For many people, gaming is just a hobby, but for Kopano Ntsoane it is how he has managed to turn his pet-project into a business, in what is still a relatively untapped market in South Africa.
Ntsoane is the owner of Modern Gaming, a game development company that is on the brink of launching its first mobile video game, UmAfrica.
Ntsoane grew up in Kwa-Themba, a township in Ekurhuleni.
“I grew up in an entrepreneurial setting. My late father was an entrepreneur running a number of businesses in logistics, property and a vegetable business in the township of Kwa-Thema in Ekurhuleni. I used to help him during school holidays and weekends, but the idea of starting something of my own was never there until I finished high school in 2008”, says Ntsoane.
Venturing into the gaming business was no accident. A lifelong gaming enthusiast and collector, Ntsoane says he knew that he wanted to turn his passion into a business.
At the age of 19, Ntsoane launched Modern Entertainment, a company that would organise gaming events and use educational video games to help teach children in special needs schools in Ekurhuleni.
Modern Gaming was launched in 2013. The company was self-funded, but has recently received a seed grant from Spark International, an international non-profit organisation, offering support to startups in the form of training and funding.
“Modern Gaming develops and customises corporate and social video games for both computer and mobile devices, for companies, social organisations and government departments.
“We do not only develop video games for fun, we create with an aim in mind that people should learn from them. We believe that video games have a lot to contribute to general society as long as the content is value driven”, says Ntsoane.
Ntsoane says they have also partnered and collaborated with companies like digital training institution, Friends of Design, offering work-intergated training to their graduates; multimedia design company Kinghood Media, whose services they use to record voice-overs. They have also done consulting work for the digital toy design house, Trobok.
A game for Africa
With their latest venture, UmAfrica, Ntsoane hopes to fill the gap in the gaming market for a product made for Africans by Africans. Ntsoane says they also wanted to develop a game which would highlight the beauty of the African continent.
UmAfrica which has been in development for the nearly a year is still in beta. The concept of the game is that the player takes on the role of photojournalist on an exploration mission in various parts of the continent including South Africa, Ghana and Zimbabwe, among others.
The player is then scored according to the time they took to complete the mission.
The aim, says Ntsoane is for UmAfrica to gain a footprint across the continent. The game will be available for free to users with revenue coming from advertising, says Ntsoane.
The game will be available both on Android and IOS. The plan is to market it through activations starting with airports throughout South Africa, with plans to roll out similar activations, at a later stage, through the rest of the continent.
The gaming industry
Gaming is estimated to be the largest entertainment industry in the world. In 2015 it was estimated to worth $ 92.7 billion dollars globally.
Nicholas Hall from Interactive Entertainment South Africa (Iesa), a non-profit company which governs the local gaming industry, estimates the consumer market for games in South Africa to be valued at R2.2 billion last year, with local developers such as 24 Bit Games, a Johannesburg-based gaming studio producing content for big names such as Disney.
Ntsoane says while the local gaming market experience some grown in recent years, the industry continues to face challenges, particularly in securing investors and the availability of talent in the country.
“We are faced with the challenge of lack of trust from stakeholders who can partner with a lot of game development companies to complete the puzzle of building a huge industry. As far as production of games is concerned we have a lot of talented game designers in South Africa. But it’s never enough”, says Ntsoane.