Online games sector for PCs and mobile springs into life in Nigeria – free now, pay-for later

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Outside of South Africa, the games sector in Africa has had almost no profile, which is strange considering that it will almost certainly be one of the key content drivers on mobile handsets. Two Nigerian games developers spoke to Russell Southwood this week about the games they have developed and how they see the business model developing.

Victor Dibia is the founder of that has launched the Gidi Games range and he started his company in January this year. It has taken games everyone has played at some point and localized them, giving them an “African touch.” The games include Puzzlemania, Tic-Tac-Toe, Noughts and Crosses and Wic-Wac-Woe.

Currently they are available on the company’s website and through Google Trader. There is an Android version of the games available and they are working on versions for Windows, Blackberry and a range of feature-phones.

At the moment the games are being offered for free as beta versions because Dibia wants to “test the market and get a lot of feedback, allowing a local market with users to develop and so that we can see what local content works.” This for free phase will last 8-12 months:”We want to build a large user base.”

Currently no marketing has been done so there has been only 70 downloads but they are now starting the marketing phase, with media coverage and social media campaigns.

When the moment comes to go “pay-for”, Dibia see N100-200 (US61 cents-US$1.20) which is the same range as for the SMS services promoted by mobile operators.

Hugo Obi, the founder of Maliyo Games launched in April this year and is aiming squarely at what he calls the “casual games” market:”There are four core local elements: characters, narrative, sound and environment.” There are seven games available on the site: Adanma, Class Fight, Mosquito Squasher, Football Goalie, Okada Ride, Aboki and Kidnapped. Okada Ride is based on the motorcycle taxis that swarm dangerously like angry wasps around Lagos: the character in the game is trying to get a job and has to dodge potholes and traffic. Mosquito Squasher is as simple as the name implies: you take revenge online on Nigeria’s many mosquitos.

The games are free to play online on its web site and are not downloadable. Again the numbers of people playing is in the tens because the games have only been out for two weeks and there’s not yet been a concerted marketing push.

The next stage is to build a mobile pay-for version which it will co-brand and market with the Nokia Ovi store. It is also looking for similar co-branding opportunities with the Samsung and MTN stores.

As Obi told us:”We’ve built seven games in seven weeks so we’ve shown we can do it. This is a big, big opportunity. You’re looking at the 44 million in Nigeria who access the Internet via mobile so it will be an insanely huge opportunity.”

Both companies work out of the Lagos incubator CC Hub which is offering the Nokia/CCHub Growth Academy aimed at accelerating top Nigerian mobile software companies in growing their companies on regional and international levels.

The academy program is the first of its kind business accelerator programme in Africa dedicated to providing intensive continuous hands-on support to help approximately thirty (30) early stage mobile technology start-ups grow into high growth businesses and build world class mobile applications for the Nokia platform regionally and globally.

The first programme of the Growth Academy started on May 10th and will run till end of July 2012, featuring ten (10) companies, which are expected at the end of the three months to have a world class mobile app launch on the Nokia platform with full marketing support by Nokia. They will also have access to funding to scale their business through an investor presentation as the end.

The program comes in three parts; Training, Development and Launch of world class mobile apps for Nokia platform. Selected participants will undergo hands-on, structured and technical training to actualize your ideas.  Futurice, a leading global mobile software house from Finland with expertise in mobile application development and user driven design will have several face to face sessions with the participants in Nigeria and also provide constant online support and mentoring to the participants during the Growth Academy.

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