Did you know that the global gaming market is far much larger than that of the movie industry? Perhaps that is the reason why Econet started eyeing gaming after it pulled the plug on its video streaming service. If the trends from other parts of the world are anything to go by, Zimbabwe and Africa as a whole might hold a significant yet untapped gaming market.
You might ask yourself, what the point of intentionally developing games which target African markets is when the rest of the world is right there for the taking. The answer is that when you develop for the common denominator that is the global audience, competition is fiercer and you are far less likely to achieve the virality that has nowadays become one of the primary indicators of success for anything digital. Also, some of the most effective strategies for driving virality require that you have an intimate knowledge of your target audiences.
You don’t need any special skills
Before I scare anyone off, I must point out that you don’t have to be a game or software developer to be able to create and profit from games. Believe it or not, thanks to several tools and platforms, nowadays developing a simple video game can take way less time and effort than that which I spent on this article.
Develop casual games
If you want your game to stand any chance of becoming viral, you must build it in such a way that it is accessible to as many people as possible. In short, you should try sticking to developing casual games. Casual games can be described as those which are meant to have broad appeal. They are targeted at wide, mass-market audiences as opposed to their hardcore counterparts which are usually targeted at more niche ones. Such games tend to have simpler and easier to grasp rules, have shorter sessions and require less skill from the player.
Create social network games
In case you didn’t know, social media networks such as Facebook also happen to be very popular online gaming platforms. Social network games (or just social games) are online games which are played through social media networks. These games are usually casual. They have less violence and are generally less challenging than their console counterparts. Many of these games also take advantage of their being delivered through social networking platforms to increase player engagement and reach more people.
Creating your game
As mentioned before, you don’t need to be a developer to be able to put together a simple game—you will, however, be limited to tweaking and editing the concepts created by other people.
Use an online tool
You can use a platform like Koji which allows users to whip together (or remix) simple games from templates in only a matter of minutes.
Customise white label games
Another option is to purchase the license to a fun white label game, then customise and brand it. White label games are those which are built only once, then individualised and licensed to other parties. You should only do this when you have discovered such a game which you think you can find new ways of promoting and selling to a certain audience.
This last option is only necessary if you have a very specific idea of what your game should look like and also have the budget for the development work. When investing money in getting a new game developed, remember that there are no guarantees that it will succeed so you should only part with funds which you can afford to lose.
Create games around trending topics
With a platform like Koji, you can easily produce a continuous stream of throwaway games without any significant time or monetary investment on your part. This paves way for the creation of games which are short-lived by design. You can therefore make it your business to continuously churn out games which are related to currently trending topics and subjects.
Design for virality
If you want to improve the chances of any of your creations ever going viral, you should design each of them with functionality which encourages sharing. This could be done by directly integrating referral marketing mechanisms into the game. For instance, instead of waiting for the player to refer the game to others, it (the game) can have built-in functionality which causes it to periodically prompt the player to do so.
Sharing information about the game can also be incentivised by awarding the player additional game points or other privileges if they recommend or get others to also sign up. The game can also encourage the player to share his/her scores and achievements through social media. The likelihood of referrals is also increased by making games easier to refer e.g. the use of a “share” button which supports several of the popular social channels.
You will notice that I mostly listed games which have to be played through a browser. This is because these games are the most likely to go viral since they are supported across several platforms and devices as opposed to their native counterparts which you have to build a version for each platform you want to be supported.