
Jay Shapiro of Usiku Games, a Kenyan-based social impact game company, created Seedballs, which helps restore Kenya’s lost forests in the country’s semi-arid north.
This year, Kenya hopes to have increased its forest cover by 7% to 10%.
Shapiro says the game helps achieve that goal.
“We made a mobile game for them when you fly a plane, and instead of dropping the usual bombs and trying to destroy things, you drop seeds and try to plant trees,” he said. .
At the end of the game, players are congratulated on the number of virtual trees they have planted and asked if they wish to turn them into real trees.
They are invited to donate one Kenyan shilling (just $0.008) per tree virtually planted.
“This is the only example we’ve seen of actual use of the game to plant real trees,” Shapiro said.