×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Struggles of South African Indie Game Development

Breaking into the game industry is a daunting endeavor. Often times independent solo developers feel isolated from everyone else and their perception of how things work is easily shaped by public discourse and their own expectations.

Breaking into the industry from South Africa is even tougher since you’re an entire continent away from the main hubs of the industry and much of the information gathered from the public isn’t contextualized for people like Ben Myres and Cukia Kimani of Nyamakop.

“When we started making “Semblance,” our goal was to break into the industry. We had assumptions about how to make games based off public perceptions,” Myres said at their panel at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. “Those perceptions were often wrong and we probably wouldn’t be where we are today if we followed them.”

Those assumptions included the idea that Myres and Kimani would be able to build a large fan base, get great preview and review coverage from the press and YouTubers, win awards, get a publisher, and watch the money come flowing in after the launch of their first game.

Kimani and Myres achieved a lot of what they thought they would do. They received preview coverage from major outlets like GamesRadar, IGN, and Rolling Stone, won awards and official selections for shows like PAX, Bitsummit, and SXSW, got a publisher in Good Shepherd, and racked up impressions on social media and steam. Everything pointed to “Semblance” selling well once it launched in July 2018.

“We did not get rich, we have not yet recouped any money from ‘Semblance,'” Myres said. “The writing was on the wall. We saw from research that debut games rarely do well, that’s just how it is currently.”

While Myres and Kimani originally believed they could hit the ground running and release a successful debut game, they quickly learned that their chances were slim. “Nyamakop is not dead though, even though we didn’t get sales,” he added. “We leveraged our development time in a lateral way to continue making games.”

Mryes and Kimani realized they needed to completely change how they viewed the game industry. They created lateral pillars that helped them adjust how they viewed their careers in game development. Those pillars included the idea that they should be

  • Be ready to succeed but prepared to fail.
  • Redefine how they measure success.
  • Have a long term vision.
  • Be visible, reputable
  • Carve a contextual path

Everything the duo did at that point was part of their long term vision. They traveled to shows all over the world, had an active presence on Twitter, made themselves available for interviews, and focused on avoiding issues that other first-time game developers make.

“Semblance” originally started as a University project, but after some encouragement, they continued working on it after graduation.

“We were trying to create a game with no money,” Kimani said. “Much of the advice that was prevalent didn’t apply to game development in South Africa.”

While some South African developed games like “Visceral Clean Up,” “Broforce,” and “Genital Jousting” have seen success, the challenges of developing their’s outweighed the benefits.

South African game developers can’t raise funds via Kickstarter since you need an American bank account, there are few government funding programs since the

“Different way of thinking about success, not purely about sales,” Myres said. “We defined them by making a name for ourselves with our debut title, we’re not trying to make one game we’re trying to make many. That’s why we were able to say “Semblance” was a success.”

“Everything was about long term decisions,” he added. “Making choices today that will help us tomorrow.”

More Gaming

  • Sony Interactive Launches Film, TV Studio

    Sony Interactive Launches Film, TV Studio to Adapt Video Game Projects

    Sony Interactive recently launched PlayStation Productions, a studio tasked with adapting the company’s video game properties into films and television shows, according to The Hollywood Reporter. PlayStation Productions is headed by Asad Qizilbash and overseen by SIE chairman of Worldwide Studios Shawn Layden. It’s reportedly already working on its first slate of projects on the [...]

  • Watch YouTuber Play VR Game 'Apex

    Watch YouTuber Play VR Game 'Apex Construct' on a Football Field

    “Apex Construct” developer Fast Travel Games recently teamed up with YouTube content creator Jugon Virtual to show off the virtual reality adventure game’s motion mechanic on a large football field. Using the standalone Ocululs Quest headset and body motion exclusively to navigate the game world, Virtual covered a total area of 6050m2 while playing, Fast [...]

  • Double Fine's Apocalyptic Rogue-Like 'Rad' Coming

    Double Fine's Apocalyptic Rogue-Like 'Rad' Coming August 20

    Double Fine Productions’ upcoming 3D rogue-like “Rad” is coming to Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and PC on August 20, the developer announced Monday. Set in a post-post apocalyptic world in which humanity has faced the end of the world twice over, players take on the role of a teen protagonist who is forced [...]

  • Players Can Explore 'Outer Wilds' Solar

    Players Can Explore 'Outer Wilds' Solar System This Month

    Open world exploration game “Outer Wilds” is coming out at the end of this month, Annapurna Interactive announced Monday. The final version of the game, which puts players in a repeating 20-minute loop in a time-stuck solar system, is coming on May 30. In “Outer Wilds,” the player is the newest recruit to a space [...]

  • BAFTA Young Game Designers Make Games

    BAFTA Young Game Designers Make Games for Social Change

    The British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) selected 40 entries as finalists in its Young Game Designers (YGD) Competition 2019 on Monday, according to a press release. 53 budding game designers as young as 10 were named as finalists in the annual UK-wide competition, selected by a panel of gaming industry professionals. The [...]

  • Picture Shows: Ryan Sinclair (TOSIN COLE),

    'Doctor Who: Edge of Time' Feature-Length VR Game Coming This September

    “Doctor Who’s” Jodie Whittaker is lending her voice to the upcoming virtual reality game “Doctor Who: The Edge Of Time,” developer Maze Theory and BBC Studios announced on Monday. Coming this September, “Doctor Who: The Edge of Time” is an interactive adventure game inspired by the long-running television series’ 55 year history. In “The Edge [...]

  • Complexity Gaming Opens Its Professional Gamer

    Complexity Gaming Opens Its Professional Gamer HQ

    Long-standing eSports organization Complexity Gaming today opens the doors to The GameStop Performance Center, its new headquarters and first major step toward its vision of “eSports 3.0” – where professional gamers are treated with the same legitimacy as professional athletes. Situated at The Star in Frisco, Complexity’s 11,000-square-foot HQ is steps away from the world [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content