Why it is so great to be a game developer in South Africa

Skilled South Africans may be moving overseas in droves, but working in the country can be a great experience.

This is according to Nyamakop cofounders Ben Myres and Cukia “Sugar” Kimani, who said it is great to run a game development studio out of South Africa.

Nyamakop is best known for creating the unique platformer Semblance, which is available on multiple platforms including Steam and Nintendo Switch.

The game has been successful on both platforms, and Myres and Kimani continue to develop new projects from their studio in South Africa.

Myres said that there are advantages and disadvantages of working as a game developer in South Africa, and aspiring developers should consider both before deciding where to set up camp.

Economy and scale

Myres told MyBroadband that the size of the South African gaming community and low number of experienced developers can make it difficult to get regionally applicable and contextual advice.

“To succeed as an independent game developer here in South Africa you really have to meet a lot of international folks, in my opinion,” Myres said.

“That’s because it’s hard to survive off selling only to South African or African consumers – it’s just so hard to reach them.”

Local developers must therefore attend international events to meet publishers, press, and platforms which can help them build an audience.

To build their network sufficiently, Myres and Kimani travelled to 25 cities on 5 continents in 18 months between them, and at one point they visited four continents in four weeks.

“Once you get over these hurdles though, it is very viable to make games in South Africa and sell them online to the world,” Myres said.

“Every country has its own unique challenges for making games, but South Africa’s relative cheapness can be a big boon if you’re getting funded, and having your product purchased in Western currency.”

“Hot right now”

Myres added that meeting game developers from around the world put into perspective how great creating games in South Africa is.

“I look at Poland and its games industry with The Witcher and This War of Mine and see the realistic potential for South Africa to reach that level if we leverage our advantages and overcome our challenges in the right way,” he said.

Kimani also likened the South African game development industry to a star being born.

“It’s small. It’s compact. It’s dense. But it’s hot, very hot right now,” he said.

“You want to be making games in South Africa, because the only place we’re going to go is bigger and brighter.”

He said that marketing is difficult, but once you have a network of contacts and platform representatives, there is nothing stopping you from marketing a game as effectively as someone in the West.

“Geographical distance, once you’ve reached a certain point, isn’t as much of a problem. When you’re breaking in, it definitely is though,” said Myres.

Semblance

Myres said that the successful launch of Semblance was a way for the studio to break into the international games industry.

“We were visible in the West and gained a big network in the industry,” he said.

“We also proved we could ship a good game on multiple platforms, which makes it easier to talk to funders. Going forward we want to leverage that to do something different – something that speaks to where we’re from.”

Semblance is available on Steam for R109 and currently has a user review score of 90%.

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Why it is so great to be a game developer in South Africa