[Ma3Racer] the missing link to ignite Kenya’s local mobile gaming industry?
It seems that this has been one of those weeks when there is certainly lots happening within Kenya’s technology scene so I have blogged on practically a daily basis. The latest big development which I found out about yesterday is that a start-up mobile gaming business called Planet Rackus has launched a mobile game aptly called “Ma3Racer“.
In Kenyan parlance, a “Ma3” is slang for a “Matatu”. Matatus are the regularly seen, noisy and usually badly driven public service vans seen all over the Kenya. For many Kenyans, a Ma3 or Matatu is their main means of transport to school, to work, and is generally their only way of getting around over short and long distances. One could say that Matatus are indeed a necessary evil that is essential for the public transport system to work in Kenya (we all know how public transport breaks down when Matatus go on strike from time to time!).
Ma3Racer’s game play has you as the player being a “dere” (driver in Kenyan slang) in a Matatu avoiding traffic obstacles by toggling left and right on a busy Nairobi highway whilst trying to collect as many “money bags” as possible. This adds an interesting twist as to you have to quickly differentiate between traffic obstacles and money bags which ultimately determines how far you can go in the game. Ma3Racer gets faster and faster at different game levels and requires ever quicker reflexes to dodge on-coming obstacles whilst picking as many money bags as possible.
Ma3Racer’s gaming simplicity is exactly the reason why casual mobile games such as Rovio’s Angry Birds has been so stupendously successful globally on a myriad of mobile platforms. Everyone “gets it” almost immediately and there is no age limit as to who can play it – thereby making it instantly appealing to anyone and everyone who tries it out. Angry Birds has been consistently one of the top downloads on Apple’s App Store, Google Android Market and lately Nokia’s OVI Store for a good reason – its easy to play, its fun, and well, basically, it works!
From what I can tell, Ma3Racer is possibly the first Kenyan mobile game that is being launched with a serious plan to reach the masses. The team behind the game have been developing it for sometime now and they knew that they had to come up with something unique and yet contextually relevant for Kenyan users. Ma3Racer was launched this week on Nokia’s OVI Store and it works on entry-level Nokia mobile handsets that run Symbian 40 as well as Symbian 60. The main reason that Ma3Racer has been launched on Symbian is that its the mobile operating system with the largest uptake of users in Kenya, giving Ma3Racer the highest potential for success. In my opinion, this is a smart move by Planet Rackus to “fish where the fish are”.
I had a chance to catch up with Joe Njeru who is one of the team members at Planet Rackus on their motivations behind building Ma3Racer and this is what he had to share with me:
MK: Why you did you and the team at Planet Rackus build Ma3Racer?
JN: We got tired of playing games of stories we could not relate to. We’ve got a rich African culture that we can draw on to create our own stories. We leveraged on our experience in digital media and pulled together
various talents and skill sets (writers, art directors, 3D artists, programmers, web developers, designers, flash animators, illustrators & music & video producers).
MK: Why should people download Ma3Racer instead of other mobile games that are out there?
JN: The game is cool, relevant and you can compete against your friends via our high scores table on our website (http://www.ma3racer.com). Plus its FREE!! The game is for everyone. You can play it while you are stuck in Nairobi’s infamous traffic, possibly even in a Ma3! 🙂 You can watch the game trailer on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aJ2ndlpTdqE) to see how easy it is to play. This game is the first of many to come.
MK: In a nutshell, what is the “plot” behind the Ma3Racer game?
JN: Ma3Racer is based on Kenya’s most popular and chaotic mode of public transport, Matatus. Ma3Racer allows players a chance to get behind the wheel and navigate their way around the busy streets of Nairobi.
But things are not as easy as they seem – players have to be extra careful to avoid ramming into a variety of obstacles that randomly appear all whilst trying to beat the clock to get their passengers to their destination safe and sound.
MK: You have said that Ma3Racer is free to download from Nokia’s OVI Store, therefore, how do you plan to monetize the game as you have costs involved to make it?
JN: We plan to make money on the game by selling Ma3Racer branded merchandise such as wallpapers, apparel, and eventually advertising within the game. We are also exploring other avenues to generate income to sustain this initiative.
In concluding, I’m pretty excited to see how well Ma3Racer will perform in the coming months. You can download Ma3Racer from the Nokia OVI Store as below:
Finally, check out the cool Ma3Racer trailer on YouTube below: