The COVID-19 pandemic swept the globe and the ensuing lockdown moved almost everyone indoors, disrupting the global business environment. While many industries took the brunt of the severe economic stress, some experienced an unexpected boom owing to their unique value proposition. One such sector which witnessed explosive growth and is predicted to grow even further, is gaming.
Attributable to the rising ‘work-from-home’ and ‘school-from-home’ models, the pandemic has driven an upsurge in gaming with the likes of Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, or Among Us and Animal Crossing, only fanning the flame further and fostering the gaming trend, especially given the tech-savvy and ‘always-on’ culture of the South Africans.
However, in South Africa, there is one significant challenge for gamers, i.e. the high data cost. The country ranks148th out of 228 countries globally, with their data more expensive than even large parts of Africa, including Nigeria (58th), Kenya (41st), Tanzania (23d) and Rwanda (64th). So, how has South Africa still seen such an explosive growth in gaming, despite the high cost of data
A global trend
Newzoo’s Global Games Market Report predicts the burgeoning rise of gaming in 2021, with 2.8 billion gamers worldwide helping the market generates revenues of $189.3 billion. To put this into perspective, it’s more than four times the box office revenues ($43 billion in 2019) and more than three times the global music industry revenue ($57 billion in 2019). Assisted by improved availability and the deep penetration of smartphones, easier internet access, and increasing cloud gaming, it’s not surprising that mobile gaming accounts for close to half (48%) of the industry’s revenue.
The power of mobile
Mobile internet usage in South Africa poses a huge opportunity for the industry. With a staggering 94.6% mobile internet users among the total, spending an average of 4hours 55 minutes a day, Statista estimates the mobile gaming industry to reach $111m, growing at a rate of 19.25 year-on-year. In 2020, 31.29 million South Africans accessed the internet through a mobile device, and in 2023, this figure is projected to rise to over 39 million mobile internet users. The video game market in South Africa will grow from R3.5 billion to R5.44 billion in 2023. More users, more gamers, more revenue.
Quality meets quantity
Within a few decades, the world moved from Nintendo’s Tetris into Multi-Player Online Battle Arenas (MOBA) with dynamic, visual and stimulating games like PUBG, COD Mobile and Free Fire accessible in your back pocket. Add to that, as of the third quarter of 2020, over 385,000 mobile gaming apps were available in the Google Play app store, representing a 5.6% increase compared to the previous quarter. Moreover, gaming is transforming – the casual gaming segment held a share of around 56.6% in total video games revenue, growing 47% year-on-year. Despite the flop that was the launch of Cyberpunk 2077, the Stadia version of the year’s most hyped game still reveals the changing face of what’s now possible without expensive hardware.
Gaming and socialization
As the region witnessed strict lockdowns and movement restrictions, many resorted to gaming as a means to socialize and connect with their friends. Multiplayer games have seen a spike in south Africa and have given rise to huge gaming events where thousands worldwide are playing, socializing thus fostering the landscape. This cultural influence will continue to grow the popularity of gaming and penetrate deeper into the country, giving rise to more games and subsequently further gaming groups.
App innovation: Zero data gaming
With 20 million monthly active users, one app in particular, SHAREit, is seeing explosive growth in South Africa because users can share games with each other at zero data, thus eliminating the most significant challenge high data costs. Since e-sports games come with sizeable data requirements owing to huge sizes, for example, a game like PubG is over 1GB, SHAREit value proposition connects with their pain points.
The world’s leading offline and online app which provides several varieties of entertainment including online streaming video, file transfer, and games, SHAREit has over 1.8 billion users globally and was amongst the Top 10 Most Downloaded mobile applications globally in App Annie’s State of Mobile in 2020. SHAREit was also recognised as the fastest growing media publisher during H1 2020 by AppsFlyer. According to Chanel van Zyl, new Country Manager of SHAREit in South Africa, “We have now formed a full-on-the-ground partnership with PerformDM Africa with offices in JHB and CPT to manage this volume and deliver services to businesses seeking to advertise via the app, reaching almost one in three South Africans.
“It is the first app channel partner of Google Play in order to make peer-to-peer sharing of apps safe and secure. All apps that are downloaded through SHAREit enjoy Google Play protection, seamless one click installation, malware and spyware checks, and auto app updates. Furthermore, peer-to-peer (P2P) applications are expected to drive a huge increase across Africa in esports by offering South Africans access to one of the largest catalogues of mobile games, not only including hundreds of casual HTML5 games, but also core games, attracting a growing audience of new gamers. In addition, SHAREit users receive personalized recommendations based on their preferences, while there is a variety of options for casual, social, midcore, hardcore, and professional gamers.
“Considering the spike in digital entertainment and mobile gaming, owing to the ongoing pandemic, the development and growth opportunity for mobile applications in South Africa is immense. We aim to continue the growth that we have observed in South Africa and achieve even greater heights,” said Karam Malhotra, Partner & Global VP, SHAREit.