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For the love of the game

Aug 17 2018 12:00
Glenneis Kriel

Seventeen-year-old game developer Brandon Kynoch is taking the world by storm with his mobile game, Torus. 

The game was downloaded 100 000 times during its first 24 hours on the App Store for Apple devices and was chosen as the Game of the Day in 137 App Stores worldwide, making Kynoch the first South African to achieve such broad coverage on the App Store. 

Kynoch ascribes the game’s success to its focus on enjoyment, rather than income generation. 

“I launched my own game development company, Hard Craft Studios, in 2017 with the release of my first game, Blast: A Tank Game,” he says. 

“My long-term goal is to turn Hard Craft Studios into a triple-A game development studio, so instead of trying to make money,  I am focusing on building the company’s reputation and creating a following of gamers. My games, for this reason, are available as free downloads, with limited in-app advertisements or purchases distracting gamers from gaming fun.”

What makes the 17-year-old Kynoch’s feat even more impressive, is that he is completely self-taught. 

“I always loved playing video games and had a keen interest in technology. So, after my eleventh birthday I decided to build my own game,” he says. 

With no previous programming experience, he turned to the internet for help, learning all about game development from free online resources, YouTube tutorials and online forums. 

As he became more advanced, he started reading research papers and science books to fill his knowledge gaps. 

“The key is to actually build things. I learnt most through experimenting and working on countless small projects,” Kynoch says.

The gaming market

The gaming market is dominated by big names, making it hard for new entrants to break into it, irrespective of the target platform. Gaps, however, still exist in iOS development and publishing on the App Store, since the iOS market only accepts apps of a high standard to ensure that it does not get saturated with mediocre apps, according to Kynoch.  

The South African gaming development industry has been growing steadily over the past few years. 

The value of the video games market doubled from R1.3bn in 2012 to R2.6bn in 2016 and is expected to grow to R5.4bn by 2021, according to Stats SA. 

“There are a few noteworthy small game development studios in South Africa, however the majority are not recognised globally, neither do they enjoy triple-A game development status,” he says. 

The greatest challenge for Kynoch, who is currently in grade 11 at St Stithians College, is to balance game development with school and school work. 

“I only get to work on my games over holidays. Blast was an extremely intricate game, taking me over two years to develop, whereas Torus is a simpler game that only took two weeks to develop,” he says.

He required little start-up capital in developing the games, or starting Hard Graft Studios, as Kynoch is developing everything from scratch. The majority of software he uses is free. 

His biggest cost has been the buying of the relevant licences to publish his game, which amounts to $100 per year. 

Overheads are also low, since he does not have any employees. “I do most of the work myself, but have outsourced some of the audio and sound of the Tank game,” he says.

He has not run any advertising campaigns to date. “All of the downloads have been completely natural and spontaneous. Torus has, however, received a lot of exposure on the App Store after it was chosen as the Game of the Day in 137 countries,” he says.

His plans for the future are to develop more small games such as Torus that are extremely fun to play and easy to develop, and to ultimately grow his studio into a triple-A game development studio based in the United States. He plans to study computer science at MIT or Stanford University after finishing school.

This article originally appeared in the 16 August edition of finweek. Buy and download the magazine here or subscribe to our newsletter here.


technology  |  games
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