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Deluxe Creation Studios CEO Edu Shola on developing games in Africa, funding and future plans

"Funding is a general challenge and it’s not limited to the game space but it just happens to be more difficult in games, especially here in Africa."
Deluxe Creation Studios CEO Edu Shola on developing games in Africa, funding and future plans
  • Shola shared his insights on developing games in Africa, the growth potential of the region, the funding landscape, and the studio's exciting plans for 2024
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As part of our series profiling game companies in the MENA and African regions, we caught up with Edu Shola, CEO of Deluxe Creation Studios

In our discussion, Shola shared his experiences developing games in Africa, the growth potential of the region, the funding landscape, and the studio's exciting plans for 2024.

Our conversation highlighted not only the dynamic growth and promising future of the African gaming ecosystem but also insights on the challenges facing African game developers. 


PocketGamer.Biz: Could you tell us a bit about Deluxe Creation Studio and what you're up to right now?

Edu Shola: Deluxe Studios is a game development company based in Lagos, Nigeria. We develop games that’s rich in cultural representation with beloved characters and immersive worlds. We are currently working on new titles Rasta Santa, an action packed adventure set in Lagos, and is about an undercover police (CID) who disguises as Santa clause and saves orphans from traffickers. Development is underway for Adventures of Chike: Lost in Meta, a 3D platformer open world adventure which is a sequel to Adventures of Chike: Sky Raider. 

We are also working on Urban Fury, a fighting game we are developing in collaboration with David Kimekwu of Vector Studios. It’s a unique fighting game that's set in Lagos, Nigeria with characters from across Africa. The game is rich with relatable locations, fashion, language, characters and music.

One of our reasons for making this game is to have esports players play locally-made fighting games in Africa's fast growing esport space, as opposed to playing only foreign developed fighting titles. We want to have champions and pros who play African fighting games as well. 

How many staff do you currently employ and where are they based?

We are a small team of eight but we have strategic partners we collaborate with from time to time. From creative, technical, business and community.

Animator and designer Azeez Ogunrinde [centre] with game dev and 3D artist Daniel Nnadi [right]"]

How do you prioritize resources between developing mobile games and your other multimedia projects like animation and video productions?

Oh yes, while Deluxe is a media and interactive entertainment company, we started off as an animation company and asides, rendering animation and video production services. We made in-house projects like short films but the focus shifted to making video games since the release of App Rush in 2014 and one of our best games now is Riders Playground.

We usually do animation projects for clients and business from time to time. We just tend to prioritize games because we have more control, so we develop it, monetize it and publish it. Although the services aspect of Deluxe was what fueled the game development at the early days when the games weren’t generating earnings.

“While most people do 2D stickman I made mine in 3D and rendered it out as sprites so it had a different look to it.”
Edu Shola

What inspired the creation of Stickman titles, and what unique gameplay elements do you believe set them apart from other Stickman games available on the market?

I grew up drawing stickman and I can remember even the most vivid drawings I did that had a lot of stick characters. But before that I remember the day I first saw a stickman drawing up close. I was showing off a drawing of mine to a neighbour then he asked for the pen and drew a stick figure holding a stick ready to fight and he said “This one, like fight” (with his Congolese accent). At that point I just fell in love with the simplicity of the characters and the way it got different ideas rushing through my mind. The coolest part is that they can fit into broad types of imaginative stories.

I didn’t just love drawing them, I watched and read anything 'stickman' from that point. I didn’t do anything on stickman anymore until 2018 when I started noticing fun games around the characters, so I decided to make a different spin to mine. And I think the first thing that sets it apart is the art style. While most people do 2D stickman I made mine in 3D and rendered it out as sprites so it had a different look to it. Also, most of the stickman games we’ve made had stories that players can follow as opposed to just linear and intense action. 

With over 15 games currently available on the app store, what are some of the biggest challenges you've faced in the development process? 

Early on the challenge I faced was working alone for the most part. Also, I didn’t yet have some of the skills I needed, and so I had to learn them, which caused a delay in the development process. And even now that we have more numbers in the team, the level of work we want to produce has gotten bigger as opposed to making small games in the past as we aim for more complete and polished titles. 

How have your games been received internationally outside the African region?

Majority of our installs, I’d say 97% has always been outside Africa thanks to the Google Play Store and Apple App Store, and that really helps with ads earnings.

As one of the key gaming studios in Nigeria, how are you contributing to the local gaming communities? Do you nurture local talent? 

I recognize that there is a talent gap when it comes to game development compared to other parts of the world, so I’ve always believed in nurturing talent even from my YouTube days when I made tutorials on animation, 3D etc. I also make sure they work on real projects while they learn. Four out of the current Deluxe team were trained and guided by me. We’ve had some who had come, got trained and moved on to do their own thing or work with other companies as well. 

“I believe that if studios who are serious about business do proper research and seek information can get some level of funding.”
Edu Shola

Talk to us about the challenges and opportunities you foresee for developers in Africa. And in terms of consumer behavior and market demands, what changes have you observed? 

The major challenge any game developer in Africa is getting players for their games, due to the high number of games being published on the respective app stores. And also the amount of money big game companies spend on ads to rank well in app stores. It’s quite hard for developers with no marketing budget or proper ASO skills to get discovered on the app stores.

We know a typical smartphone user around the world or in Africa doesn’t go to the store to search for “African games” as they'd probably search for a game they’ve heard of and seen its ad. The way we try to solve that problem for our own games is to do proper ASO and run ads when we can, but we've a really limited ad budget.

In terms of funding and support for gaming studios in Africa, what has been your experience navigating the funding landscape?

Funding is a general challenge and it’s not limited to the game space but it just happens to be more difficult in games, especially here in Africa. But I believe that if studios who are serious about business do proper research and seek information can get some level of funding. Studios like Kucheza, Maliyo and Quiva Games have gotten funding through grants or investments. In 2023 Deluxe Studios got €45k after going through the Orange Corners Incubation program after I came first place in the OCIF pitch. 

This happened after I decided I was done bootstrapping after 10+ years and needed funding support, so I started doing research and asking questions. Most times information about funding doesn't really come to you, you've got to make an attempt to research or ask questions. And that's what Oscar Micheals of Africacomicade has made his mission and that of his organization. In 2023 Gamathon gave out grants after the ark pitch to support game studios that participated and it promises to be bigger this year.

What are your plans for 2024? Are there any specific initiatives or projects on the horizon that we should look forward to?

We want to release our games Rasta Santa and Urban Fury and we plan to launch the games on mobile, PC and Xbox consoles. Rasta Santa is a transmedia project so we’ve also made a comic for it, an animated comic and the game development is in the polishing stage. Urban Fury on the other hand, is playable as we’ve tested it at different gaming events like Africacomicade’s Gamathon, GamrX and Lagos Comic Con. 

Naija History by Deluxe teaches Nigeria's past alongside a thrilling gaming experience
Naija History by Deluxe teaches Nigeria's past alongside a thrilling gaming experience

We are using the feedback we got from the players and testers to improve the experience and polish a balanced fighting game experience. Our biggest project is Adventures of Chike: Lost in Meta, also a transmedia project. There's an animated short in the works aside from the 3D open world adventure game we are developing in Unreal Engine.

The game prototype has been made and a teaser has been released as well. However, it's clear Chike will be released post 2024 considering we are refining other small games we’ve developed like Naija History, Naija Chess and Riders Playground.


Want more insights into the MENA games industry? Join us at Pocket Gamer Connects Jordan on November 9th and 10th, 2024 to hear from local leaders and experts about the hottest trends and discover why this region is the fastest growing games market in the world.

And don’t forget to keep up with all of our MENA market coverage right here on PocketGamer.biz for all the latest news and big interviews from the region.