Africa is slowly becoming one of the most important sources of talent for video game development. Some of the leading indie studios call Alkebulan home, investment is continually driving further growth, and exceptionally talented developers are being hired by some of the biggest development companies on the planet.
Surprised? You shouldn’t be. Here’s why Africa is a thriving video game hub, and which development companies you should be keeping an eye on.
Video Games = Insanely Popular in Africa
The uninitiated may wonder why Africa has such stellar development content being churned out on the regular. Part of the reason is this: video games are just insanely popular all over the continent. They have been ever since the days of Atari.
Video games were arguably more popular than they ever were anywhere else. The sales figures just didn’t show it, considering video games were prohibitively expensive. But where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Young gamers in Africa would get together in barbershops and other similar small establishments, where owners would set up a second stream of income. Buying what was often one of the few Nintendos or PlayStations in town, many players would spend all of their free time playing games. There was often little else to do.
Many developers still remember their first forays into gaming in these places. The most popular types of games reflect the type of development we see today:
Sports (football/soccer). The first one that has to be mentioned is football (or soccer, as it’s known in the United States). Games like football manager and FIFA have sucked the equivalent of many lifetimes out of players (not that they’re complaining!).
First-person shooters. The genre-defining Counter-Strike pretty much cemented the first-person shooter’s popularity in Africa. The recipe at its core is pretty simple, but the entertainment value never wavers.
Casino games. Placing a wee wager on a football game or slot machine has long been a favored pastime for many players, with the excitement of winning big driving the casino’s popularity. Of course, if you want to have few risk-free attempts before putting down your own money, you can learn how to claim a free bonus with PlayCasino, and make your gambling time even more enjoyable.
Some of the Best Game Developers on the Market
If you haven’t played the RPG Aurion: The Legacy of the Kori-Odan, I think you know what we’re going to say: play it ASAP. It’s the type of Afro-centric game that we’re used to from Kiro’o Games and offers exactly what’s often missing from big-ticket titles from the major publishers. The game just oozes Africa, with the themes, characters, and storylines propelled by local lore.
The company is the first video game development studio to come out of francophone Africa, which is quite an achievement. We’re just hoping that they’re the first of many.
Based in Nigeria, ChopUp Studio consistently releases games that are just fun to play. They’re not exactly AAA titles like The Last of Us or Red Dead Redemption, but they’re not trying to be.
We particularly like Okada Rider, which features the streets of Lagos, where the player has to battle the infamous gridlocked streets of the city. Ebola Strike Force is also a classic, where the player must fight to save the world from a deadly virus. Although that particular game hits particularly close to home these days…!
This Kenya-based company is one of the reasons the BBC reported that ‘it’s time for Africa’ when it comes to video games. The developers’ flagship release is titled Mzito, a mobile game that’s free to download (both on iOS and Android).
Weza Interactive built the game with an African theme in mind, where the player must save the continent with the assistance of the ancient spirits. The developers wanted to put Africa first, empowering its citizens, giving them something to be proud of, and not having to focus on becoming characters from other far-flung places in the West.
Our final entry in this series is Free Lives, a small studio based in Cape Town, South Africa. This is a definite case of the old ‘last but not least’ adage, as this outfit is responsible for one of our favorite games to come out of Africa: Broforce.
The game is an all-action classic, no-frills, fun, and it just works. First released back in 2014, it’s still going strong. It sold a very respectable 250,000 copies while it was still in the development process (hype!), and catapulted to the 1-million mark soon after its release. If you’ve not played this game, go and download it.
There’s More Where That Came From!
This list has offered just a handful of the incredibly talented companies that Africa has to offer. Digitalmania, operating out of Tunisia, also deserves an honorable mention. And you should also check out Nyamakop, a small studio founded by a couple of college buddies.
There’s a lot of good stuff being released by African companies. So the next time you’re shopping around for a new title, look beyond the same-old EA or Rockstar. It may be time to try something just that is a bit different.