Game On is a game development program that was started in 2019 to support game development in Zimbabwe. It started off as a game development accelerator, the first ever in Zimbabwe and through that program it became clear that a lot more foundational work needed to be done in order to effectively support game development in Zimbabwe. Part of the prior work around the project revealed that monetization was a crucial component and part of the infrastructure that has to be made available if this industry is to truly take off. This is especially true for Zimbabwean developers as they do not have access to basic digital payment infrastructure such as PayPal and Skrill. As such this project explored the depth of knowledge and extent to which game developers were leveraging different web monetization models. Building on that, the project sought to improve the adoption of web monetization through a series of workshops and the formation of a local community of interested developers, designers and innovators and lastly, to profile active game developers in the ecosystem and their work.
We began by mapping out the ecosystem in Zimbabwe. This entailed reaching out to the existing developers that we know and, through referral, identifying additional developers. We also reached out to the educational institutions, Coworking Spaces, E-sports clubs and associations as well as companies that have dabbled in game development and "gamification." (This was very rudimentary gamification in things like loyalty programs.)
A big deliverable of this project was a research paper focusing on the adoption of web monetization models in game development. The results of the study showed that out of 23 (100%) game developers a total of 63 games had been successfully developed with only 19 (83%) managing to monetise their games. The results of the study further showed that 4 (21%) of the game developers use retail purchasing, 19 (100%) use digital downloads, subscription, and advertising models, while 11 (58%) used article writing, No game developer highlighted the use of player trading. When it came to web monetisation models 19 (100%) used premium digital downloads, freemium, and digital advertising, while 3 (16%) utilised micro-transactions and loot boxes. Furthermore, web monetisation models were currently not sustainable for most game developers with only 8 (42%) out of the 19 (100%) game developers realising profits
We also reached out to game developers to identify specific topics and areas of interest that we used in the formulation of the workshop series. It was interesting to learn that the bulk of the developers requested content and material on the fundamentals of game development with topics such as "How to successfully launch a mobile game" as well as other technical questions that are tool/platform specific like using Unity and Unreal Engine. We managed to host at least 5 workshops which attracted a total of 50 participants with 25% being females. The workshops were fruitful and they led to further discussions being made on establishing an e-sports association in Zimbabwe which would act as an avenue for professional development amongst the game developers and other key players in game development.
Community building became the core of this project as we had come to terms with both the need for knowledge and resources and the need for the exploration and adoption of web monetization to be a more community led effort as opposed to being prescriptive. This led us to exploring more activities outside of just workshops to engage active developers and designers. As highlighted from the study’s research findings, most game developers seemed to only focus on advertising as a way of generating revenue seeing as most other forms of digital transactions/payments were relatively inaccessible. The fact that Zimbabwe has a dysfunctional local currency operating with multiple formal and informal exchange rates doesn't help the situation.
We also managed to bring the much needed visibility of the game developers through profiling some of the projects that they were working on as well as those that were already complete and publicly accessible.
We managed to utilise the bulk of our comms budget to reach and attract more participants to our workshops as well as to market the research paper. This was key in ensuring that we bring more visibility to the gaming ecosystem and web monetization. The ecosystem mapping that we undertook highlighted the need to involve other organisations and entities with a vested interest in game development.
Apart from the ecosystem map that we are finalizing to draw attention to the game development ecosystem and the conversations and projects implementing web monetization. We are also looking at models for sustaining the community post this project and we believe that a mix of in person activities and virtual activities will work best.