Software Game On
Hundreds of guests poured into the Pinefield Schools auditorium in Lagos for the second annual West African Gaming Expo, a showcase for software created in the region and hardware built elsewhere. Adedoyin Ogundoyin, the founder of local online gaming marketplace Africgames .com, says he organized the expo on a budget of $5,000 to demonstrate to sponsors—including Google, local bank Gtbank, and the U.K.’S Bournemouth University—that the region’s developers deserve more investment. The coders’ projects, and the attention and financing they attract, also show students, parents, and schools that games can be more than silly distractions, Ogundoyin says. Some of the young developers who presented at the expo in the last days of October took home Google Cardboard and other merchandise from the sponsors. ——Caroline Tompkins, with photography by Ima Mfon
that a phone can already do,” he said. Swatch hasn’t entirely sat out the shift toward smartwatches, though it eschews that label. Since 1999 it’s offered touchscreen timepieces such as the $1,250 Tissot T-touch Expert Solar watch, which has a compass, can track altitude, and runs on solar power. And Swatch is developing mobile payment capabilities for watches based on technology similar to that in touch-enabled bank cards. The company says early next year it will introduce a $90 watch called the Bellamy that can be used to make electronic payments at stores. Alessandro Migliorini, an analyst at Mirabaud Securities in Geneva, says the company is hedging its bets while waiting to see whether smartwatches take off. “Swatch will experiment with different functionalities, and if there is demand, they will then push more aggressively,” Migliorini says.
Swatch has been burned by earlier forays into new technologies. Hayek has said the company still has unsold models of a 1991 pager that flopped and of the Paparazzi, a watch it made with Microsoft about a decade ago that could receive messages and stock quotes. But he also knows the risks of falling behind trends and the importance of protecting intellectual property. Hayek’s father, Nicolas, formed Swatch in 1983 by merging two struggling Swiss watchmakers. Although the technology for quartz timepieces was developed in Switzerland, Japanese companies had been more successful in commercializing the new watches. The senior Hayek countered with funky, multicolored designs that captured the public’s imagination and secured Swatch’s fortunes. The company is now valued at about $19 billion. “The quartz crisis is in the background of everything they do,” says Jon Cox, an analyst at brokerage Kepler Cheuvreux in Zurich. “It probably leaves a bit of a scar on them, and that’s something in the back of their minds when they have technology: Patent first, ask questions later.”
The bottom line Swatch has filed smartwatchrelated patents in recent years, even though CEO Hayek has been dismissive of the devices.
Edited by Jeff Muskus Bloomberg.com