December 26, 2019

Insights on mobile gaming in West Africa

During the past two years, the video-game industry has grown by 10% per year. Mobile games in particular occupy 50% of the industry share, according to a report from Newzoo Research.

Many advances have been made since the time when everyone was playing Snake on their Nokia phone. Nowadays mobile games have become much more sophisticated with better graphics and better performance than most console games of the past. However, compared to computers and consoles, they still have some limitations, particularly in terms of storage space.

The advent of technologies such as GPS or Bluetooth as well as the progressive adoption of mobile money are making the mobile device an increasingly popular support for  video game developers. Besides the games are the third category of most downloaded app on the blinds.

The rise of mobile games in Africa

60% of the African population is under 25 years old. This youth-dominated population and the rapid growth of smartphones users explain why Africa went from 23 million mobile players in 2014 to 500 million in 2018 (according to a UN report) ...

That is what motivated us to carry out a study in Dakar and Abidjan, during which we spoke to 536 people in total.


A “Human-centered” Research methodology

Before we got started, we had to figure out exactly what to look for, what type of data we needed, etc. Therefore the main objectives of the study were :

  • Understanding the gaming habits in Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire, and also the factors that lead to a better gaming experience

  • Understanding the motivations to play and major frustrations

We first carried out a qualitative phase during which we interviewed 9 young players. These 1 hour interviews allowed us to go deep and learn more about their frustrations and motivations of the players. The information gathered from these user interviews allowed us to group the players into three categories (fictitious personae):

  • The competitor: he likes sports and runner games and prefers games that give him the opportunity to pass levels and play against other opponents. They play on smartphones, PCs and consoles. His favorite games are: Fifa, Temple Run, Asphalt.

  • The “miss game that makes sense”: she likes games that offer intellectual challenges such as puzzles, quizzes, etc. She only plays on smartphones.

  • The “pro gamer” : He spends a lot of time playing games. He uses various medias and plays to different categories of games. Unlike the two previous players, he often spend money on games. 

The co-creation workshops phase followed. They allowed us to meet young players and co-create mini-games with them. This was a step that gave us the opportunity to directly collect feedbacks to take into account during the prototyping phase.

To gather information on a broader scope, we also created a quantitative questionnaire. Using our data collection tool Looka, our community of investigators went to meet 300 players in Dakar and 200 in Abidjan to ask them about their gaming habits.

The challenges

To collect data that does not exist on an understudied subject, you often have to ask questions that have not yet been addressed. Asking the right questions allows you to gather information that is more relevant and at the same time optimize your resources. After several internal brainstorming sessions, we retained 20 questions in the questionnaire. The version of Looka at the time did not allow us to create questionnaires with more than 20 questions.

Once the data was collected and analyzed, although we had found most of what we were looking for, we realized that there were one or two questions that we did not include in the questionnaire and which would have allowed us to go further in the analysis.

Finding a balanced ratio between the amount of men and women interviewed was also a challenge for us. Investigators told us that it was easier to find men who play than women when conducting the surveys. Which is why men take ⅔ of the sample.

The 5 key findings of the study

  • 66% of respondents play at least 3 times a day

The only prerequisites to participate in the study were to be at least 16 years old and to have downloaded at least 1 game. Not only 40% of them have more than 5 games on their phone, but also 66% play at least 3 times a day.

  • The top 3 most played types of games

Sports games come first, then car racing games, followed by adventure games. Although sports games are very popular, they are not the most played games on mobile. In fact, players prefer to play sport games (the most cited being FIFA and PES)on console, which is the most suitable support for these games (higher storage space and higher graphics performance).

  • 80% of players have never heard of “made in africa” games

Only 20% of respondents have heard of games with african content, the most cited “african” games being Lamb ji, Awalé, and Ludo King. More than half of the people who have played these games are dissatisfied with the quality. Which means there is room for improvement.

  • 25% of players have already spent money in a game (in app purchases)

This figure would have been much higher if the mobile money payment was accessible. For it is the ideal means of payment identified by players (71%). The progressive implementation of mobile money in Africa could change the gaming market in Africa.

  • 40% of players find advertisements unacceptable

In a previous study on websites, we found that 35% of users thought that ads could make a website look more “serious”. But in the case of video games opinions are more negative, even if 60% of players can tolerate them if the game is free. So in conclusion, advertisements are to be used with moderation when it comes to mobile games.