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Disney Iwájú: Rising Chef – Here’s What Hugo Obi Had to Say


Maliyo Games, a mobile game development studio in Lagos Nigeria focused on developing African-Inspired games for mobile devices have achieved a milestone in their journey and the Esports industry in Africa by partnering with Disney Games to develop Iwàjù: The Rising Chef.

The gaming company is popular for incorporating African storylines and characters into their games, some of the games they have created are Math Rush, Whot King, Aboki Run, and Jungle Escape, among others.

An interview was conducted with the founder of Maliyo Games and here is what he had to say:

  • – Congratulations on the success of Disney Iwájú Rising Chef! How did the collaboration with Disney come to fruition, and what was your initial reaction when they showed interest in your concept? 

Answer: The conversation about the prospect of Disney working with a Nigerian partner began early 2022 at the African Games Week. After this conversation, we drafted a proposal and submitted it to Disney’s team for Iwaju: The Rising Chef. 

We already had plans to do this and had systems put in place so it wasn’t too hard for us to get it done. We sent it off to them then we had to wait, a couple of weeks later around the end of August, they requested for prototypes. It took about six weeks to deliver a prototype to them.

When you’re pitching ideas, it’s very different from when you’re executing them. Execution is always tricky and difficult, and I think that’s where a lot of people stumble. 

Luckily for us, the one they chose was something we already started developing some basics around, that’s what you see today; Disney Iwájú Rising Chef

We already had a head start and had done a lot of research around it, so we went straight to deliver something that was well put together and technically sound. We were in a position where we could do all of that because we already had the people in place who could do it, so we went straight to work and developed the prototype.

Around November, we got the mail that we had been selected to go into production in 2023 for Disney Iwájú Rising Chef, and that was just incredible. It was something to look forward to. 

Cultural Representation: 

– In what ways did you incorporate African culture into Disney Iwájú Rising Chef? Were there specific elements or traditions that you were particularly excited to showcase? 

Answer: A lot of the work had already been done in developing the Iwaju IP itself, so the difference between us taking our own is that when you create, you have to build a lot of things from scratch. So you have to do the story, backgrounds, character development, and provide context for the player.

We were pretty close to the end of production by the time we joined in and started working on the game. All of that had already been done, the course had already been set.

– How important do you believe cultural representation is in the gaming industry, and what impact do you hope the game will have in this regard? 

Answer: We chose food because we all love food and we all like to use food as a way to share our cultural heritage and to build relationships. That was one piece we brought in. In the TV show, there’s puff puff, Amala, small chops, suya, etc. 

I think it’s easy for someone to gloss over the food presence in the game unless you’re us and you pay attention to what’s in the game and what can be built on top. 

When you’re playing the game, all you see is food, so that’s what we wanted to do, bringing African and Nigerian food into a video game within the backdrop of the Iwaju universe. 

Challenges and Triumphs: 

– Were there any unique challenges you faced during the development of the game, especially considering the blend of African culture and Disney’s global appeal? 


When there were decisions around things like why are you putting the pounded yam before the soup, why didn’t you put the soup before the pounded yam, I can’t explain it to you, everyone does that.

There were just some things we had to communicate about why it looked different, and it also had some design challenges like how we structure the rules that govern the gameplay because the thing about gameplay is that you set the rules, and then you have to think of those rules working universally for everyone, you can’t make one rule for a set of people and another rule for a different set, that was off in some cases. 

We had to make some decisions to say this is the direction we are going and this is why we are going in that direction and that’s it. 

One of the great things about working with the Disney Games team is that they trusted us to make the decisions and collaborate, that’s exactly what we did. 

– Can you share a memorable moment or triumph during the creation of Disney Iwájú Rising Chef? 

Answer: This is a game that was produced, designed and directed by Africans for Africa and I think that’s how it should always be. But there has to be belief and trust in the people that are going to do it and the system that the team had works very well, but then it also doesn’t work well, I’m sure people have tried this experiment in the past but in this particular case, it turned out to be something both parties are happy with. 

Advice for Aspiring Game Developers: 

– What advice would you give to aspiring game developers, especially those who aim to incorporate cultural diversity into their creations? 

Answer:  People will say this every single time and it can never be said enough. Don’t be too ambitious, be ambitious, but not too ambitious.

The number one rule is that no matter what happens you need to deliver, there has to be a time for delivery, so you can’t do this indefinitely, no matter what the scope is, you have to scope it out for delivery and then you have to deliver. If you can’t do that then unfortunately you’re not there. That has to be the number one priority always. 

– How can the industry better support and encourage diverse voices and stories in gaming? 

I  think the industry has a lot of challenges. The greatest challenge is really consuming, and everybody goes through that struggle of, am I good enough, can I deliver? Will I satisfy my audience? A lot of doubts and it’s time consuming, and mind consuming and unending because the moment you drop, like we are done with the Disney project and have already moved on to new projects immediately.

There’s no time, and so sometimes it’s not the industry’s fault, but one of the ways they can do this is to give people opportunities to get experience. There has to be a level of faith and trust and I think everyone was given an open role, there are very few people that were born to do games, everybody had the games because everybody plays games and are excited about games but somebody needs to give them an opportunity to actually learn and develop.

If we didn’t have the opportunity to learn what we learned on this project, we would not have had the confidence to then go and work on new projects as a result of success.

Impact and Feedback: 

– How has the audience, especially those from African communities, responded to Disney Iwájú Rising Chef? Any memorable feedback or stories you’d like to share? 

Generally, there have been positive reviews of the game. It’s really fortunate that we designed the game well, the overwhelming feedback has been really strong and positive because it’s not always the case, what I said to my team and to myself is that as long as we’ve done the best job we could have done, and as long as we are satisfied as individuals and collectively, as long as our partner Disney is satisfied with the quality of work that we have done, and they feel like we couldn’t have done a better job considering the time constraints and the experience that the team had, I think that that’s the baseline. 

I feel like we did the best we could have done, and everything else is just a bonus. The audience feedback is a bonus. We played that game for a very long time and we’ve seen that game mature and evolve and we looked at other games and we think that our game is good enough.

So far it’s been great, the general feedback has been great. It’s only like two weeks out in the market and I’m still waiting for some professional evaluation of the game because I know that will be more critical, seeing that expert feedback helps you improve, so when people tell me “glorying” reviews I don’t learn anything from that, I learn from when people tell me you guys didn’t do this very well, that’s when I learn, maybe I’m just wired like that. 

Beyond Gaming: 

– Do you see potential for Disney Iwájú Rising Chef to expand into other forms of media or entertainment? Are there plans for merchandise, movies, or other adaptations? 

I would say it’s probably too early for us to start speaking about this, besides we need to get solid feedback from end users before we can begin to talk about that, there’s always something happening.  You should expect better quality games next year. 

Closing Thoughts: 

– As we wrap up, is there anything else you would like our readers to know about your journey, Disney Iwájú Rising Chef, or the importance of diverse storytelling in gaming? 

We loved working on Disney Iwaju Rising Chef. It was a really fun experience for us.  Let us know what you think about playing it. We want to make games like that for audiences like that and the feedback that we get gives us the encouragement to make these types of games.

If you want to learn how to make this, we have opportunities for people to join our training programs which run every year, that’s a great opportunity for you to have.

I think that ultimately one of my goals is that we are improving the content and talent in the games industry, and to really add positively to the growth of games locally. 

We admire and applaud this new development from Maliyo Games and look forward to more partnerships between African Esports organizations and other global organizations.

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