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Games distribution on mobile deal highlights the future growth of key content stream

The recent deal between Nazara Technologies based in Dubai and games publisher Electronic Arts to sell its games portfolio into Africa on mobile puts the spotlight on what will be a growing seam of new content. Russell Southwood spoke to Savio Saldanha, Chief Executive, Middle East and Africa, Nazara Technologies and reviews the progress of some local developers.

Nazara Technologies’ deal for Africa grew out of its existing distribution deal covering the Middle East. The agreement gives Nazara exclusive distribution rights of Electronic Arts games portfolio on mobile to 49 African countries (excluding South Africa). Electronic Arts portfolio has nearly 100 games in it including Need For Speed, The Run and EA SPORTS FIFA 13, which will be made available to consumers on Java and Android platforms through “N Play”, one of Nazara’s mobile gaming platforms.

Distribution of the games will be on a subscription basis varying between US56 cents to US$1.12 a day. Users can then download as many games as they want and play for as long as they want on the day. According to Saldanha:”We want to keep charging as flexible as possible. In the Middle East, we offer the service through Du in UAE and it costs 2 dirham a day, 7 for a week and 24 for a month.” Currently it has had 4 million game downloads in the Middle East.

“Gaming is not currently very big in the region (Africa) so it’s virgin territory. If games are sold on a fremium basis, this will break the barrier. Symbian is where the market is and this kind of service helps the operator make money on data. We can also white label service. I think we could reach up to 50 million game plays.” Globally Nazara had 1.3 billion game plays and 120 million subscribers over the last 32 months.

At the other end of the market are local developers like Nigeria’s Maliyo Games which distributes for free via a Facebook page. Current downloads per game results across a relatively short period may seem modest but they are a sign that local games will establish themselves:

Okada Ride              4,104
Mosquito Smasher    2,000
Kidnapped               1,693
Tribe                       1,600
My Village                1,438
Adanma                   1,300
Aboki                       1,299
Class Fight               1,200
Naija Hoops             1,193
Football Goalie         1,034

Maliyo Games has recently launched the first advergame in Nigeria built around a local brand. Advergames are games used to communicate brand products to consumers using digital media. You can take a play of the game 'Sharp Sule' on Okada Ride is available on Nokia Preview and it plans to roll out on to the Android, iOS and Windows 8 platform in Q1, 2013.

South African games developer Danny Day of QCF Design feels that advergames as an income stream are a bit of a snare and a delusion as they put you on a treadmill creating new games for relatively small returns.

He has worked both ends of the current gamer spectrum in Africa: developing a maths game aimed at Grade 10 schoolgirls for Nokia and producing an internationally successful game called Desktop Dungeons. The latter was launched in a free beta version which got 2 million downloads and it has attracted 10,000 pre-paid orders for the pay-for release.

He reckons that there are 120,000 PC and console games players in South Africa with many more on mobile phones:”Games are not made by local people. The distribution mechanisms don’t allow for local content.” In order to succeed, he has linked up with internationally experienced game talent to break into the international market.
See video clip interview:

Sipho Ngwenya is Technical Lead at Afroes, a Meffys winning games developed focused on education games. It has two main games, Haki and Moraba. The latter is aimed at school children with a view to facilitating discussions about violence against women.

Its main distribution platforms are Get Jar, the Nokia Store and the Android Play Store. It has had 88,000 downloads from Get Jar since 2010. Not all of these downloads have come from Africa:”We’ve had a significant number from South America, South-East Asia and India plus a smaller number from Europe and the USA. It’s noticeable that there are more downloads from developing countries where bandwidth is cheaper. This is all makes us think can we reskin and repurpose for these markets?”
See video clip interview:

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