Thief. Bush Meat. Masai. Gbomo Gbomo.
These are just a few of the 65 online games a new African gaming company, Kuluya, has created since its October 2012 debut.
Based in Lagos, Nigeria, and led by Kunle Ogungbamila, Kuluya’s team of graphics animators, illustrators and flash programmers have come up with games developed with African players in mind. Based around African experiences, the games became instantly popular, the company said.
Now Kuluya has announced the launch of an exclusive partnership with Nokia to bring its games onto the Nokia Windows store for Asha and Lumia devices. The first Kuluya game to be released in the Nokia Store is Oga @ The Top.
It is a win-win for both companies. By partnering with Kuluya, Nokia gets to connect with Africa’s online gaming community and Kuluya gets to work with one of the world’s leading mobile communications companies.
Kuluya is a fast-growing company. In May, it announced that it had been valued at $2 million after a seed-investment round, just six months after launch.
Kunle Ogungbamila, head of Kuluya, spoke with AFKInsider about the Nokia deal and much more.
AFK Insider: How did the Nokia partnership come about?
Kunle Ogungbamila: Nokia has always been a potential partner to Kuluya since inception. We never had any agreements before now because we initially focused on browser-based games. As we started developing for mobile devices, we started having discussions with them and they liked the vision we have for mobile game development in Africa.
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AFK Insider: How many games will you release to sell at the Nokia store?
Kunle Ogungbamila: At the moment we are starting with five games. We will be releasing three more titles on the Nokia store before the end of this year.
AFK Insider: What are some of the startup challenges you faced with Kuluya?
Kunle Ogungbamila: The challenges we faced are slightly different from other startups around these parts mainly because of the industry we chose to play in. One of the key challenges was finding the skill set to deliver world class gaming content from Lagos, Nigeria.
Chris Okonkwo, who is a co-founder and creative director of Kuluya was able to put together a team and basically train them from scratch to deliver at the standard that is required.
Another major challenge was how to monetize in an industry that does not fully exist in Africa. We had to rethink how to monetize knowing fully well that “Western-style” monetization strategies for gaming content won’t readily work in Africa.
AFK Insider: What are some of the business obstacles you face?
Kunle Ogungbamila: Apart from the infrastructure problems that plague most African businesses, we also had a difficult time selling our services to corporates.
AFK Insider:: What type of games do Africans desire?
Kunle Ogungbamila: Africans prefer games with themes they can relate to. A good example is in high-end console games. FIFA game franchises are more popular than the call-of-duty franchises. We love football so we naturally gravitate towards football games.
AFK Insider: Which countries have the largest gaming population?
Kunle Ogungbamila: This still boils down to access to the games. At the moment, the African countries we get the most downloads from are Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana and South Africa.
AFK Insider: How large is the African gaming market?
The African gaming market when compared to more developed economies is small. The limitation comes from access to devices that can provide engaging gaming experiences – devices from high-end gaming consoles to smartphones. However, this is changing really fast. With the influx of affordable high-end devices like the Nokia Asha phones, Lumia phones and Android devices, the gaming market in Africa is growing rapidly.
AFK Insider: Who are you main competitors in the African gaming market?
Kunle Ogungbamila: There are a very few studios set up exclusively for game development in Africa. Most enthusiasts just develop games as a hobby. The industry is still in its infancy in Africa so there is no real competition as such. There are a few notable players though, like, Plegde 51 and Maliyo Games in Nigeria, Leti Games in Ghana, University of Games in Kenya and other game development outfits
AFK Insider: How do you stand out from your competition?
Kunle Ogungbamila: We always strive to develop truly African games, from the game’s art form to the sounds and game play. Our games are world class standard but still African.
AFK Insider: What are your goals for the company in 2014?
Kunle Ogungbamila: For 2014 our focus is on our mobile games development. We intend to push out as many quality gaming titles as we can on major mobile app stores. We would also be bringing some of the skill-based competition we run on our online platform to our mobile games. We aspire to be the continent’s leading games developer.
AFK Insider: How did you develop 65 games in such a short period?
Kunle Ogungbamila: We have a team of the most passionate developers, animators and illustrators. We are currently a team of 13. We all share the same passion of creating something truly African that people can be proud of. Once there is a common goal, anything can be achieved.