African studios make play for world markets: computer game developers in Africa hope to tap into a worldwide appetite for locally created digital content.

Author:Mulligan, Gabriella
Position:Technology - ChopUp

Nigeria's Danfo minibuses are famous for their creative interpretations of traffic laws, weaving through gridlock at breakneck speed. Thanks to a Lagos-based gaming startup, ChopUp, more than half a million people have had a chance to drive one--or at least a simulated version--playing as lead character Kunle in Danfo and its sequel Danfo Reloaded.

ChopUp is one of a growing number of African computer games studios building games brands based on local stories and uniquely local experiences, capitalising on the spread of smartphones and tablets across the continent.

"Africa is rich in culture and stories," says Zubair Abubakar, co-founder of ChopUp. "Games are made from stories."

Consultancy PwC is forecasting significant growth in the gaming industry's major markets. South Africa --the most developed market on the continent--is predicted to grow from $20401 in 2013 to $314m by 2018. Kenya, which is dominated by mobile gaming, could grow from $44m to $103m over the same period.

Nigeria, which has seen an explosion in digital businesses, from film distributors to e-commerce, could grow from $71m in 2013 to $176m by 2018--a compound annual growth rate of 20.1%, PwC says.

While the South African market is still oriented towards international best-selling games, consumers in Nigeria and Kenya are buying into home-grown titles.

These local studios are attracting investors who are hungry to tap into Africa's digital consumer opportunity. ChopUp itself has raised $100,000 in funding from venture capital investors.

Another Nigerian development studio, Gamsole, which focuses on producing mobile games for Windows-phone devices, received seed funding from accelerator 88mph and follow-on funding and mentorship from Microsoft's "4Afrika" initiative.

In Cameroon, Kiro'o Games has raised $142,000 by selling 180 shares--even though it has yet to release a game.

Guillaume Olivier Madiba and his team have created the first gaming studio in the country, and their debut title, Aurion: Legacy of the Kori-Odan--is still in development. Based on local legends, the game is unusual in that it is being built for PCs, rather than mobile devices.

Mobile first

Africa's digital revolution has, largely, been tied to the spread of cellphones.

Fixed-line internet connections represent a small fraction of the total penetration of the internet, for example, and most users' principal interaction with data comes through a handset.

According to the McKinsey Global Institute...

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