EXCLUSIVE: Interview With Kunle Ogungbamila of Kuluya, Nigerian-Based Casual Gaming Start-up

We recently caught up with the super-creative and uber-talented team behind Kuluya to share their thoughts and experience in the gaming industry, learn more about the inspiration for the gaming start-up’s African themes and titles and understand where the African gaming industry is going from here.

Here’s our interview with ‘Lakunle Ogungbamila (picture above), the business lead at Kuluya. Enjoy!

TL: You’ve got some sick characters and mad themes, I must say. What influences Kuluya’s design and development of its games? Or what do you look for before choosing themes, characters and titles?

Most of our characters are influenced by the environment. They come from themes that pervade the everyday life of the average Nigerian and also Africans at large. We basically just take a commonly known theme, model it into a game, and make it as fun as possible.

TL: Do you think there may be opportunities in games that are niche-focused based on geography, gender or genre?

Yes we would be putting out a lot of niche focused titles. Some of our titles that would be generic across Africa but we would also be looking at developing games around popular themes within specific African geographies. In terms of the demographics, recent data shows that  women now constitute 42% of gamers online. That is huge, so yes, we would have titles that would be tailored for selected demographics which would include women and children

TL: Would Kuluya focus more on developing original themes or would we see local versions of popular games such as FarmVille, CityVille or ChefVille?

At moment, the games we are pushing out would be original themes. The gameplay dynamics might be similar to some games out there but the overall themes would be original. Right now we are not putting out any games like FarmVille, ChefVille or other games of such complexity. The idea is to push out as many simple, fun and easy-to-play games as possible to get a feel for what people want.

TL: Which one of Kuluya games do you think would get more playtime from a huge audience? And which one of them won’t you bet on?

That’s a tough question. You never can tell which of the titles would be most popular. What we try to do is to make the gameplay of each title to be the best possible. On a personal note though, I am addicted to “Agbero”. I can’t seem to be able to get enough of it.

TL: Your games are currently desktop browser-based. Any plans for mobile and social?

Most definitely, mobile is the obvious trajectory for the content. We intend to port our most popular games into mobile in the nearest future. As for social, some of the games we will be putting out will have social components to them.

TL: I see a big opportunity for a percentage of your players to pay for games they see value in on Kuluya. But does advertising need to be integrated into your games to be really successful? And do you think your games would have that high user engagement rate to attract brand advertisers?

If you look at the revenue data for casual games worldwide, a big chunk of the revenue come from in-game advertisement followed by sponsorship. So yes, at the early stages, our revenue will come mainly from adverts (both in-game adverts and game sponsorship). However, we have some alternate revenue streams we are looking at and we would unfold these plans as we progress.

TL: Can you talk about Kuluya’s culture and how it impacts on the games you develop? I mean, is the Kuluya team as crazy as the themes they design and develop?

We have been able to assemble a team of the best graphics animators, illustrators and flash programmers we have around. They’ve come from different industries (Advertising, Video Animation, Software Development and so on) and this impacts on the thought process and activities of “birthing” our games. As for craziness, I won’t vouch for the sanity of the team (just kidding), but they are masters in what they do.

TL: Are you likely to allow games from other developers, thus having Kuluya.com as a platform much like how Apple does with the App Store?

Eventually we would publish games from other African developers, though the model won’t be like Apple’s App Store. However, before we get to that point we need to show them the value in the industry to get them interested.

TL: What do you see the competition doing differently in the African gaming industry that you would love to stay ahead of?

At present the African gaming industry consist mainly of some development companies in South Africa. There games are majorly developed for western consumptions. The themes and gameplay are majorly western. We intend to develop primarily for the African market. The African demographic is majorly being ignored when it comes to games.

TL: So finally, do you feel that the world is ready to play African-themed casual games? If so, how do you think that could impact on the African gaming scene?

I believe the time is now for African-themed games. Games developed with African players as the key focus. From high-end console games to the casual browser games, nobody really develops for Africa or around African experiences. Once we start showing the possibilities and size of the market, I believe developers will show interest. African experiences are unique and I believe we can start talking about them through games.

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