Entrepreneurs’ experience in the games business in Rwanda

Participants take part in the The Adventure Room, a Kigali live action. Courtesy photos

Three entrepreneurs, Jani Moliis, Tim Bromfield, and Yussouf Ntwali are behind a unique business venture that is fast making waves in Kigali.

The three entrepreneurs jointly own a gaming business called, “The Adventure Room,” which officially opened in March 2018, at The Hut restaurant in Kacyiru.

L-R: Jani Moliis, Tim Bromfield, and Yussouf Ntwali.

The company deals in action escape games where teams of players overcome multiple hurdles.

Business Times’ Joan Mbabazi had a chat with the company’s manager Yussouf Ntwali about the company’s ups, downs and achievements, and insights into running a gaming business.

Tell us more about your company, what do you really do?

The Adventure Room is Kigali’s first and only escape room. The Adventure Room is a live-action escape game, an immersive puzzle-solving experience. Players have 60 minutes to find hidden items and clues to crack puzzles, decipher secret meanings and overcome challenges to open locks and get you out of the room in time.

To succeed one will need to work with their team,

What does one need to take part in the game?

All you need is gather a group of between two to six players, book a session through our website (www.adventureroom.rw).

How much does it cost per game?

A session of 60 minutes costs Rwf 50,000 per group.

How many customers do you have per month?

On average, we have five groups per week. During the festive seasons the bookings can go up to eight to nine groups a week.

What do you offer and how does it work?

We offer a fun and entertaining adventure experience for teams of two to six players.  The team must suspend disbelief and enter into a fictional world for an hour. 

 Before the team enters the room, our host will explain the objective, guidelines and mission of the game.

What motivated you to start this kind of business?

The Adventure Room Kigali was conceived by Jani Moliis in Finland and Tim Bromfield based in UK and me. The two have had a similar experience for several years such rooms elsewhere.

Moliis, one of the founders is also a designer of board games that have become popular all over Europe over the past couple of years. We saw that there was room for more entertainment activities for people to enjoy as a group in Kigali and worked to implement the concept of the escape room.

How many employees do you have?

 So far we are five employees. Three permanent and two part-time.

What have you achieved from this business?

We have hosted more than 200 games and over 500 people have played the room in Kigali. The fastest group to complete the game to-date did so in 46 minutes.

Tell us about the hardships you have faced so far

The main challenge we have faced was building an understanding about an activity that was completely new in Rwanda. Escape rooms have become extremely popular all over the world, including in East Africa with examples in Nairobi, Dar-es-Salaam and Addis Ababa, but The Adventure Room is the first in Rwanda.  Therefore we have had to be very clear in explaining to groups just how the game works, so that they have a wonderful experience when they engage with us.

How is the game business in Rwanda?

We have found that to an extent, there is a market.  There isn’t a game business in Rwanda.  We were essentially the first and so the challenge has been communicating what we are offering and getting people excited by it and willing to have a go.  That has happened gradually and in six months, we noticed a significant uptake in Rwandan customers, which suggested that word of mouth marketing was beginning to complement active marketing. We also advertised through Facebook, campaigns, direct emails, fliers, posters, among others.

What was the initial reaction towards it at the start?

Our friends were very supportive and so were the people who we brought through the room to test it and suggest improvements.  There’s a diverse community in Kigali so we were interested to see how different nationalities reacted to it.

We learnt a lot through the testing phase and early commercial runs of the game.  Generally, the feedback was positive and confirmed our hypothesis that we were providing a fun new offering in a market where there is still a huge amount of space for other new entertainment activities.

Any advice to someone looking into starting a game business?

If you want to be profitable you need to get the business model right and that’s probably going to take a few iterations.  Getting your marketing and advertising right is also crucial and to do this you really need to understand who your customers are.  Over time it’s possible to open up new customer segments that may not have been interested in your business when it opened, which is important for growth and sustainability but shouldn’t be your priority on day one.

What are your future plans?

At the moment, we only have one location in Kigali but the plan has always been to have multiple games and locations. We are currently working on designing a second room to be announced very soon.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

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