Many of these new phones, they note, are being offered by Chinese companies eager to enter the African market.
Hugo Obi of Maliyo sees this as a huge opportunity for businesses that want to produce Africa-themed content. He thinks that African gaming will be worth billions of dollars in a few years time. "We want to have a significant share of this market," he adds.
Toward that end, Maliyo has already made Okada Ride available via Ovi, the Nokia app store. He says a Facebook version is planned sometime in the next month. The goal, Obi says, is to eventually have all of Maliyo's titles available as downloadable apps for iOS, Android, Blackberry and Symbian.
For now, the games are free. Obi says Maliyo wants to first raise awareness of its offerings, and then find ways to make money on them. The company is currently thinking of in-app advertising and product placement, along with in-app purchases and power-ups, as the potential money-makers. Maliyo is also looking into doing content-specific deals with Africa's larger cell-phone providers.
Obi notes two big challenges in the future. One is the technical challenge of making it easier for African consumers to pay for their purchases online. The other, he says, is cultural. "Traditionally, Africans don't use credit or debit cards to purchase things on the web, or on mobile devices. So, we need to think about how we're going to give people opportunity to purchase these games, or make in-app purchases."
But he has no doubt that the demand for African games is there, and that a game that works in Nigeria can work in many other places. "There are a lot of cross-cultural values across the continent," says Obi. "There are shared fights, shared visions, and shared experiences." There is also a large African diaspora, he notes, that might be interested in playing a quick game that gives them a taste of home.
"What is exciting about gaming content is that it's universal. You even potentially have a non-African consumer base that might be interested in having an African narrative, an African experience, through games."