The MXit API launch took place in Stellenbosch at STIAS on 29 October. Some MIH Media Lab members went to the event, to see what new possibilities might come from MXit partially opening their system, to enable 3rd party development. Herman Heunis , CEO of MXit, opened the floor with a few interesting insights into MXit’s past experiences, focus areas and future goals. MXit started when SMS rates, as well as broadband costs, were extremely high.
For this reason, MXit was built to require the least amount of bandwith from its users. MXit has four main building blocks namely: communication, education, entertainment and involvement. Herman Heunis emphasized the stronger points of the MXit platform to entice developers. One of the main advantages of the MXit API, is that it supports over 2500 phones. This means that developers only have to write a single program, which then automatically runs on 2500 devices. He also stressed that testing is very important, even though only one program is required for all devices, developers should take into consideration how their program will look on the HTC Desire compared to the Samsung e250 for example. The MXit platform also caches images on the users’ mobile devices to reduce data cost even further.
Herman Heunis was followed by Adrian Frielinghaus of Blue Leaf Games, who has developed a MXit game called Moonbase. It’s a multiplayer game that pits two groups of users against each other, to build various defensive and offensive equipment. The developers make money through in-game purchases, providing players with additional upgrades to triumph over the enemy. Blue Leaf Games shared their experience of developing and launching a game for MXit. An interesting fact was the poor performance of only advertising. For example, 10 000 hits resulted into 50 game registrations and only 20 players. The best forms of advertising, in their experience, was through friends, at 54%, advertising, at 10%, and the rest, listings.
Blue Leaf Games showed a graph of their user base. There was a declining percentage of casual users that continued playing the game over time, but a strong percentage dedicated gamers that continued playing. Overall, Blue Leaf Games is experiencing a positive growth in their dedicated user base. He also advised developers to keep in mind different screen resolutions for which they will be developing.
MXit is providing the developers access to the platform at a 30% cost of the Moola. This sounds fairly reasonable until you realize that the Moola is only 50% of the original Moola. For example say a game costs R 1 (roughly 100 Moola), of the R 1, 50% will go to MNO’s, then 30% will be subtracted from the remaining 50% of the original cost. The remaining Moola is the developer’s, which equate to 35 cents. In essence the developer will receive a third of the original Moola price paid by the users. MXit also recognizes that your program or game remains your intellectual property, which is a good thing. Developers will gain access to some of the user data, such as presence etc., but it was made clear that misuse of the data will not be tolerated.
The API features some basic messaging and currency functions, but as pointed out by Paul Scott’s post, it seems more like an SDK for Mircosoft .Net C#. The WCF runs on top of the API to allow bidirectional API calls and requests. The API might be limited, creating another walled garden. Considering that the platform supports 2500 phones, mirco-payments and reducing testing to a minimum, this is a great achievement. There are, however, still developers who expected more.