Culled from my book: Understanding the Nigerian Digital Consumer
Mobile Apps and Games – developer experience
I ventured into mobile apps development back in the early days of mobile apps and games in 2012. Google Play and Apple Appstore had just swung into full operations and out of curiosity and my software programming background, I could not resist the lure.
I came up with a few ideas, bounced them off my wife, friends at the office and settled for a few.
Next, I started looking for a good development team to help me put my burning ideas into shiny apps and games. The search led me to rentacoder.com (now freelancer.com). I posted my ideas and within a couple of days I had a few guys propose to develop for me. I quickly settled for an Indian guy, who eventually became a close friend from then on, though we never met physically till date.
We partnered (shared cost and shared products). I provided half the cost of development, while he hired a team to do the development. Then, there were no app developers in Nigeria (I could be 100% certain of this).
I was so enthused with the whole idea of making forex off Google Play and Apple Appstore, this, especially fueled by all the novella stories of how young guys made fortunes on some games or apps drove me to the extent I was practically blinded to all the issues that were going to affect me in the course of this journey. I never thought everything through. Then came the issues, but good enough as it seemed now with hindsight, I was at a point of no return!
Stringent registration and KYC.
Being a Nigerian, or to a large extent, an African, comes with a few challenges. One is documentation. At that point, I had close to no documentation besides by work ID card. I didn’t even have an international passport (just because I had no need for it then, a young man relatively just arrived Lagos and starting a career).
Like I said, I was already too pumped with enthusiasm to let any challenge stop me, so I quickly registered a limited liability company and registered on the app platforms as a business entity rather than an individual. I had to go through the grueling but eye-opening process of company registration, Tax registration, opening a corporate bank account, including a domiciliary account.
The rest of the process went pretty easy but took weeks. I even had a few calls (about 3 times) with Apple and I was quite elated to be dealing with almighty Apple. It was a very cool feeling! Good enough, Apple accepted to transfer my earnings to my local bank, which was a huge sigh of relief. However, from the stories I heard then, Google Play was the cash cow, not so stringent, and where to make the most revenue. So, I was more excited by Google Play than Apple Appstore.
My excitement for Google Play never lasted, I discovered my first shocker quite early. I could not get my earnings from my Google Merchant account (for InApp products) transferred to my local Nigerian banks. Google had a list of supported countries and I remember agonizingly checking that list everyday for months. Hoping for a miracle that never came, as at then. The other stream of income (which I realized later was even the bigger chunk) was from mobile ads. Because the best monetization model then was Freemium – i.e. make the app or game free to download and play, sell InApp products such as power boost, gems, bigger guns etc. while serving ads on the overall game real-estate. If a user purchases any InApp product, the ad serving is stopped.
|Payment remittance is an issue that still persists till date. Most western digital platforms out there are developed and optimized to serve the western market. .|
I resolved to surmount this new challenge by all means – like I said, I was beyond return and I couldn’t see myself failing on this. So, I set out to research and do the leg work as well. I noticed they had the US and UK as top of the list (obviously) and I decided to get bank accounts in any of those countries. I contacted a few friends in the US but no luck, I couldn’t get any help, besides, I wouldn’t have really liked to use someone’s bank account for this, given it’s a long-time business I envisioned would make me very rich. Didn’t want to stress or have issues with anyone.
To cut the story short, I went to different banks in Nigeria, all the ones claiming to have branches abroad, I was rejected at all. The most embarrassing was a first-generation bank that had a “foreign” branch in Osborne estate, I called and went there early in the morning. The lady couldn’t hide his disappointment and disgust for my line of business (I think maybe she considered it fraudulent). I had to explain what coding, mobile apps and games, how much I expect to make, what others are doing, Google Play, Apple Appstore were about. I also think, because apps and games were really new then. She was not nice at all, she told me off, that I should just go, that they only seek clients with up to $50k earnings per month (I’m sure she just made that up to piss me off). But then, given the stories I had heard, I was sure I was going to make a lot more than that. I was aiming for a million dollars actually.
Eventually, after a long search, meanwhile I kept on developing the apps and games, I stumbled on GTBank UK branch (Ajose branch) and that was my saving grace. I rushed there, went through very massive KYC, and strung some funds together to get the GBP5,000 minimum deposit for the saving account and that was it. I had a fresh UK account. Google Play here I come!
Payment remittance is an issue that still persists till date. Most western digital platforms out there are developed and optimized to serve the western market.
My experience as a writer
Below is my experience with trying to sell my first book – Marketing and Sales strategy for Startups
- Uploaded on Shopify account
- I could use my personal domain (https://www.paulonu.com)
- quickly set up and accepted Paystack as a payment gateway which directly connected to my local bank.
- Also, could receive payment in USD.
- No DRM, consumer will download my content completely (complete pdf file). This could be freely shared afterwards.
- There is a subscription fee for the shop (USD 29) monthly for the least package. This becomes difficult to sustain if you are not making sales.
- Podium, Gumroad, Teachable, ThinkFic and more… – they only accept PayPal and Stripe as payment gateways. PayPal for merchants is not allowed in Nigeria and Stripe too doesn’t work down here.
- Amazon Kindle
- I eventually settled for this. They are free to sign up and revenue share on earnings. They also do print copy and deliver. Take off the cost of printing and logistics and share revenue on the balance. Which is perfect for me.
- for my video course. Similar model to Amazon and I was able to register on Payoneer payment gateway which I then used for the remittance.
Worthy of mention also is that these platforms (Google Play, Apple Appstore, Amazon Kindle, Rakuten Kobo, Udemy) are all very congested. Your app, game or book would be ranking sub 2m. meaning discovery would be a major challenge. Also given the cost of advertising is astronomical, especially given the hit on Naira over time resulting in constant devaluation.
For my apps journey, well I could say I made about US$30,000 (AdSense revenue contributing 95%. Ads monetizing is the winning model for most mobile games). I also invested about US$20,000 (cost of development and ads).
|The average lifecycle of mobile apps is quite short, after 6months, then they become high maintenance and low proceed. Consumers usually move on to other new shiny toys.|
Current state of my apps and games – suffice to state here that average lifecycle of mobile apps is quite short, after 6months, then they become high maintenance and low proceed. Consumers usually move on to other new shiny toys. This made me put a break to this line of business since 2015, while I pursue other ventures.
And for context, my games were well crafted and designed, at least to the extent of our technical ability and resources, with good store rating. So, it’s never a quality issue.
|These platforms (Google Play, Apple Appstore, Amazon Kindle, Rakuten Kobo, Udemy) are all very congested. Your app, game or book would be ranking sub 2m. meaning discovery would be a major challenge. Also given the cost of advertising is astronomical, especially given the hit on Naira over time resulting in constant devaluation.|
And decent download and review count/rating (4.4/5) – this means you could have million downloads but not a corresponding revenue. App monetization is a completely different business from development and upload. It entails understanding customer behaviour with your games, targeting the best audience, improving customer journey, optimizing your ads real estate to minimize nuisance, constant aggressive promotions, understating the drop off points etc. as well as loyalty and reward schemes both online (free gems, power boosts, stronger guns for as rewards for positive behaviour) to offline – proper on-ground activation for your mobile apps and games (merchandising items and branding, events and sponsorships etc.).
I would say I understood these clearly then and I tried as much as my shallow-pocket could allow me.
Experience with Nigerian Consumers
I was naïve, for every time I ran Facebook or Google Admob ads, I picked Nigeria as no 1 country to advertise to. This was a wrong move and with hindsight, I could have saved some hard-earned USD. Nigerian consumers play with ads a lot, just like some Asian countries – India, Philippines, Malaysia etc. however, the Click Through Rate (CTR), i.e. clicking on a link and allowing it to load so you can interact with the ad end point (my app or game) was abysmally low for Nigerians. So, I ended up losing money on those ad costs. I am not sure I remember sighting Nigeria as a country on my InApp billing or AdSense billing. This shows that they are poor quality users. Quite unlike US, UK, Canada, where you have less users messing with your ads and a lot more revenue in both InApp and ads.
I stopped developing new games and updating since 2015 – I had a decent run from 2013 to 2015, making a total of £20, 635.91 (Notice the Pound sterling sign, yeah, I was still using my UK bank account. Eventually, almost when I stopped caring and checking, Google enabled Nigeria developers to receive earing to their local Nigerian banks. But then the developer needed to create a new Google account and start a fresh upload. I eventually did this post 2015, though I had slowed down on Games and Apps.
Also note the revenue for the 6-year period is just $2k. Meaning, you needed to hand-hold your Mobile Apps and Games business. Once you stop updating and promotions, the product is gone. Unless you are comfortable making $20 monthly for an average $14k development investment per game or app.
Country breakdown – can anyone spot Nigeria?