The African gamers community is growing in numbers but the challenges of producing games for the continent are considerable. However, slowly things are beginning to fall into place. This week Russell Southwood talks to Ivorian Sidik Bakayoko, CEO and founder of Paradise Game.
The latest video clip interviews from Smart Monkey TV can be found at the bottom of this e-letter
Q: What's your own background and how did you get into games?
A: I was born and raised in Cote d'Ivoire. I studied Electrical and Computer Engineering in New York (USA) and worked for 10 years+ in the Telecom industry on building mobile solutions in New York and in 27 countries across Africa. I started playing video games when I was 6 years old on a Gameboy, then on consoles then on PC (Commodore 64 and Atari 800) and intensively (on console and PC) while in college.
Q: How did the idea for Paradise Game come about?
A: Someone once said " Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life". At a certain point in my career, I felt the burning desire to create my own company and see my ideas transform into projects then into real products and services. I decided to resign. I knew I wanted to stay in technology but I was looking for something more exciting and something that would allow me to be more creative. Then something struck me. I remembered those lose long hours in my dorm rooms playing games. Voila! That was it, I needed to be in the video game business.
It was going to have to be a video games company, I needed to create a strong and iconic brand that represents our vision and our identity. For me, Africa is a Paradise, so the promised land of gaming is Paradise Game.
Q: What is Paradise Game and what does it do?
A: Paradise Game is the pre-eminent video game and eLearning franchise in West Africa. We believe that video games can be used to "Entertain in order to educate". We envision to create the biggest gaming community in Africa and feed this community with premier eSport and Gaming Festivals, high-end gaming centers, Gaming and eLearning multimedia content.
Our gamers need games so we also took on the "game cluster" role in order to help game developers reach the international scene and produce high standard games.
Q: What are the special things that you have planned for 2018?
A: We recently launched a weekly TV show named Paradise Game Show on RTI, the national TV in Cote d'Ivoire. In this show we showcase the eSport and video events in Africa as well as the African game developers.
In August, we will be at Gamescom and in October at Paris Games Week with a delegation of independent video game developers from Africa (see news item in Other Digital Content and Services below) who would like to show the world what they can do. They will be in an area named "Africa Corner by Paradise Game".
In September, we are opening a 1 000 sq. meter game center in Abidjan and we are launching the second edition of FEJA which is our flagship event that takes place in November in Abidjan. We have qualifiers planned for 10 countries including Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroun and Senegal. We claim it is the "biggest eSport event in Africa" because of the number of countries involved, because of the attendance and because of the number of game tournaments we offer.
Q: How many people have attended previous events?
A: We have had more than 50,000 people that attended our FEJA event (physically and online).
Q: Is there a gamers culture in Cote d'Ivoire and what games are popular?
A: Cote d'Ivoire has an estimated 1 Million people that play games. The hard core gamers play mostly on Consoles (Playstation and XBOX) with FIFA and PES being the most favored games. Versus Fighting games come right after on the top list. Of course games such as Fortnite and PUBG were very popular this year.
The occasional gamers play using mobile phones on games such as Candy Crush. We are also seeing other mobile games emerge like Clash Royale and Clash of Clans.
Q: Who are the games developers and what games have they developed?
In Cote d'Ivoire, a startup named Work'd has developped a gamed called "Point point" which is a very old game that kids used to play using paper. An animation student named Dominik Kacou has developped "Happy run run", inspired by the blockbuster temple run.
Many other individuals and startups across West Africa have joined the developer community and are now trying to get their games out there. Most of those games are mobile games because they are easier to develop and distribute using Google and Apple Stores.
More broadly in francophone Africa, what countries have a gaming culture and where are the main clusters of game developers?
Cameroun and Senegal are big gaming nations in Francophone Africa. Madagascar also comes at a very high level in the list of active gaming community. Each of those countries have seen more and more game studios/developers emerge in the last two years thanks to success of Olivier Madiba in Cameroun, and other developers in Ghana and Nigeria who were able to build great games. Small countries such as Togo and Benin also released a few games and have a very active gamers community.
Q: What are your three favorite African games at the moment?
Aurion by Kiro'o Games (Cameroun)
Kissoro Tribal Game by Masseka Studio (Centrafrique)
Gazkar by Studio Lomay ( Madascagar)