Daniel Okalany is the CEO of Kola Studios, a mobile game development company that takes up existing games and puts them on mobile. He spoke to the Independent’s Agnes E Nantaba on the growth prospects of the country’s mobile gaming.
What are the key drivers and elements in your management style?
In most IT companies, there are not so many strings of hierarchies, and much as I am the CEO, I am also a programmer, who prefer to be as transparent as possible. This helps me keep people at the same level. It also makes everyone feel he/she has a level of autonomy, enabling them make not just small decisions but also moderate to big decisions that help to grow the company. I am also a kind of manager who sees how to better the team in order to produce results within the stipulated time frame.
What are the drivers behind Kola Studios?
Being former students of computer engineering and like playing games, we wanted to actualize what we studied in class in the real world. Our audience consists of middle aged people 20- 35 years, and who are the majority using smart phones that supports mobile games applications.
What is your assessment of the mobile gaming industry in the country?
Mobile gaming in Uganda is still at its infancy; worsened with the fact that it depends on smart phones, whose adoption is still very low. We only need to do a lot more in terms of smart phone adoption. The more we adopt smart phones, the more we grow the industry.
How relevant is mobile gaming in Uganda in an environment still characterized with slow and costly internet?
Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) estimates the number of internet users at 12 million, more than half of which, access internet through mobile handsets. This alone makes it relevant to have mobile gaming in Uganda.
With high internet costs, the population seem to be used with it because it has never been cheap at some point.
Also, most of the games are played off line in a way that the user just needs the initial internet to download the game onto a device, and playing done off line.
However, this affects the kind of games we download as Ugandans because we can only go for games that match our internet speeds.
For instance some good games require like a gigabyte to download. In the current internet speed, few or no people would download them. That is why we still look for the simple games that can match our internet speeds.
There are several western incubated mobile gaming companies as well as locally developers that develop more or less the same games. What is your winning strategy amidst such heavy competition?
We set out in a market dealing with people who already know the rules. Our only task was and remains getting them from physical to mobile. We take on existing and popular games and put them on mobile.
While there are some people we can’t reach, our coverage is still big enough as we aim to curve out the whole of Africa, Middle East and Asia.
Your flagship product Matatu hit a milestone 200, 000 downloads recently. What is next in the pipeline?
We solved the problem of letting a great game loved by a lot of people fade away. Matatu is a traditional local game played by so many Ugandans and by getting this application nearer to people means that players can now play as often as they please wherever they are. We preserved a culture.
However, after hitting such a milestone, the next challenge is retention to ensure that you have a good percentage of the 200,000 playing the game weekly. We are planning to add some features that will help in user engagement.
How best can entrepreneurs tackle common business challenges?
What kills many businesses is not competition but rather making a product that is not worthy of being in the market. Others fail to generate their first revenues due to the wrong timing for product development. So, it is imperative that they produce products at the right time and of good quality.
Where do you see mobile gaming in Uganda in the next few years?
For Kola studios, we want to see how best we can make more money from matatu and thereafter replicate the model for all the other games. In the near future, we should have developed all the popular games in Africa. We are doing research for some games in Rwanda and Tanzania and we hope to make them mobile. Mobile gaming is destined to grow as people come up with more entertaining concepts targeting young people.