Until about a decade ago, there was hardly a Nigerian video
gaming industry to speak of. The country’s gaming public united around Grand
Theft, Call of Duty, and PlayStation Soccer, and rejoiced at the thought of
being part of a global community of fun-lovers.
Today, the actual objects of attention have changed (it’s more ‘The Outer Worlds and ‘Borderlands’), but the local players still feast on foreign content. Nevertheless, there’s been a stirring of the pot around them in the intervening period- the options they can choose from now include a host of local games.
The creative engines behind this slight change are creative companies and startups which began appearing on the scene about the mid 2000s. Emerging from the obscure rooms of daring artists and programmers, this movement has yielded impressive volumes of gaming content, now being consumed by young people in the country and across the world.
According to Newzoo, a global gaming and esports analytics
firm, Nigeria’s video gaming industry generated
up to $180 million in revenues between January and October 2018. Given the
pattern of growth throughout that year, it’s reasonable to think that the
sector may have touched the $200 million mark by December of 2018.
It’s worth treating these figures with a bit of caution; we’re
not sure how the said revenues were generated. Statista, a global survey and
analytics firm, puts the
earnings for the sector at $122 million, much lower than Newzoo’s report
suggests. Nevertheless, it’s certain that the industry has grown significantly
over the past ten years.
A lot of the presently available local content comes from indie game makers, i.e. creators who aren’t attached to any major production outfit. This fact reminds us that space is still in its nascence. Some of the notable startups working to build indigenous games for Nigerians include:
1. Gamsole, founded
in 2012 by Abiola Olaniran. Best known for the Gidi Run Game App.
2. Chopup, also
launched in 2012, by Zubair Abubakar. They reportedly had a user base of about
700,000 as of 2018. Notable games from them include Danfo, Tear Rubber Racing,
and Monkey Post.
3. Maliyo, built
by Hugo Obi, a computer engineer. Maliyo created Aboki Run, a mobile game that
has been downloaded over 50,000 times.
4. Genii Games, which
makes language and culture-themed games for African children. It
was founded by Adebayo Adegbembo.
5. Bison Play, makers of the Mr. Okada game app.
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Nigeria’s gaming population is overwhelmingly young. That’s
good news for creators, who literally have tens of millions of persons to
market their products to. Or so it seems at first sight.
In reality, the enterprise is still in its early days in
these parts. The vast majority of urban-dwelling youth are still opting for
FIFA football games on large screens and Candy Crush on mobile. A giant
indigenous industry worth billions of dollars may be a long way off.
That’s not to say it isn’t a realizable dream. As one analyst has pointed out, it took the global gaming industry 35 years to reach its current $137.9 billion valuations. And with more than half of its 200 million people aged 30 or less and increasing use of the internet, the future does look bright for local game development.