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Op-Ed: Why South Africa’s Gaming Industry Is Booming Than Any Other

Op-Ed: Why South Africa’s Gaming Industry Is Booming Than Any Other

The gaming business in Africa has recently seen a spectacular metamorphosis that has attracted the interest of players, developers, and investors from all around the world. The continent has grown to be a promising hotspot for gamers of all skill levels owing to its growing young population, expanding internet access, and rich cultural diversity. This blog attempts to explore the vibrant gaming environment of Africa, specifically South Africa, highlighting its development, distinctive features, and the forces behind its prosperity.

According to reports from 2021, South Africa became the largest market in Sub-Saharan Africa, with an expected $290M in consumer spending on games. The report also gave consumer spending totals for four other Sub-Saharan countries, with Nigeria seeing players spend $185M, Ghana totaling $42M, Kenya $38M, and Ethiopia $35M.

Among the five countries of the region, South Africa also leads in the portion of the population who play games at 40%. Meanwhile, 27% of people in Ghana play games, whereas that stat is 23% for Nigeria, 22% within Kenya, and 13% of Ethiopia’s populace.

Research also proves that there are about 59 gaming startups in South Africa and out of these startups Carry1st, developers and publishers of enriching mobile games and content apps for African consumers, are strategically positioning themselves for this successive growth phase in the industry.

The startup has been known to raise funding over the years. Last January, Carry1st announced a $20M Series A extension round, which followed the $6M it raised in May 2021 and the $2.5M it raised in 2020. In January 2023, the gaming company announced a $27M pre-Series B round, the single largest fundraiser for any African gaming startup.

Skrmiish, another South African mobile “play-to-earn” app raised a $2.5M seed round led by Launch Africa in August 2022 after acquiring 100,000 players across 100 jurisdictions worldwide.

From this data, it is safe to say that South Africa holds the lead as the largest video game market in Africa having about 24 million players to its belt.

Several reasons have contributed to South Africa’s growth of which one is its increasing internet penetration in the region. South Africa has witnessed a significant increase in internet penetration over the years, which has facilitated the growth of online gaming. 

In 2022, the average time a person spent browsing the internet was six hours and 37 minutes per day, according to a report released by Delaware-based virtual private network (VPN) platform Atlas VPN. By 2023, South Africa had 43.48M internet users—its overall population is 60.14M—showing a penetration of 72.3%. As more people gained access to reliable internet connections, it became easier for them to engage in online gaming activities.

Another reason which has led to the region’s growth is its growing consumer market. South Africa has been the largest gaming market, generating a revenue of $290M in consumer spending throughout 2021. The number of gamers in the continent has more than doubled in the last five years. This increasing consumer market has attracted investment and encouraged the development of local game studios and businesses catering to the gaming industry.

Thirdly, the accessibility of smartphones has led to the popularity of mobile gaming. Mobile gaming has also been a contributing factor to the industry’s growth in South Africa. There are more than 542 games from South African publishers on Google Play out of the 538,162 games and more than 228 South African publishers on Google Play out of all 193,571 game publishers. An estimated 95% of gamers play on mobile. And because these games are easily accessible on smartphones, they allow people to play on their phones anytime and anywhere. This convenience has helped drive the expansion of the gaming market. Some of the biggest South African publishers are Wild Foot Games, Distinct Media, iGindis Games, Guinea Pixel, etc.

And finally, cultural diversity and localization are one of the contributing factors to South Africa’s growth in the gaming industry. Cultural diversity is one of South Africa’s greatest strengths, and the gaming industry has recognized its potential. Game developers are increasingly incorporating elements of South African culture, history, and folklore into their games. By doing so, they not only create immersive and authentic experiences for players but also showcase the richness of South Africa’s heritage to a global audience. From narratives inspired by local myths and legends to characters donning traditional attire, cultural diversity brings a unique flavor to South African games.

Localization is another key aspect of the gaming industry in South Africa. Recognizing the linguistic diversity within the country, game developers strive to provide localized experiences by translating game text, subtitles, and voice-overs into multiple languages. This ensures that players can fully immerse themselves in the game and connect with its story and characters in their preferred language. Localization not only enhances player engagement but also broadens the accessibility of games to a wider audience, including those who may not be proficient in English.

In conclusion, gaming in South Africa has witnessed significant growth and has become a vibrant and promising industry. Factors such as increasing internet penetration, a growing consumer market, etc have contributed to the industry’s development. As the industry continues to evolve, it will be exciting to witness the innovations, collaborations, and opportunities that arise within South Africa’s dynamic gaming landscape.