"The African audience has become global"

The African audience has become global

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Today in Cape Town, as part of Africa Games Week, a panel discussed and debunked common myths around the games industry on the continent, from the measure of success to what authentic African stories can look like.

The panel was hosted by Deborah Mensah-Bonsu, who leads Supercell’s philanthropic arm, but is also the founder of Games for Good and part of the Playing for the Planet Alliance team.

“We’ve seen rapid transformation and rapid growth”

It featured Masseka Games’ founder Teddy Kossoko (whom we interviewed earlier this year about championing the games industry in Senegal), Maliyo Games’ founder Hugo Obi (who was also part of a Devcom panel who called the wider industry to break down its biases about African games markets in August), and Leti Arts’ CEO Eyram Tawia (among the co-founders of the Pan Africa Gaming Group)

The first talking point revolved around perceptions of success, and what success looks like and means for game developers on the African continent.

Tawia noted that “success is relative” in Africa, highlighting the importance of being impactful before thinking about financial success.

“Focus on impact first and figure out how to be sustainable to keep your impact going before looking at the financial revenues,” he said.

Obi described his changing definition of success as the African continent grows its games industry more and more each year.

“If you asked me this question five years ago, I would have probably said [success is] a five to ten [people] studio, probably doing $25,000 a year in revenue, shipping maybe a game a year. I think the definitions of success are changing and right now it’s anywhere between 30 to 50 people, definitely should have a game a year but of much better quality, and at least $100,000 in revenue a year.

“If you ask me this question next year, I’ll probably say around 50 to 70 [people], revenue of half a million. And if you ask me this question in 2026, I’ll say over $1 million to be considered a success. Anything below that isn’t successful yet. So I think we’ve seen rapid transformation and rapid growth. I would never define success based on investment. I would always base it on recurring revenue.”

Meanwhile, Kossoko reminded attendees that Africa is 54 countries and 1.4 billion people, 60% of which are under the age of 18, representing a huge opportunity now and in the future.

He defined two aspects of success: because of the high rate of unemployment and various challenges across the continent, success is first being able to generate revenue, from the very first dollar, because that’s what keeps you afloat.

“Then, [it’s about] how can you make sure our cultures and histories are spread first in Africa but also around the world,” he continued.

The panel then discussed audiences, with Mensah-Bonsu asking about making games for local African audiences versus making games for a global audience, how studios across the continent try and find that balance, whether they tweak games for specific audiences, and whether they should do it at all.

Kossoko described his focus as “creating African stories” and not adapting content for Western audiences, wishing to give an African perspective and “keep authenticity for Africa but also for the world.”

Tawia explained that, when launching Leti Arts, the team “tried to unlock the black box of Africa” and “tell our own story to our own people.” He described the huge potential that African audiences represent, but also their challenges, including the vast diversity of countries and languages, a high illiteracy rate, infrastructure issues (which we touched upon yesterday as part of our Africa Games Week coverage), and how difficult it can be for African studios to establish themselves and reach that audience with these obstacles.

In the meantime, he highlighted, global companies such as Tencent are also appealing to African audiences and represent a massive competition that is difficult to contend with. He also noted the impact of other industries, namely film with Marvel’s Black Panther as an example.

“Just about three years ago, we started focusing more on games from Africa to the world as our political mission,” he said. “The African audience has become global. So the way you define your audience is through the mission of preserving African culture in the games for anyone to enjoy it.”

Obi looked at the question from a different angle and encouraged developers to think about their audience in a different way.

“You need to understand your resource constraints,” he said. “We want you to build the game for yourself, for people around you. So when you imagine your players, it has to be people that you know – your sister, the people that you go to church with, your school friends, people in your community, your parents.

“And what that means for us is that the games that we create are for people that we know. And I think that’s the baseline to master the parts of getting something in development. Because you know game development is a process that requires a lot of feedback loops. And you need to have really good proximity between you and your primary audience.”

“We have so many stories, so many cultures, and we want to spread it all around the world”

Mensah-Bonsu then discussed myths around what African stories can be, asking: “What does an authentic African story for the modern audience look like? Is it always going to be rooted in mythologies and historical cultural contexts? Or is there a modern African story that can resonate [globally] as well?”

Tawia again noted the huge impact of Afrofuturism as represented in Marvel’s Black Panther, noting: “We first need to preserve our stories in a format people are used to.” He did predict a superhero fatigue among audiences, which could then boost storytellers to be able to show the full scope of what African stories can look like.

“We have a whole spectrum, from telling the actual factual stories from our past, [then] the colonial era and the independence struggles, all the way to the fantasy side. The spectrum is wide and we’re going to touch it from all angles.”

Concluding the panel, Kossoko reiterated his ambitions to tell African stories, describing how games can be a “powerful tool.”

“We don’t use Masseka to build games based on countries, we try to find [experiences] people have in common across the world,” he said. “We have so many stories, so many cultures, and we want to spread it all around the world. In the future, I want people to cosplay our characters.”


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