Today, mobile gaming has become a dependable source of income for developers and minds behind the modern art. Half a decade ago, games were not an appreciated part of the mobile world as it is today. The first ever mobile game Adventures of Nyagi sold for $9.95 and was 700MBs worth of space.
Considering slow internet speeds emanating from satellite bandwidth, the growth of it was definitely headed for the rocks. Wesley Kirinya the mind behind Adventures of Nyagi later opted to burn the game onto a CD which related better to the market back then.
More than six years later, the scenario is completely different more so in Africa. More game developers have sprung up as much as demand for these games has gone up. People have realized a different way of unwinding which is through their personal devices. Whether waiting in line for services or stuck in traffic, individuals are either reading books or playing games.
Even better, game developers in the tech scene have given originality to these games for the African mind. With better internet penetration and a rapidly growing mobile industry, Africa is slowly joining the global mobile gaming world said to be making million dollars as of now.
Thanks to Intel TwackApp competition, Matatu is now the fastest growing game app in Uganda and beyond. The App is a good example of the developing originality among game developers in Africa. The product has brought back the old days to families and friends in the country by converting once a physical game to an application. Kachwanya.com reached out to Sharon Rwakatungu of Kola Studios the mind behind Matatu gaming app and this is what she had to say;
- How popular is mobile gaming in Uganda?
Mobile gaming is very popular in Uganda, with the extensive and ever increasing use of smartphones among people, mobile game just gets more and more popular by the day. Almost everyone with a smartphone has a game app installed.
- Please take me through an overview of matatu and its developer Kola studios. Why Matatu?
The idea of making Matatu came up with a thought of digitizing a game locally know to the people in Uganda. Matatu is a game very commonly known and a lot of people played the game with their families and actually still do. So Kola Studios decided to solve that problem and make a game an app from the game so people can play with each other anytime and anywhere.
Moving forward we have gone on to build more games that still hold the same concept of being traditional and locally played by different communities and even in different country. Like recently we launched a card game called Last Card which that hails from New Zealand.
- When was the gaming app first incepted and officially launched?
Matatu was incepted June 2011 and then officially launched in the App stores in October 2011
- How did Intel App Thwack impact Matatu?
With our Appthwack win we are now getting a lot more exposure than we were able to have before. We are now reaching wider markets all the way up to the US. So far, we are seeing great results with an increase in downloads and reviews from outside markets.
- How do you make your money?
We developed an in-game advertising platform that works for static brand adverts and promotions. So compelling media is made and becomes part of the game and we also work as a consultancy for people who are making different kinds of apps.
- What is the X-factor of matatu as a gaming company?
The x-factor we have is originality and forward thinking. We started as a developing company when technology hadn’t yet been embraced but we knew people would later embrace it as much as we did. It is with this mentality that we become trend setters tech and gaming.
- How are you coping with pressure from western incubated mobile gaming companies?
Right now there’s not much to cope with. Even with quite a bit of pressure from the already grown market, gamers definitely have something for native and original. In Uganda? There’s currently no mobile gaming company being incubated in Uganda that we know or have heard of. However we heard about them in other countries.
- Any tangible milestones thus far?
Matatu is the most popular game in the country, we managed to launch 4 games last year and 2 of those games were to markets outside Uganda, we made 10,000 dollars revenue from consultancy in the last quarter of 2014.
- Do you think internet reach in Uganda is affecting Matatu?
Yes it does, internet is the main factor needed to even get an app onto your phone so any of the problems concerning internet in Uganda affect us gravely. Other problems facing the internet in the country is cost and slow speeds.
Matatu players need internet to use the online option where they can play with other players in real time. So any internet problems directly affect Matatu at all times.
- While most gaming startups begin well, some fail within a short time. why is it? Any recommendation?
Gaming is a hard business so it is very easy to fail, takes a lot of hard work and perfect product to work. With gaming it is all about the players, people will either love a game or not, there’s no in-between.
If people don’t like your games then it just takes a short time for you to fail but also again it is hard to have a lasting product because many people will download a game, play it for some months and then delete it. It takes a lot to build a game powerful enough to never lose an audience and always have more and more people downloading it.
- What is the company’s strategy to thrive?
Our strategy is to stay ahead of the curve. We are constantly looking out for new things, brainstorming new and fresh ideas and releasing more and more games every year. We are also establishing ourselves as a consultancy for app and software development
- Anything in the pipeline for current & potential audiences?
Yes we are currently working on a logo guessing game that will specifically have Ugandan logos. It will have a fun and interesting theme that we are sure our audiences are going to love.
Speaking to Agatha Gikunda, Software Services Group Lead, Intel East Africa,
“The developer ecosystem in East Africa has grown immensely and mobile gaming applications are extremely popular. At Intel, we are committed to providing developers we with opportunities to help them take their applications to the next level.
Through activities such as the AppThwack challenge held in Uganda, developers were able to test their apps, fixing any issues to ensure their applications are working perfectly.” she continued
“We are very proud of the Kola Studios team who emerged as the winner and are an inspiration to other developers in the country to participate in these initiatives. We definitely look forward to engaging developers across East Africa in such forums and work with them to market their applications not only in this market but globally as well.”