A gathering for gaming and having fun is gaining lots of millennials attention and fabricating a new type of urban socialization in Enugu state. It is an engagement that every student, geek, game lovers and even the Vice President: H.E Yemi Osinbajo – wants to be part of.
I am here in Enugu State to see why and uncover how a special gathering born out of the need for an innovative way to play local African games with anyone across the world found its way into many young(and a few old) people’s nightlife routine.
Every Thursday night, sometimes every two weeks and sometimes randomly organised depending on the number of attendees wanted, youths gather from the hours of 5 pm to about 11 pm at a location coloured with a mix of indoor and outdoor comfortable sitting areas for a gaming experience of local African games(Ludo and Whot), western board games(chess and scrabble) including console games and getting lost in scary virtual reality verticals. It’s six hours of your night dedicated to gaming with friends and strangers alike called ‘The GameNight’.
The GameNight is as vibrant as it’s youths. Aside from the games, it’s similar to a late-night hangout: The beer, the suya, the boys, the girls, the lights and the music flavoured with Karaoke performances and meeting new people makes it an alternative to clubbing or night parties. “You don’t need to think about it, GameNight is cool” an attendee asserts.
To Attend a GameNight is free. You put down your name at the front door, indicate if you’re a new or an old member then pick and play any game of choice, either for fun or bet against other players. Betting against an opponent can be done with as little as fifty Naira.
Enugu’s youth night out is akin to Lagos or Abuja. Young people go out with friends to places they can sit, have drinks, eat and dance/listen to good music. But it’s a bit different because people do stay up with their bottle of palm wine and Nkwobi unlike Jonny Walker or Ciroc gracing clubs in Lagos or Abuja.
Behind the scene
The GameNight is organised by PlayJoor, an online real-time multiplayer gaming company founded by Nkem Arukwe(CEO) and late. Onyedika Igili in early 2018.
“Everything we do from product development to recruitment is driven by our community.”,Arukwe told 4kreport. “GameNight happened as an extension of the first tests we had of the platform where we invited people to play games and give us feedback,” she said.
Since inception, GameNight has been running for about a year in multiple locations in Enugu State and has seen an increase in partnerships and attendees events after events.
“Playjoor is nothing without the community, people come back because of the gaming community. It’s just propagation.” Arukwe said, “We keep looking for new ways for attendees to have fun, we are growing and hopefully looking to expand to other cities in Nigeria.”
Play means recreational pleasure enjoyed by humans and Joor means ‘please‘ in Yoruba language but commonly used to show aggression or seriousness to act. This is what Nkem Arukwe is taking a bet on, to play aggressively.
PlayJoor is a gaming platform focused on creating an engaging & vibrant community of game lovers. Individuals in this community identify as PlayJoorians.
Through its mobile app(soon) and website, PlayJoor allows real-time interactive and engaging gaming amongst individuals from around the world for fun or cash. its coin system allows gamers to buy virtual coins to stake and compete with each other. if you win, more coins are added to your wallet which can be converted to cash and be transferred to your bank account on your request no matter how little.
As at when this article went live, users are only able to play WHOT and Chess but in the future, Scrabble, Checkers and Ayo would be added to its list of available games.
Building a community around brands is a strategy employed by founders to achieve growth faster and to understand how their products are been used by monitoring community conversations. Even accelerators like Ycombinator advise it’s an important element for success.
The idea of GameNight being an offline community of Playjoor’s online users is totally welcomed by Nkem. “The GameNight helps in awareness and to grow PlayJoor’s users but it goes beyond that,” she said, “Playjoor isn’t just a gaming platform, but a social platform as well.” Imagine playing with someone you’ve never met before for weeks on the platform and finally getting the chance to meet them in person, that’s what GameNight is.
What’s more, before officially launching in 2018, PlayJoor launched into beta at Genesys Ignite ’17 – an annual tech conference and startup pitch competition organised by Genesys Tech Hub in Enugu – where it won $10,000 seed capital alongside House of Uwe and TutorFinder.
The sector’s Play
The gaming or e-sport landscape in Africa is nascent, shows exciting prospect and turning into an industry that will rival traditional games. According to TechCabal, the number of eSports enthusiasts (people who view gaming tournaments at least once a month) worldwide, reached 165 million in 2018, showing a year-on-year growth of +15.2%.
It further explained that the global eSports industry is expected to hit a US$1 billion valuation this year especially with increased interest from investors and revenues from sponsorships and advertising.
For PlayJoor, the team is banking on its commission model by taking a small percentage cut off a player’s earnings, ticket sales at GameNights, events sponsorships and appearances at non-PlayJoor events – to fuel revenue and profitability.
Despite the increase in turn-ups at GameNights, the team has recognised that PlayJoor is heavily challenged by slow internet connectivity, expensive data cost and competition from foreign games like PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds PUBG, an international online game that’s seeing a massive increase in players from Nigeria.
The South-East is being hijacked by an excessive migration of its senior Software engineers. PlayJoor says it’s affected. “We face challenges that startups usually face: limited resources, engineering talent and bad network for online gameplay,” Arukwe said, “All our engineering is currently done inhouse by me mostly but we’re in the process of expanding our team”
Further, except if PlayJoor is targeting a worldwide audience or Nigerian diaspora, it might suffer slow adoption within the country as akin to Gamsole Studios, a mobile game production company based in Lagos that targets foreign customers because Nigerians just weren’t downloading their games even when they are modelled after Nigerian Narratives.
Gamsole’s founder: Abiola Olaniran, said in an interview “We don’t see it making sense for us to design for Nigerians alone. We couldn’t have gotten 9 million downloads in Nigeria alone”.
All Players Play
Gaming is a relatively young sector in Nigeria. As of 2015, the gaming sector is still very small in the country, with only half a dozen young companies creating games. However, in part due to the country’s fast-growing mobile market and its young population, games are rapidly growing in popularity.
Making a wide guess, one in four persons in Nigeria has either Temple Run, Candy Crush or PUBG installed. These games get downloaded millions of times and have a huge active user base for one reason: A mobile-first approach.
A total of 1,600 registred users access PlayJoor via the web and only on Google’s Chrome Browser. These users have access via their phone or computer.
An in house survey carried out by 4kreport with 20 people results that 12 said they prefer a game application, 5 said the platform doesn’t matter and 3 said they don’t play games on their phones. PlayJoor wants to be accessible on every platform, including offline through GameNight events. “Our mobile app is currently in production and will be released soon” Arukwe asserts.
PlayJoor’s future is one I’m certainly positive about because it gets people who attend GameNight to join its platform. A really smart move. It’s building a community around its platform that makes users feel they’re part of something big and to make an impact together and lastly, Enugu and the South-East at large are less expensive to found a startup and affords founders to make mistakes without having huge implications on the company. This affords PlayJoor all the time it needs to iterate before expanding to a larger market like Lagos and the African diaspora.
However, with 1,600 users strong and a team of five with backings from Genesys Tech Hub, it will be interesting to see the direction PlayJoor takes as a social gaming startup shooting for expansion and profitability.
For now, aside from making plans to expand GameNight to Owerri, Imo State, Arukwe and her team are working towards improving PlayJoor to become a better version of itself.
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