Shola Edu had always liked games. He likes playing them, recommending them, and talking about them. And so it was no surprise that after he graduated from University with a Political Science degree, he pursued a career trying to make games.
In 2009, when Figma was only but a pipe dream, and Twitter accounts with “UI/UX Designer” planted in their bios like flags didn’t exist, Shola Edu and two friends started watching YouTube tutorials. What they sought to learn was how they could make a game, more specifically, a fighting game. Midnights were burnt in cyber-cafes, or anywhere where they could find access to the internet.
“We were not just gamers. We wanted to know more, to know how this content works. We’ll go to a friend’s place that had internet access and watch and download tutorials,” he said in an interview with Technext. “We couldn’t do it because we didn’t have the skillset and we didn’t have the experience for that.”
But there was Game Maker Studio (a platform that allows you to build games without coding) and there was his tenacity.
He started first by learning how to make animations, and produce graphic design work, drawing from a habit he had picked up from a childhood of making sketches when he could. After NYSC, he landed a job at a media company as a graphics designer.
Then he quit, taking on freelance jobs.
Bootstrapping a game studio
In 2013 he got his company registered; “Deluxe Creation Studios” he calls it. a lone ranger in uncharted territory. He was ready to pursue his passion.
In 2014, he made his first game. It wasn’t exactly the fighting game of his dreams. By his own admission, “it was bad.” But it was a feat enough that some newspapers ran profiles on him. He came out of the incident with the experience that he needed to do more.
“It was really difficult to communicate with people, to get things done because most people were not doing that”, he said of his early days working on the game. “But it was fun. It was great.”
By the time he launched Chike: The Sky Raiser in 2017, a mobile game set in Lagos, he had become a household name. It was also his first game on iOS. the previous ones had only been on the Google Play Store.
Shola Edu on running a nimble and profitable studio
Over the years, he had been able to build for himself a lucrative business making animations, TV commercials, and previsualization for all kinds of companies through his Deluxe Creation Studios.
“I was able to use it to survive, to make money and float my passion,” he said.
But the lines were fallen in pleasant places for him. The game-making arm of the company has been profitable for the last three years, bringing him more revenue for the business than the freelance animation production he also offers.
He also has been able to roll out a word game, a fleet of games for children, and chaser games, all optimised for mobile.
Thanks to the boom of the digital marketing industry, he has been able to support his games-making enterprise by opening them up for online ads that dot mobile apps these days. This gives him a sense of stability and steady income.
“Because we are creating our own products, we don’t have to say ‘ooh we’re looking for clients or anything,'” he said. The cash flow is steady and consistent. These days he also works on games for other companies.
As the industry has become more lucrative, more Nigerians have sought to strike while the iron is hot. They go to Deluxe Creation Studios with game ideas and Shola Edu and his team make the games.
Installs of the games from Deluxe Creation Studios have not been bad as well, especially for a company without the marketing budget and manpower. It’s just 6 of them and 2 interns that work on projects for the company.
One of their games has been able to scrape up over 200,000 installs.
“We are looking for ways to increase that and be in the league of people who have over a million installs,” he said.
The numbers are good enough for him to start to move to the next level; start meeting investors, expand the team etc. First, the engagement still needs work. He needs to make a game, the game that will break the camel’s back, the one that Nigerians will not be able to put down. He needs a game that users will not just install on their mobile devices but actively play, on a daily basis.
But this is not 2009 anymore. The Internet is cheaper and faster these days. With it, the Nigerian e-sport industry has been growing.
Shola Edu is very excited about this because it means people can now create their own games tailored to the Nigerian audience and he has users who could test the games before they launch.
After all his years of experience experimenting with different products to see what the market wants, he is now ready to give his fighting game, the reason he came into the space to start with, another chance.
He is currently working on a new fighting game with the team which he plans on making available on X-Box. He also has a spinoff from the Chike game in the works. But this time, in the metaverse. He is calling it Chike: Lost in the Meta and it’s going to be a game about Chike finding his way in the metaverse set in Lagos.
“The future is bright for the Nigerian gaming space,” he said. “It’s a huge industry.”
See below how he did in a little fire question round:
Shola Edu’s top mobile games:
What does he do for fun?
Art and craft: Sculpting and Moulding
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