When Deloitte issued a note in 2019 stating that the African Telecommunications, Media and Technology (TMT) industry needed to seriously consider trending towards digital media consumption via online gaming, it was because the relentless growth of broadband internet connectivity in the continent has boosted mobile gaming and the gamer user base.
In Kenya alone, the value of telecommunications gadget imports such as computers, laptops, and smartphones was determined by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics to have grown by 56.29 percent from Ksh5.18 to 8.01 billion in the four months of the coronavirus lockdown, compared to the same four-months-to-July period in 2019.
As the Deloitte survey found, there is a higher gaming penetration level among African millennials than Pay-TV penetration, in fact. It is from this growing number of casual gamers that a new breed of pro gamers who participate in electronic sports, or eSports, has found its niche.
COVID-19 and eSports
In the height of government lockdowns and social distancing rules after COVID-19 bared its fangs across the continent, most physical sports fixtures got canceled. Millions had no choice but to shift their focus to either eSports or casual gaming – or even both, to entertain themselves.
Indeed, it helps that one of the biggest attractions of playing online video games is that all players get an equal playing field no matter the color of their skin, gender, or even disability. And video gaming can be a great way to make connections, too, especially when people have no other ways to connect.
It was only a matter of time, therefore, before eSports leagues catering to fantasy, football, and war game players got to enjoy unprecedented growth. Live video streaming services frequented by gamers have also increased their users, with Twitch, for instance, seeing an over 25 percent increase since March.
There’s money to be made in eSports
The global eSports market, according to a CNN report, pulled in over $1 billion in 2019; even as consulting firm EuropeanGaming projected that Africa’s gaming industry would increase by 12 percent between 2020 and 2025, with Egypt and South Africa leading the industry in revenue.
With Africa being an emerging market, there is a lot of interest from foreign investors interested in making a killing. South Africa, in particular, has the continent’s largest eSports community, according to Statista, which makes it highly attractive. Egypt, Nigeria, and Kenya have also gotten their fair share of attention from global brands keen to market themselves.
As global brands fund local tournaments and sponsor pro gamers for international competitions, they give pro gamers and investors in the eSports industry a chance to earn from either sponsorships, advertisements, or winnings from tourneys.
Gaming tourneys, such as the highly popular The International 2019 which had a record-breaking $34,300,00 prize pool for its Dota 2 tournament, can have as many as 1.1 million viewers live streaming the grand finals. Unfortunately, however, African contestants are unable to participate in the annual Dota 2 tournament – not because they are unskilled, but because the continent lacks game-specific servers which are usually run by major game publishers such as Activision Blizzard and Riot Games, as Techpoint Africa explains.
But this does not in any way imply there is no market for pro gamers across the continent. Betting on eSports, for one, has helped grow an audience for the sport and pro gamers, while gaming tournaments across the continent routinely pitch the best gamers against one another.
Pro Series Gaming (PSG) in Kenya, for instance, hosts weekly tournaments where as many as 50 players register for mobile gaming, PC, and console events. Safaricom has also sponsored challenges, such as the two-month-long MobiPlay Challenge held as COVID-19 raged on, and the BLAZE eSports tournament. Pro gamers stand a chance to win airtime, devices, and prize money.
As gaming infrastructure such as broadband internet and 5G penetration in the continent continues to improve, pro gamers can expect to make an even more decent living participating in eSports. For now, however, giving the young boys and girls hanging out at the local PlayStation (PS) joint a thumbs up could be the difference that makes a difference in their lives and sets them on a path to having a career as pro gamers!