BY VICTOR ADAR
A majority of individuals found themselves working from home and are only required to report to work when necessary thanks to Covid-19 pandemic. This sudden occurrence has seemingly led to a surge on the number of people seeking for ways to make the stay home order possible and fun.
As the masses await this cloud to pass while trying to be safe, companies are going to need a good strategy to stay relevant and at least bounce back easily once things go back to normal.
In response, Kenya’s mobile games company, Usiku Games, has free-rated its fees on mobile app games in a move that is expected to keep people busy. Of course it will encourage self-isolation, and is a sign that some companies know how to treat customers during tough times. The spin stimulated by the corona virus pandemic has led the company to cushion mobile app gamers from the Sh10 that is generally paid to access the games.
The free rate is inspired by closure of schools and offices… and aims at making sure that gamers do what they do best with an expectation that boredom doesn’t creep in during this disaster period. Kenyans will have an alternative to entertaining themselves away from social gatherings and games that require physical engagements.
According to Jay Shapiro, the company’s chief executive, making the games free will allow gamers to enjoy social distance policy that have been endorsed by governments and World Health Organization as a result of the fast spreading Covid-19.
“Usiku Games are making all of our mobile games available for free to the public in Kenya during this Covid-19 outbreak. For one to access these games, one is usually expected buy 1000 digital coins (popular as U-coins), which translate to Sh10. All you need is access to internet and a Smartphone,” says Shapiro, adding that the firm envisages promoting conservation, climate change and culture.
The company is also driving a positive narrative in regard to gaming and has been trending under #GamingForGood. This aims at educating people in general – there is still a generation who lack the exposure and view gamers as those who are “not serious” about life, a group that is best known as “couch potatoes”.
“We have created a safe environment that parents can feel comfortable sharing with their families as all our games are non-violent, and gender inclusive, with local heroes in local environments. We have designed our entire #GamingForGood as a counter-balance to the testosterone driven sports betting industry that is sucking $37 Billion annually out of the continent. Our goal is to create a fun, entertaining alternative that still provides that dopamine hit, while also making a positive change in the world.” says Shapiro.
With more than 350 million connected smartphones already active in Africa, more than in all of the United States, Canada and Mexico combined, phones are the best way to reach today’s youth. This is what has contributed to successes. The Internet has given more and more individuals a lot of satisfaction; you can stream videos, play games online, and even make calls as long as your gadget is connected. But the best part of it is that Usiku Games aims at creating a fan base of 1 million subscribers during this lockdown. Each player usually plays an average of three games per day.
Identifying more with government guidelines of promoting non-violent content that is educative, entertaining and informative, most of the games by the company generally draw from Kenyan culture as well and are in Swahili language that is nationally accepted.
“We know that many families are going to be stuck indoors for a while, with children home from school and offices closed. That will almost certainly lead to boredom and anxiety. Our made-in-Kenya games have all been designed to entertain via our smartphones,” he says.
Currently, Usiku Games runs over four games at every particular moment including Jam Noma – Drive your matatu out of traffic; Okoa Simba – Rescue the lion by matching pairs of animals; Mamma Mboga – Slice the fruits and Vegetables before the fall and Age of Asante – Match the tiles and find your Zen.
On the other hand, the gaming company has introduced a new game dubbed Maasai Mkali – Mario and Luigi’s Maasai cousin. This for fun 2D platformer game pits our Maasai warrior up against the crows, red bulls and witch doctors, as you try to gather as many cattle as you can.
“All of our games are made in Kenya, for Kenya. Every time you play one of our games, you are creating local jobs in the growing Kenyan game-development industry. Not just programmers, we also hire local rappers & songwriters for our soundtracks, character designers and animators, content writers, digital marketers. By doing this our games reflect the local Kenyan culture, with local music, characters and environments,” adds Shapiro.
The company, he says, is opening up employment opportunities to over 20 youths with a majority coming from Kibera and Kangemi slums who include programmers, music artists among others.