IMARA ROUND TABLE ON GAMING INDUSTRY IN KENYA
DATE: THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 26th 2019
TIME: 2.00 – 5.00 pm
The fifth edition of the Imara Round Table took place on Thursday September 2019 on the theme Gaming Industry in Kenya. The Round Table focused on current status of the gaming industry,challenges developers face and possible interventions that can support the growth and development of the industry.
There are ‘games of chance’ such as in betting,and ‘games of skill’ such as in E-sports. A distinction between the two type is important because the tendency in the recent past has been to treat them as if they are similar. The Round Table discussed games of skill as part of the cultural and creative industries.
Gaming is the act of playing a game with the chance of winning or risk of losing. It is a form of entertainment and leisure activity but can also serve to sharpen problem solving and critical thinking skills. Games are integral part of all cultures and are ancient forms of human social interaction. They are formalized expressions of play which allow people to go beyond immediate imagination and direct physical activity.
Video Gaming involves interaction with a user interface to generate visual feedback on a two or three dimensional video display device such as a TV screen, virtual reality headset or Computer monitor.
When one downloads or buys a game, one may take for granted the work that goes into the development of those games. Game development involves alot of working hours, a professional team, huge capital, and heavy gaming computers.
In Kenya the Gaming industry has a huge potential. However it lacks a conducive environment for growth. There is also limited understanding of the opportunities it provides among policymakers and the general population.The general association of gaming with gambling leads to negative perceptions about it.
Moreover, many developers have limited financing options and cross-sector collaboration despite the immense value that gaming can bring into other domains of life such as health and education. Although gaming can play an important role in learning complex concepts in the sciences, it is hardly used within the educational system in Kenya.
The stereotype ‘gaming is gambling’ is also affecting the gaming industry in Kenya. The Round Table discussions made a clear distinction between the two. The terms “gaming” and “gambling” mean entirely different things: Gaming is interactivity, skill-based play,and contextual indicators of progression and success. In contrast, gambling is defined by betting and wagering mechanics, predominantly chance-determined outcomes, and monetization features that involve risk and payout to the player.
An example of this misconception of gaming being seen as equal to gambling is reflected in the incident of students caught in Thika playing FIFA game and being accused of gambling. The United States on the other hand celebrates a first grader, six year old Wizard Zora Ball who created full version of a mobile application video game at Philadelphia’s Harambee Institute of Science and Technology Charter School, naming her as the youngest and accomplished gamer in Kenya.
According to TechJurry research, as at 2018, the gaming industry in the United States is a serious business making $63.2 billion. Console gaming revenues inspire optimism too at$38.3 billion for just a year. PC gaming didn’t register much movement, but there’s still some growth to be noted – it reached $33.4 billion in earnings.The gaming revenue is expected to reach $180.1 billion in 2021.
In Africa according to Statista, Egypt was the top gaming market in the region, seeing as it generated$293 million U.S. dollars in a measured period. Morocco ranked third among African countries, with gaming revenue reaching $129 million U.S. dollars that year.
Is Kenya missing out on this untapped wealth? Is the Government and the investors well educated about gaming, and the kind of revenue the country can gain from gaming?
In the future, Kenya is at a risk of losing manpower to other countries who need gamers at high demand, but will it be too late?
1.2 CHALLENGES GAMERS FACEING KENYA
o Insufficient support from the government: Gaming is an expensive venture and as much as there are interested developers, many cannot afford the expensive software, high end gaming computers, spaces, and licenses.
o Insufficient training in game development: Many developers in Kenya have either studied abroad, on the job or off the internet.For a long time there have been no formal training courses on game development.Recently, the Technical University of Kenya and Africa Digital Media Institute which offer computer science and animation are initiating foundation courses in gaming. This will require space, qualified trainers and specialized equipment required for training.
o Taxation: Gamers are apprehensive about being taxed for games that are not generating any revenue. There is need to provide comprehensive data on the gaming industry for planning purposes.
o Low returns: Gamers sell their games for a very low price because of the licenses they are supposed to pay and taxes, so they end up not getting any returns.
1.3 PROPOSED SOLUTIONS
o Educate the Government, possible investors and the public about the revenue we can get from gaming. Kenya has a potential of becoming the greatest revenue generator from gaming in Africa if only developers are given required support.
o Introduce gaming development courses in institutions of learning in Kenya. This will help support new and upcoming game developers in Kenya. Gaming is not a one person job. The task involves a team to develop a game. For Kenya to compete effectively globally in the gaming industry, the education curriculum needs to incorporate coding another necessary courses for gaming as early lower primary.
o Government Support and Line Ministry: Gaming is compared to filming because of the similar production process. Participants proposed that game development can be captured under ICT sector while the e-sports or consumption of games should be considered under Ministry of Sports Culture and Arts.
o Marketing Gaming: Marketing can be an educational tool to the government, public and possible investors. Whether a blog, an e-newsletter, a white paper, or a ‘how-to’video considering internal and external market for the product is vital.This will increase effective awareness about gaming and create credibility for buyers and investors who must believe in the product: whether they want to buy or investing a game.
o Partnerships and collaboration: There is no better approach to solving challenges than the famous saying “two heads are better than one.” Whether creating internal partnerships between colleagues or departments, to larger partnerships between businesses, harnessing the strengths and abilities of others from different corners of your ecosystem is one of the most strategic ways for businesses to scale their innovation and solve complex challenges.Collaboration and strategic partnerships are fundamental to improving business outcomes.
o Shared goals: Any partnership, big or small, will work best when there is a shared goal.Establishing a common purpose sets the foundation and acts as the glue to holding the partnership together
o Data on Gaming Industry is important for the development of the sector. Research on the sector is vital for providing data for planning and investment.