The Covid-19 pandemic has driven a surge in gaming in South Africa, with the popularity of Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Among Us and Animal Crossing fanning the flame further.
However, in South Africa, there is one significant challenge for gamers, namely high data cost. The country ranks 148th out of 228 countries globally, with data more expensive than in much 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 rise of gaming in 2021, with 2.8-billion gamers worldwide helping the market generate revenues of $189.3-billion. To put this into perspective, it’s more than four times movie 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 mobile internet users 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. The video game market in South Africa is expected to 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 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. And 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 socialisation
As the region witnessed strict lockdowns and movement restrictions, many resorted to gaming as a means to socialise 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 and socialising.
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 cost, thus eliminating the most significant challenge. Since e-sports games come with sizeable data requirements owing to huge sizes – for example, a game like PubG is over 1GB – SHAREit’s value proposition connects with their pain points.
The app 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.
“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,” says Chanel van Zyl, country manager of SHAREit in South Africa.
All apps that are downloaded through SHAREit enjoy Google Play protection, seamless one click installation, malware and spyware checks, and auto app updates.