Mobile drives SA-coded video games

Read time 3min 50sec

Industry projections see mobile proliferation as being a significant video gaming platform for the future, however, it's not without challenges, says Desmond Kurz, gaming and digital manager at MWeb.

"At present, the gaming environment on mobile doesn't provide as rich an experience as on console and PC. With the ever-increasing speed of mobile processing, these platforms might eventually overlap but certainly not in the short term," notes Kurz.

He adds that with literally hundreds of thousands of games available in the respective app stores, the odds are stacked against developers to get their games noticed.

"On the plus side, social media and sites such as the recently launched MWeb GameZone Mobile Gaming site, will help to create interest in locally developed apps, says Kurz. "Unfortunately, the necessity of having to purchase with a credit card on many of the app sites for game or in-game purchases isn't likely to go away any time soon."

In markets like SA, he says, we can purchase iTunes vouchers from many local stores without the need for a credit card. However, Google Play vouchers are not available in this region according to the Google Play site and this is likely to hamper growth in the local market.

"In-game advertising is an option also for monetisation, but it's not without its flaws as many gamers view the implementation of ads as invasive and irritating."

Kurz points to several successful video gaming studios that have started up in SA, such as Celestial Games, which see the mobile platform as being the answer for locally developed content.

"There are some aspects to development and distribution that are challenging. Like not being able to sell on the Android platform from here and requiring a Windows 8 licence for the Microsoft platform and a Mac for iOS. But that's not the real challenge, the real challenge is monetisation," states Celestial Games' Travis Bulford, concurring with Kurz that "credit cards are not a great way to accept payments from the emerging market".

Amanda Presley of Cape Town-based gaming studio Thoopid observes that with one million apps on the iTunes App Store, the biggest challenge is to stand out from the Flappy Birds and Clash of Clan titles that dominate the app store.

"App stores have streamlined the process for individual developers, reducing the cost to publish games or apps to an apps store without requiring an abundance of time," she says. "Registering to access Apple's developer tools is completely free, decreasing the cost to publish games. Apple takes its 30% off of your games-earned revenue and you, the developer, receive the other 70%."

Presley adds that this revenue split generated over $10bn in the iTunes App Store in 2013 making it quite a lucrative space for indie developers.

"The decreased cost to create and publish games on a mobile platform combined with the proliferation of mobile games on smartphones is an ideal breeding ground for smaller indie teams to show off their locally developed content on an international platform," notes Presley.

Duncan Bell from Blazin Aces is of the view that SA has a massive following in mobile devices; noting, however, that the phones used are not of the latest tech.

"This creates a problem to develop cutting-edge games for the largest mobile sector in the country," explains Bells. "Selecting the mobile market was a core decision that was made early on in development for Blazin' Aces. The advantage of targeting mobile is that it can be distributed worldwide through the relevant App Stores, without having to worry too much. This does allow for a much easier entry point into the local market, meaning more exposure to local developers and their products."

According to Kurz, the rising mobile gaming consumer spend suggests that South Africans, in increasing numbers, are turning to their mobile devices for video game entertainment.

"As a last word, I'd like to ask for support locally for the developers we've highlighted and buying their games. South Africa has good game development talent and deserves public support," concludes Kurz.

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