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Mobile games made in Kenya

Saturday August 6 2016

Kenyan phone games are not there yet in terms of popularity but with continued local and global consumption, they just might be. GRAPHIC | NATION

Kenyan phone games are not there yet in terms of popularity but with continued local and global consumption, they just might be. GRAPHIC | NATION 

JOSEPHINE MOSONGO
By JOSEPHINE MOSONGO
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Mobile phone games are as entertaining as they are addictive.

Some like Pokemon Go have gone viral, with over 100,000,000 downloads, while others like Candy Crush became a craze. Kenyan phone games are not there yet in terms of popularity but with continued local and global consumption, they just might be.  

Nairobi X, Kuku Sama

Andrew Kaggia is the brains behind this video game launched last year — a first-person shooter game whose main fictional character, Otero, is from the Recce squad. Again, under Black Division Games which he co-founded, they released Kuku Sama, an arcade game where the player controls a flying chicken to avoid forks and grills.

“Nairobi X and Kuku Sama were well received. Nairobi X was even featured at a large gaming event in Europe. People around the world were impressed by what was going on in Africa,” he says.

The two games have had about 750,000 downloads so far.

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With the growing number of Kenyan mobile phone games, Kaggia is embracing the competition rather than shying away from it. “I don’t really believe in competition as such, as there is more than enough room for game developers to flourish,” he says.

Kaggia hopes to release another game by mid next year. Initially, their biggest challenge was distribution but once they sorted that out, things started flowing more easily. They now have a distribution network for their games across Africa.

Kaggia and his team sold Nairobi X on DVD, which generated good revenue.

“There are many ways of generating revenue from games. One just needs to be creative and unconventional. With Google Play, Kenyans can generate revenue by having advertisements displayed in the game,” he says. 

Bungoma Hangman

The game was released on June 25, inspired by the Bungoma man who hang on a helicopter transporting dignitaries to the home of late businessman Jacob Juma.

It created major buzz on social media. Developer Frank Tamre is about to release another game, Boda Boda Madness, which will hopefully generate similar attention.

“Anyone who has used a boda boda knows that ‘madness’ is a common feature on East African roads. We are globalising this experience in a 2D version and hope to make it interesting through the stories that riders have shared,” says Tamre.

The main challenge Tamre has faced is remaining authentic by not cloning any international game. So far he seems to have succeeded.

Bungoma Hangman has over 10,000 downloads. By the end of the year, he hopes to release two more titles.

“We see ourselves catering to the global audience; you cannot release a game and think it will be for Kenyans alone. Gaming is a billion dollar industry.” 

Wings of Fury 3D

Evans Kiragu is the CEO of Mekan Games that created Wings of Fury 3D last year. Earlier, he had developed two games independently, before building his own company (Mekan Games). When it was finally set up, the company needed a game to market it in the industry.

“We had an amazing reception here in Kenya, and an even better one in Nigeria — with over 25,000 downloads.”

When the game was in the final stages of completion, Kiragu sought the help of Kenyan artistes for the audio but no one was willing to help. “We sought free music since we didn’t have any cash. We wanted to put links to their songs or albums, but no one accepted. So we got copyright free music and fans complemented it. When the game became really popular, the same artistes asked us to feature their songs in it,” he recalls.

Kiragu says they are now “at a higher level and are not considering artistes for the next game because they are not begging any more,”

Next week, Mekan Games is releasing Craving Carrots.

The game has a 4.3 star rating on Google Play Store. 

Jumping Obama

The idea for this game originated from American President Barack Obama’s visit to Kenya last year. Gideon Chepkole thought it would be nice to showcase local tourist sites. The game requires a player to guide Obama to beautiful attraction sites like Lake Nakuru to see flamingoes, and the Masai Mara for the wildebeest migration. “The game was slow in getting traction, and it still needs a lot of marketing. I have another game coming up in a few weeks. Like Jumping Obama, it will be free. Google does not allow us to charge people for our games so I have ads to generate revenue,” says Chepkole.

He adds that there isn’t much competition from other developers, but recalls that coding was a challenge he faced while creating the game.

The game has a two star rating. 

Tupa and PinpMyCar

Engineer Evans Samoei has a passion for mobile phone games. In 2012/13, he created Tupa for Android and in 2014 PinpMyCar for iPhone. He was testing out the openGL technology when he got the inspiration to make a real app.

Both games fared averagely, with about 5,492 downloads total. He intends to launch another Android game.

The challenge he faced then was limited technology. “For full satisfaction, cross platform games are better, but at that time technologies like Xamarin were not available, thus limiting us to one platform at a time. The other challenge is juggling between developing a game and dedicating time for college and my day job. Every day you have to choose between them; and developing a game usually loses,” says Samoei. He adds that one does not get enough user acceptance tests done on the game, thus “you could find yourself launching a faulty app,”

The games are not on the Play Store any more since he disabled his developer account.

Competition in the sector is not that stiff, he says, but it is still not a walk in the park.

“The advantage I have is my mathematics knowledge that I acquired in engineering school, which comes in handy during game development.

Samoei says that seeing the success of a game like Pokemon Go inspires him to do better but people should keep in mind that big developers have teams purposefully for research, development and marketing.       

He adds: “Gaming is currently diverse and unpredictable. Users have such high expectations that one simple game cannot satisfy”.

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