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SA gaming reaches R1.7bn

Gaming is bigger than movies and music in the USA, and it’s going the same way in South Africa – where it is now a R1.7-billion industry and growing.

Gaming as an industry is larger than the music or movies industry and is becoming increasingly popular as more people experience the thrill of playing online.

In the United States, gaming generated $17.02 billion last year, according to the NPD Group. Movie sales in the States generated only $9.42 billion according to

In South Africa, close to 3.9 million physical games were sold in 2011, valued at over R900-million. According to, local movies ticket sales were in the region of R788.13 million.

GfK research shows that, together with gaming hardware and peripherals, gaming is a R1.72 billion rand industry locally – and this doesn’t even include digital game downloads.

The music industry faces continual decline of physical sales as digital downloads take over and music stores diversify their offerings.

Carolyn Holgate, MWEB GM, says whereas movies combine amazing visuals and sound effects to engross you in a story line, gaming offers an even more in-depth immersive experience.

“The difference with gaming is that, instead of simply watching the story unfold, you participate in the game, heightening the experience through your engagement with the game,”” she says.

Holgate believes it’s the online element of gaming which is really driving the market, as gamers are able to pit themselves against an endless list of opponents to hone their skill and move up leader boards. This results in hundreds of hours of gameplay, as opposed to the average movie that lasts only 90 minutes.

In fact, online gaming is so popular that MWEB recently sponsored a team which represented South Africa in the Clanbase NationsCup 2012 for Battlefield 3. They competed online against Australia, Belgium, Finland, Portugal and Russia.

“”The growth of online gaming has led to the formation of groups of gamers called multi-gaming organisations (MGOs), which have several teams across different games and which compete to be the best.

“”In fact, many of these gamers will spend more time playing against each other during the week, conversing through online chat and voice applications like Mumble and Teamspeak than they will in social interaction with friends,”” says Holgate.

That doesn’t mean gamers are anti-social, merely that much of their communication has moved online.

The key factors for online gamers are line speed, uncapped ADSL and the ability to play on local servers. Uncapped ADSL is essential because some of the games require substantial downloads. Even if a physical copy of the game is bought, game patches now run into many Gigabytes of data.

Holgate says playing on servers overseas can become problematic because of the lag time.

Lag is caused by the delay in the transfer of data. In other words, if you play an opponent based in Europe, the delay caused while the data travels to South Africa slows down the gaming experience. While you think you see the opponent on the screen, the opponent has in fact already moved, but you don’t see this because the image updates too slowly. This is why gamers prefer to play on local severs.

Holgate says MWEB has 157 game servers deployed for 59 game titles and that the average number of active gamers on the MWEB network for the last three months has increased by 8%.

As console sales continue to increase and more people start using uncapped ADSL at home on faster line speeds, Holgate expects the online gaming industry to continue growing locally.

* Visit the MWEB GameZone at

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