Should your NGO be developing a mobile gaming app?

By Jenny Lei Ravelo 17 February 2016

Hunger Crunch, named Facebook’s Social Good App of 2015, is a mobile game which focuses on the character Beasty and its fight against hunger minions taking over the world’s food and water supply. Three nonprofits share their triumphs, disappointments and hard-earned advice on mobile game development. Photo by: Devex

Candy Crush Saga, an online puzzle game that challenges the user to match similar candies, has more than 75 million likes on Facebook and at least half a billion downloads on Google Play. Cross-platform availability, “freemium” pricing strategy, continuous levels, and the online game’s casual yet stimulating design is what has contributed to its worldwide appeal.

Now, it appears charities looking to raise brand awareness or capture a wider audience are taking notes. After all, the world of mobile gaming has started to catch on in the humanitarian and development industries. 

Browse through the Apple Store and you’ll stumble upon a number of socially minded games made by or for nongovernmental organizations and foundations. There’s an app to save rhinos made by Swedish digital agency Hello There for the Perfect World Foundation, Sustainaville — which works much like Farmville — by Save the Children International, and Canadian-based startup Decode Global’s Get Water! in partnership with Charity:Water.

A quick look at five popular apps developed for or by NGOs.

But charities’ foray into the world of mobile gaming is not without its risks, and requires careful consideration, Devex learned from three nonprofits that have already delved in.

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About the author

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Jenny Lei Ravelo@JennyLeiRavelo

Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex senior reporter based in Manila. Since 2011, she has covered a wide range of development and humanitarian aid issues, from leadership and policy changes at DfID to the logistical and security impediments faced by international and local aid responders in disaster-prone and conflict-affected countries in Africa and Asia. Her interests include global health and the analysis of aid challenges and trends in sub-Saharan Africa.


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