Why aren't Nigerian mobile games conquering the app store?


Hey guys! First post here. I can’t believe I’m just finding out about a site for African techies!

Allow me to give a quick intro to myself. My name is Bisong and I’m a mobile video game developer in Canada. I’ve spent the last six months working on a multiplayer game I plan to release exclusively in Nigeria (for starters), but I am not encouraged by what I see from the Top Grossing games on the iOS and Android app stores in Nigeria.

In China, the top five grossing games are locally made Chinese games. Same with Japan. In Nigeria, not a single Nigerian-made game is even close to the top 200. Instead, games like Candy Crush, Clash of Clans, Subway Surfer and Temple Run are dominating our charts.

Why is this the case? I have a few ideas but I’m curious as to what you guys think.

Nigeria’s 1st Official Monthly Mobile Gaming Charts

Here’s someone in that scene @Darmie


Hey @bisong

Interesting question. You might want to read this thread first, for some more context about how “Nigerian apps” fare in general.


Mobile apps generally from Nigeria are not faring well in global markets. As for video games, we are just starting, making a hit game isn’t that simple, but we are learning and growing at the same time. Still a little bit stuck in the learning phase.


@lordbanks Yeah I discovered Gidiapps a few months ago while doing some research on this very same issue. I even uploaded one of my games to their store (Touch Combat). I think its a valiant effort. All they need to do is focus on pushing traffic to their site.

@Darmie I understand that competing globally at this stage is perhaps too much to ask. However, here’s the thing:


These lists are curated from revenue generated specifically from Nigeria. This is good news, because it means there are tons of gamers in Nigeria. It also means that Nigerians are willing to pay for in-app purchases in games regularly. So why would Nigerians choose to spend money on foreign games (continuously) when we have our own? Is it because:

A) They are not aware of our games? (which is what gidiapps is trying to solve)
B) Our apps are not as aesthetically pleasing? (Meaning we need to pay better attention to UX design and art)
C) Our apps do not have good monetization strategies?

B and C are problems that can be solved with more experience and passion for the craft. Option A is the problem I really fear, because even if we make our games the best games on the planet, they will still fail commercially because no one knows about them.

They key is downloads. Once you have a large install base, you can make money from them. I want to know why Nigerians are choosing to download (and spend!) money on Candy Crush instead of Mosquito Smasher.

Where are Nigeria's 92.6 million internet users? What apps do they use? What websites do they visit?

As a side note, I just downloaded a game called Jagun from the app store and as I was checking out the credits, I saw a “Darmie Akinlaja” as one of the programmers. Is that you @Darmie? If so, I have to commend your team at Chopup for the games you’re putting out. They have probably the best artwork I’ve seen out of all the Nigerian games I’ve played. Keep it up!

…Although if you’re not the guy then never mind :stuck_out_tongue:


Lol. Yes it’s me.


Do you think that maybe it is an inferiority complex thing? Like most Africans (or Nigerians) don’t really believe in their own product?


I was on a forum on nairaland the other day and the topic was something like “What Android games are you currently playing”. I didn’t read every post but I skimmed through and what I noticed was nobody mentioned Nigerian developed games. They mentioned games like Nova 3, Modern Combat, Asphalt 8, Candy Crush, etc.

These games are at the top of their class in the industry. When a player goes to the app store to download a game, (s)he is looking for a quality title, not so much a game that was developed by Nigerians. Our local games are not listed in the Top Free/Paid/Grossing/Any other list on the app store so discoverability is extremely low.

Our games are not listed in any of these categories because, well, they don’t really deserve to be. The tech that runs the above mentioned games is cutting edge stuff. I don’t think we quite have the graphics engineers required to build games like that. But what we can’t defeat on the tech side, we can surely fight on the design side.

Unfortunately, our games also lack the kind of depth in game design and/or content that some of the internationally successful “simple” games have managed to achieve. Take a look at Tap Titans. All you do is tap the damn screen. But those guys have intelligently designed a game around that concept that could last for months.

For us to be discovered by Nigerians and the world, we need to offer value. We have unique stories, we have unique art styles (look at Chopup’s games). But we need solid game design. If you’re building a simple game, then you need to have a complex meta-game behind it. That requires a lot of work. We also need polish. Dotting all the i’s and crossing all the T’s is very challenging, but it must be done.

Your players must feel something when playing your game. It’s that feeling that lets them tell their friends how awesome your game is. They will do your marketing for you. They will be proud to play it and even prouder that it’s one of their own that built it. It’s that feeling that keeps them coming back to play everyday. Without that, your game becomes a chore to play, and very ripe for uninstallation.


Totally valid. I kind of missed this thread when it was originally created but it’s a subject I have had a conversation on in the past. Like you said, when we take a look at the games leading the app store, they are not just cutting edge stuff, but also appeal to the general human psyche. We have always loved to drive fast cars, frag the shit out of enemies, and all that stuff. The reward the game play feeds back to the player is important to keep the player glued to their phone.

Most Nigerian games however, (at least looking at them Kuluya and Maliyo) lack depth besides the fact that Nigerian/African characters are involved. No, that’s not how games work. Angry Birds for instance was a totally novel story built around a basic slingshot idea. Anybody could have made a slingshot game, but it took an entire team of writers, artists, designers, and programmers to come up with something compelling. King (the company behind Candy Crush) spent over $110m in R&D in 2013 which is basically finding an answer to the question - What would people want to play? Here, its almost like a team of 1 just runs along with the first idea that comes to mind. It might seem interesting at first, but then ask yourself… would you play your own game over say Temple Run for months and months on end?

In the end, people just need an outlet for relaxation and time wasting. They don’t care that Candy Crush is made by an Irish company, Subway Surfers by a Danish company, or Mama Put by a Nigerian company.


Many Nigerian mobile games published by foreign publishers… You don’t know because they are built for global audience so its culturally agnostic. We don’t have any game publishers in Nigeria and few people in the industry really understand how the gaming industry works. Only person who I know really gets it is Gamesol.


Nigerians don’t do marketing and advertising very well.


Culturally speaking, I argue that we as a people are not aesthetically driven. Look at our boulevards from VI to wuse; sprawling stripes of bricks and monotony. No taste. (Well personally speaking; no taste)

Marketing and promotions are the prime forte of the Americans, look at Hollywood. But on Aesthetics and experience I score the Europeans ontop. From France to Sweden. The Germans bring some level of elegance to play taunting perfection.

As rendering visuals become more and more the domain of workspaces. Our competing graphic, quality of visuals will continue to get better.

But where the distinct separation will remain is in the experience. This touches on the gameplay realism and the emotional connection. Some of the strategy games about growing your ‘domain’ from scratch share similar gameplays. But some are about war time domination, others about growing your farm business. Some are set in Medieval Europe, others futuristic. The different concepts appealing to different crowds - hence the emotional connection (not sure if the phrase correctly describes it)

Futuristic strategy games for Starwars lovers, Grow-your-farm strategy games for Texan loving Americans, Aussies etc…the targeting goes on.

Our local advantage lies in the cultural difference.

Our local devs don’t try hard enough in making cultural connections with their audience. Clothing a computer character in Agbada does not make him Nigerian. The local voice-over is a pretty catch but not enough. I think, they need to actually dig deeper here, that where their advantage lies.

Let me digress a bit, take our Entertainment industry, specifically, the comedy industry (jokes and laughs industry, the Alibaba industry - whichever you want to call it)

Our jokes are of an entirely different make up to stuffs you get glued to on Comedy Central. But our people home and abroad still crave for a Basket mouth, an Alibaba in all their local glory and warts.

I believe if our game devs can truly connect with their audience with their games, not just visually, but deeply culturally, they’d have more patronage.

When I say deeply culturally here’s what I mean.

Imagine a street soccer game designed with dark skinned players, appropriately beat down locations for each game, maybe throw in enough wazobia slang during plays, but everyone’s got skills like Zidane or CR7. I mean it would be a nice attempt. You’d get people to play it but would soon lose interest as against…

A street soccer game set in beatdown locations, from stony streets stretches to under the bridge locations. Where players could actually get injured by the massive stones on the road or the balls deflected by it. Instead of ronaldo skilled players, you’d have very practical skill levels (not so important).

With water fights breaking out inbetween matches.

And occasional rushing of satchet waters in between plays or a player lodging one from his lips while he plays, or waiting for car to pass before match continues. Instead of boots, you’d have characters in slippers and barefoot.

Teams may even forfeit a match if a missed shot breaks someone’s window or car windshield. Funny tirades whenever someone is dribbled badly. Infact the gameplay could be the more you’re driblled the more your wear tears in between your legs perhaps at some point your peckers could lay hanging in-between your legs as the game continues.

Truth to tell, a foreigner may very well get addicted to a socxer game like this. Even when he/she can’t identify with half the gameplay. Just for curiosity.


My humble opinion - sometimes we overthink this “local” thing. Not every time “build things for local”. Sometimes build things of global relevance. Even when you want to do local, make it of global standard. If you build something good enough, it doesn’t matter where or who you are.

By the way, Dong Nguyen (Flappy Bird’s author) lived in Vietnam.


Come on. Kuluya also makes good artwork. And even some UX designs are pretty cool


The topic is like seriously deep. Not that deep though. I think someone pointed something about apps. If the Nigerian Apps are not even the Top Grossing or having the Highest Downloads, why would you want games to be. A lot of people are less interested in games in Nigeria.

Another thing like you said. Most local apps don’t have good UX. The apps you find that do, are not developed by local developers. Its a problem of skill and a host of other stuff i can’t get into now,

I mean you ask yourself, if you were based in Nigeria, would you have been able to finish the very first version of Touch Combat in the timeframe you did?


You are wrong about “a lot of people are less interested in games in Nigeria”. Do you have data to back that claim. Alot of Nigerians play games, they may not play games with Nigerian themes, but play lots of casual games like Temple Run, subway surfer, Candy Crush etc… Nigerians play games during traffic jam or while standing at a bustop, or any single time they are just bored.


true! like me!


@Darmie Do you also have data to back up your own claim? I don’t want to feel like tackling you, but your pushing on my button. When I say “a lot of people are less interested in games in Nigeria”. I mean majority of Nigerians. Majority means more than 50%. Are you trying to tell me that more than 50% of Nigerians are interested in games. If you are, where is your data to back it up?

Cool i like what you said… “Nigerians play games during traffic jam or while standing at a bustop, or any single time they are just bored.” Even that phrase also needs backing up. Is it up to 25% is it more? Where is your data on that. Most Nigerians play games when they are bored. Is that how how it should work? Most people abroad play games because of the replay-ability value. They are excited about the game. They are even looking for spare time to go back and play the game. This does not happen in Nigeria or the population census of it is very low.

I was answering the topic’s title. You instead took my answer as a generalised answer and put the data thing to back it up, which i find very annoying. There was a research taken by a company to show death heat maps in Tomb Raider (the ealier harder versions). Their research showed majority of players deaths were by FALLING. A Tomb Raider fan does not need all that reserach to know what every player of the franchise already knows knows.

So, to at least get something postive out of this. Do the statistics yourself. Ask the first 20 friends(i mean your friend not a stranger) you meet to list the games they play and if they are willing to spend money on those games. If they have phones or tablets, go through the apps time usage on the phone. I think there is something like that. Compare their daily activity and how much game time they spend on it. You could do a weekly or monthly summary if you like. Get the answer yourself. I already know what you are going to find.


Ok, you are right, I don’t have the data. The one I have isn’t exclusive to Nigeria. But instead we focusing on Nigeria, why don’t we build for the global audience. Why do people always expect everything produced in Nigeria must be exclusively consumed by Nigerians?