Kukulu: Bridging The Gap In The African Gaming Industry

By  |  September 11, 2018

Kukulu, as you may or may not know signifies a name given to chickens in Ethiopia. Little wonder this Ethiopian startup, named its 3D mobile runner game ‘Kukulu.’ The game originated from Akukulu Alnegam, a traditional sport in Ethiopia.

In a conversation with WeeTracker, Dawit Abraham, Samrawit Demeke, and Henok Teklu, the creators of Kukulu talked about the opportunities in the gaming industry in Africa.

They explained that Africa is pretty underrepresented in the gaming industry. Adding that it is an opportunity for creative heads to develop content, African audience can consume. The team further added that Kukulu is unique in the sense that it’s a premium quality game that has a uniquely African design. This is just the tip of the iceberg compared to what Africa can contribute in terms of Art, design, and creativity.

From L to R: Dawit Abraham, Samrawit Demeke, and Henok Teklu

The gameplay also has unique features that you don’t find commonly in other games of the same genre. Despite being an arcade infinite runner game, it has a storyline that captures and keeps the user immersed in the Kukulu magical world. There are many powerups and gameplay mechanics that you master as you progress in the game.

The gaming startup also added that their audience is Africa, and more and more Africans are proud and encouraged seeing such kind of content from Africa. However, the game is designed to cater to an international audience. Kukulu is a fun, challenging and exciting magical adventure game. The trio claim that currently, the game has over 4,000 downloads on the Android PlayStore, and will be released on iOS store very soon.

While explaining some of the problems Kukulu is solving in the African Startup Scene, Dawit said:

“A beautiful princess and a charming prince protected by their gallant hero on a majestic horse wielding a shiny sword who is about to fight a terrifying monster…”: if you are an African who grew up in Africa, and upon imagining the above scene, you did not picture a single one of the characters resembling yourself, then I’m sorry to say that you’re one of the many victims of the tragic misrepresentation and underrepresentation of Africa.

Throughout the history of humanity, art has held a significant role in communicating the values of a culture and passing on the pride and virtues of society to the next generation.  Up to today’s modern world, Art has kept its influence over the image, branding, and representation of communities. This is one of many reasons why a little African girl could fail to imagine a beautiful African princess; not many artistic depictions exist for her reference.

Gaming is one of the most technologically advanced forms of Art today. It is a collaborative creation that brings together the diverse artistic realms of storytelling, music, visual arts, animation, sports, architecture, photography, videography and many more. In the technological era that we are in, it can also prove to be a powerful channel for representing the identity of those creating it.

Qene Technologies is a startup mobile gaming company based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It successfully launched its first mobile game Kukulu in 2018. Kukulu is a product of more than a year’s struggle in trying to establish an African game brand that can compete internationally and set the stage and expectations for a game conceived, built and published in Africa.

On funding, it was gathered that after building a prototype version of Kukulu, they were getting ready to release it on a small scale and see what happens. It was at this stage that they accidentally stumbled upon Amadou Daffe and Hiruy Amanuel, Co-founders of Gebeya. “Gebeya incubated Kukulu, and we were able to finance the production and many other costs of the game,” said Dawit.

While explaining some of the challenges Kukulu has faced locally and globally, the founders emphasized that at the time when they began to develop Kukulu, the gaming industry was close to non-existent in Ethiopia. It was tough for them to find the talent they were looking for to start a gaming company. They were forced to outsource a significant portion of the modeling to companies outside of Ethiopia. However, after year-long campaigning and scouting, they were able to find exceptionally talented professionals from various sectors of the gaming industry who became part of their team.

The team behind Kukulu, Qene Technologies is currently composed of 15+ professionals specializing on Concept Art, Modelling, Animation, Music Production, Programming, Creative Direction, and Marketing. Qene was founded by 3 Co-Founders: Dawit Abraham, Samrawit Demeke, and Henok Teklu.

According to them, they want Kukulu to be one of the best games in the genre rivaling the current giant competitors with a billion downloads.  They are working on further upgrading the game, making it more beautiful, more fun and enjoyable, adding exciting features, and fine-tuning the various aspects of the game to make it as engaging and pleasing to the players as possible. They also have long-term plans for the brand as well. In addition, they are exploring other exciting ways of bringing the Kukulu world to their audience.

On explaining the greatest achievement of the startup so far, they enthused that they are thrilled to see their business model working in Africa. As an African startup, they had high hopes that their game would be highly adapted in Africa and most of our revenue would actually come from the continent. This has proved to be the case in that they have the majority of their revenue coming in from Africa. And they hope this will continue to be the case as they partner with more distributors in the continent.

While advising African startup founders, Dawit noted: “Start somewhere; wherever you are, just start. If we waited to develop all the skills we needed, we wouldn’t have started. Try to get an incubator to help you accelerate your startup wherever you want it to go. In addition, you need to collaborate. When we started, we were 4, but now we are about 15. You need a team. You have to love what you do. Do what you do because of the value you want to give; revenue shouldn’t be the only thing you should be after. Do it for the love of what you are trying to do.”

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