Africa’s computer gaming sector is still tiny but it is beginning to grow. Until recently, it has had almost no public profile. This is about to change in West Africa with a new event in Lagos called West African Gaming Expo 2014 (WAGE 2014). Russell Southwood spoke to the man behind the event Adedoyin Ogundoyin last week.
Ogundoyin had been living in England and decided to move back to Nigeria. He was faced with the choice: should I get a job or start something? So he thought to himself, I like to play computer games, why don’t I do an event? The original idea had been to do a FIFA Tournament but FIFA told him they only do a limited number of these events and so weren’t interested. Out of this dead end, WAGE 14 was born. Previously the only event to have taken place was a Game Jam through the International Games Developer Association (IGDA).
The games sector in Nigeria is tiny but part of the problem is knowing who there is out there:”When I started organizing WAGE 14, there were 5 companies I knew of. Now I think it’s more like 10.” As we sat trying to identify them, he told me:”It’s definitely more than we know. Most don’t have enough money to market their games.”
Our mutual list included: Genii Games (in the CCHub incubator); Kuluya Games (in iROKO’s Spark incubator); Gamsole (who got Microsoft for Africa investment); animation company Sporedust; Street CredNG, TTTilapia, Maliyo and Thrivia Studios.
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Thrivia Studios’ Damilola Fagoyinbo told me that it has just finished its first 3D driving game which takes place in Lagos: anyone who has driven in Lagos knows that it is more like a computer game that you might want. The game launches next next month.
Damilola got into computer gaming through his interest in them as a child. He combined this interest with the computer software skills that he learned later:”We wanted to do something different, something that the world would want to play.” The game is available for free and they are hoping to monetize it through a combination of in-app purchases and in-game advertising.
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There are currently no games distributors in Nigeria. Most games get profile by being played in “games houses”, which are places where gamers go to play on X-Boxes for hire. He has identified six of them in Lagos but none of them are on the Internet. There are also trucks that go round to kids parties (“an arcade on 4 wheels”) and you see this a lot in Lekki. It costs N50-100 to play.
The event will take place 20-22 November at the Teslim Balogun Stadium in Surelere, Lagos. Full details on this link: westafricangamingexpo.com/exhibitors/exhibitor-registration. It will be a combination of exhibition and conference and it is the biggest indoor space Ogundoyin could find in Lagos. Tickets go on sale 1 November through the games houses and WAGE 14’s other partners.
His ambition is to start an African Games Association whose work covers every aspect of producing computer games:”If we do it now, the next exhibition will attract more people from the industry.” He has been in touch with some of the big global brands but there’s a “wait-and-see” attitude. If this first one works, they may come on board with the second event. He’s also being talking to angel investors about getting them to speak at the conference and look at the gaming start-ups emerging. He has formed a partnership with online jobs site Jobberman who have been running adverts for people wanting to recruit games developers.
Like many involved in the African gaming industry, he wants to be able to tell African stories:
I want African culture to be projected through gaming. I want there to be tales about an African hero who saved the day.
He compares Shango, the Yoruba god of thunder to Thor and says he would make an excellent computer game character. Better still, it would have global appeal because people would be able to make the comparisons with Thor.
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