Kenya’s University of Games (UOG) was officially launched July 2012 by Blaise and Brian Kinyua, Herbert Mbuthi and Joseph Kariuki. Blaise and Joseph studied together at Africa Nazarene University, Herbert and Joseph grew up together. Brian, while in University, began developing mobile games as a hobby for the then dominant Nokia Symbian platform. With their combined passion, the new group of friends then decided to come together to form University of Games.
The team say they have always had a passion for games ever since they were young. And like most young people, they say their first opportunity in front of a computer was to play a game although most of the games were developed outside the African continent. The team then thought they could create something that people will enjoy and remember for years on end.
TechMoran caught up with them and this is what they told us.
Games are a powerful tool for spreading knowledge. With the soon to be launched laptop project for the class one kids, I assume the content that will be provided is mostly games and gamified applications. Games therefore being our passion, will be our tool to spread knowledge.
Any funding so far?
In May 2012, we received a grant from the then Kenya ICT Board under their Tandaa Local digital Content project. The funding was to cater for a 1 year project in which we were to develop 2 games. We have so far developed 1 game (Election Thief) which we launched on the Google Play Store and we are currently working on the 2nd game. The project will hit the 1 year mark in September.
How many games to date?
Election Thief was our first official game as University of Games. We hope to complete our second game before the end of the year.
What are the challenges of building gaming startups in Kenya?
The biggest hurdle is lack of a game developer community in the country. With time we came to discover that we are not the only gaming startups in Kenya. We have reached out to some of them and others have reached out to us and we hope to create that community where we can exchange ideas and build something great.
Game development is still new in Kenya meaning it is not supported as much like other industries. You cannot just walk into a bank and say you want to borrow a loan to make video games. But the industry is becoming friendlier with the emergence of a number of Venture Capitalists and incubation hubs. You therefore need to at least approach one of these hubs to have a chance in receiving financing and mentorship.
Our 2 year plans are to work on our development skills to meet the international standards of quality. If we expect to receive downloads from app stores such as Google Play, then we have to offer something worth downloading.
Any competition? How unique are you from them?
Our competition is international developers all over the world. We are unique in that we will offer high quality games based on African themes. App stores are currently flooded by games developed by emerging gaming startups all over the world. Therefore, what will make you stand out from all of them is the story in your game. We cannot yet consider other African gaming startups to be competition as yet because we are not quite many. In fact, we will be better off if we work together with them.
Is gaming in Kenya profitable?\If you were to find UOG anywhere else in Africa, where would you choose?
Game development in Kenya is new, so it cannot be measured in terms of profitability. But to put you into perspective, according to DFC intelligence, the game industry was valued at 63 Billion dollars in 2012 and is expected to grow to 78 Billion dollars in 2013. We therefore are focusing on the international market. To say that we will first focus on the Kenyan market then try the international market would be a lie. But we would not choose anywhere else to found UOG. We love our country.