Africa's online games sector is slowly picking up momentum with the first pan-continental eSports event taking place in Nairobi in October this year. Russell Southwood spoke to Douglas Ogeto and Nathan Masyuko, Ludique Works about what's planned.
Kenya was selected to run a major event called Africa eSports that will take place at the beginning of October in Nairobi. The organizers are Douglas Ogeto and Nathan Masyuko, Ludique Works.
Back in May 16 players were over 8 days at offline live events (at K1 Klubhouse), playing FIFA 19 and Tekken 7. There were 7 matches per day to get through the 28 matches necessary for the league. Each player played every other player and their total scores was used determine the league tournament winner. It also ran a wild-card event (for members of the public) that saw the winner join the league winners who will take part in the Grand Finals.
"Currently there are 15-19 active countries but by the time the event is held there should be 20 countries. For the Grand Finals, we'll play FIFA 19, Tekken 7 and also include Street Fighter."
The event will take place at K1 Clubhouse from 1-5 October. Days 1-2 will include registration and city tours for competitors from outside Kenya. The competition days will take place 3-5 October, with spectators coming in to engage with players at the venue.
Major Kenyan broadcaster KTN is the media partner and it recorded programmes based on the national qualifying games. It will be showing them in Kenya at 10.30 pm for 30 minutes on Tuesday and there is a 1 hour programme on Saturday:"We're also in talks with JINX and eSports to do the live streaming as well as Hero.live and Loot, both other streaming platforms plus "all the usual suspects": YouTube, Facebook, Twitch and Mixer".
To address bandwidth issues, it has adopted a dual strategy: the games it has chosen can be used offline but it is also hoping that Liquid Telecom will provide the bandwidth required for online multi-player gaming.
"Ghana and Nigeria are leading in terms of involvement but other countries include Zimbabwe, Djibouti, Togo, Algeria and Tanzania. We're also working out a deal with KTN to cover the event in Ocotober".
It has been working with K1 Clubhouse, Parklands Shade Hotel as a venue but says:"If we get more sponsorship, we'll look to bigger venues. We're still looking for sponsors and doing a huge push. We're currently talking with Liquid Telecom and the Ministry of Sports".
So how many do you think will attend the event?:"We're likely to get 2,000 over 3 days but you could see that number go up or down". Their optimism is based on
traction seen for other eSports events in Kenya. Similar eSports events have attracted 2-5,000 people. For example, there was a Pro Services Gaming event organized 2 years ago by NAICON. The East African Gaming Convention took place last year at Two Rivers Mall".
The event is a pathfinder for pan-continental events and the going has not all been smooth:" There are issues around monetization. Sponsors are not adopting the industry as readily as they might. You have to have a venue, the talent and a prize. The industry is young and not understood by marketing directors. We hope to create awareness".
Another obstacle is licence approvals from big publishers:"Licence fees are a bit steep, between US$10-20,000. It becomes a bit difficult to achieve that sort of money. If we don't licence, there's always the fear of getting sued. We're requesting more support from publishers. We need them to lower fees so that we can develop greater income in the future".
There is the same issue with the cost of games:"The more popular the games become, the more games will sell in the future. Lots of Kenyans get games bought internationally. They cost almost two times as much as in Europe or Asia. When Kenyans play online, they play on servers in South Africa or Europe. Africa is not seen as a big spender yet".
However, Kenya is seeing something of a surge in playing. Retail outlets have been seen as doing well and have been expanding including Game Changer, Vivid Gold and Gametronics:"There are also gaming centres where people pay a fee like at a cyber café. They offer playstations, Xboxes and Nintendo Switches".
So how many games developers are there in Kenya?:"That's not easy to say. There are some individuals and groups of 3-4. Then there are tried and tested entities, of which there are ten, including Leti Arts and Internet of Elephants. We are seeing how we can help developers to formalize and commercialize".
Africa Game Developers is also an initiative of Ludique Works. Started in January 2018, it already has over 150 members across 12 countries, including Kenya Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Cameroon, Zambia, and Ghana, spearheading the commercialisation of games developed in Africa.
Together with Liquid Telecom, the community is holding monthly meetings covering development demos, talks, and game showcasing. Games built by members include The Orchard (Kenya), Recce Squad (Kenya), and Kukulu (Ethiopia).
So watch this space for more details... .