MATATU, the local Ugandan Gaming app by Kola Studios celebrates 200,000 downloads on Google play store.

Projection of the Matatu game app on a screen during the first ever “Matatu-thon”. A game challenge for Matatu fans that involved both an online and offline experience.

“200,000 game downloads on Google Play store, 90,000 monthly active users, 45,000 weekly active users , 20,000 daily active users and 600,000 games played per day. Each daily active user spends an average of 27 minutes per day in the game ”

Matatu, a gaming application based on a local Ugandan card game is turning out to be one of the best locally developed games by far. Kola Studios takes classic local game experiences and migrates them to mobile creating socially dynamic games.

The game was born out of an Android Google Developer competition in 2012 where Matatu was one of the local Ugandan entries. Built by two students then, Daniel Okalany and Jasper Zed, the duo did not then know the success that was to follow from their new initiative. Kola Studios is currently a gaming studio supported by Outbox Hub, which is a local technology incubator and coworking space in Kampala, Uganda.

To date, the gaming application boasts of 90,000 monthly active users, 45,000 weekly active users and 20,000 daily active users. Not forgetting to say that up-to 600,000 games are played within the app everyday. 80% of the 200,000 game downloads are by Ugandans.

Daniel Okalany, a co-founder at Kola studios said: “We are so proud to announce that our flagship app Matatu has surpassed 200,000 downloads on the Google Play Store. This makes it one of if not the biggest and most downloaded app developed in Uganda.”

Matatu was released all the way back in June 2011 to 1000 downloads in the first 2 weeks; a time when there were far fewer people who had smartphones and internet. But as internet penetration and mobile phone ownership in Uganda grew over the years, the download figures continued to shoot up.

While most apps disappear without a trace within a few months of conception, Matatu had a rare breakthrough and remained incredibly successful. It has now evolved into an unprecedented phenomenon and statistics note that it’s biggest fans are men and women aged between 25 to 34 years old.

So what exactly has held its appeal?

Matatu delights users

Matatu was developed with simplicity in mind. It is a very easy game to play, leveraging the same offline gaming experience thus making adoption as easy as possible. The team was also able to incorporate on-boarding tips on how first time users could play the game.

Matatu encouraged competition

The game incorporates challenges and rewards the game presents that make it extremely addictive and enabled it stand out from the crowd. Once we had that down we kept everything simple only adding features that would only add value to the user. The team built in the 2 player mode where users could play against each other online, an all time leaderboard and weekly top 10 leaderboard.

Matatu uses rich notifications to retain users

Whenever a player has not played the game for more than 30 days, Matatu automatically sends a “Matatu misses you notification”. This usually drives users to open up the app and play with it thus keeping the daily active users up. However, Matatu uses these sparingly so as not to annoy the users.

Offline opportunities to create experiences

The team has leveraged numerous offline opportunities to push for user adoption. These have ranged from marketing in cinema screens to hosting Matatu nights at various bars and restaurants around town. These offline experiments have increased app downloads thus adoption.

Guests playing Matatu from different devices at the Matatu-thon

Promoting the app with ads

The Matatu team leveraged various online advertising programs to push for app installations. These have ranged from Google Adwords to Facebook app install ads. These have been largely targeted towards the audiences the team believes will push for better user spending with regards to in-game ads.

The Matatu game app on a phone with an advertising theme.

In-App analytics

Matatu has various analytical engines that enable the team better understand how users are engaging with the game. These include the Firebase analytics to Countly. These tools enable the team analyse all users in detail to better understand how to target notifications that push engagements, in-game ads that push for better Return on Investment (ROI), feature improvements among others.

5 years in and Matatu is still going strong, the app hit a milestone of 100,000 downloads in September 2015 and it took less than a year to double these numbers making it to 200,000 in June 2016. It’s raking in about 10,000 new downloads every month and the numbers can only get higher.

The game acquires 100% of its revenue from the Android platform through direct ads with brands. Matatu enables advertisers build brand awareness through impressions from its over 600,000 games played daily. More to that, advertisers are able to build audience from Matatu through its call to action click ads where an advertiser pays for performance.

Locally, there is no doubt that Matatu is better positioned to offer the best Return on Investment (ROI) for local brands within mobile apps. With an average gameplay of up-to 27 Mins per user, it has demonstrated high player engagement and retention.

So unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past couple of years you have probably heard of this game before. More than likely you have spent a fair amount of time playing the addictive card game. But if you haven’t tried it, go ahead and follow this link to the Play Store and join the fun.