The video game industry is huge – worth about $78 billion in 2012 – the size of the movie and music industry combined. Yet almost all games are produced in the developed world. The limitations on producing games in the global south are manifold – technological, education, and financial. So how can game creators in these areas grow?
Even in relatively wealthy South Africa game consoles are years behind industry leaders. Support from game publishers outside their core territories is minimal. On top of that, hurdles to creating games on the current platforms are high: access to the specialized hardware and licenses provided by the console manufacturers are expensive and not given easily.
The most common platform for gaming in Africa and Asia is the mobile phone. In Africa, of the 650 million mobile phones, Nokia Series 40 and BlackBerry 7 are still the dominant platforms. Adam Oxford of htxt.co.za explains that, “Mxit and BiNu are really big social networks geared up for feature phones, with massive followings in South Africa and Nigeria. There are loads of games on both platforms.”
Although there are not many local game makers in the developing world, Africa has a handful scattered in countries such as Nigeria, Uganda, Ghana, Kenya, and South Africa. Nana Kwabena Owusu of Ghana’s Leti Games thinks this shortage of talent is an education problem. “There are good creators, but retraining them to think in terms of game development, merging technical and creative thinking, is tough.” This is not a problem restricted to Africa – the education system in the U.K. has only just been restructured to encourage good programmers, and game design is still mostly learned though experience in studios.
By giving the opportunity of learning how to develop games and programs in Africa, a new market could be tapped. Even though the most common electronics in Africa are outdated in comparison to East Asian, American, and European products, there is still the opportunity for new developers to sell to American markets. Developing games on the Android and iPhone markets is an easy way to insert African developers into a market that has much potential to grow. This increase in developers in Africa could in turn boost the strength and diversity of many African nations’ economies.
– Matthew Jackoski