Gaming was once an activity that was restricted to those who could pay for premium goods or that had the disposable income to play at premium venues. Over the decades, home consoles have priced themselves out of several markets, and many are now only accessible in arcades and gaming cafés.
Now, however, gaming is spreading like wildfire in once under-represented regions. Among them, South Africa is proving to be quite the hotbed for new gaming action. In video gaming alone, the market is set to continue to grow from its valuation of around $233 million in 2018 to $362 million by 2023. With this strong growth, South Africa now has over 11 million gamers, and the trends show that many are gravitating towards social gaming and titles that follow the free-to-start model.
It’s an exciting time for the ever-growing scene, but what’s driving South Africa’s love of gaming?
Reigning titans of South African gaming
When we talk about gaming, it’s home consoles and PC games that are the main points of interest. The two forms of platform present the highest possible quality of gaming because of the computing power available.
In South Africa, it’s clear which game on these platforms reigns supreme. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is frequently ranked among the FPS genre’s top games, even competing alongside the likes of League of Legends and DOTA 2 in key metrics. In South Africa, the PC FPS draws a mighty player base and has spawned success in the competitive scene.
Another form of gaming that’s accessible on PC and mobile has also cemented itself as a popular pastime in South Africa is iGaming. With slots, blackjack, roulette, video poker, baccarat, craps, poker, and live dealer games available, players have a lot of choices. Still, by far the most popular online casino games in South Africa are slots. Available in their hundreds on recommended sites, new slots come out weekly, with the most popular being the five-reel, feature-packed video slots.
Moving from PC to hybrid access to strictly mobile games, it’s impossible to deny the draw of mobile gaming apps in South Africa. On the Top Grossing list of the mobile gaming apps in the country are international big-hitters. These are the puzzle game Candy Crush Saga, slots-based game Coin Master, online battle game Clash of Clans, and the casual title Gardenscapes. Each is a fairly casual gaming app, not requiring a great deal of input and mostly deploying time walls.
South Africans rising in the competitive ranks
A good sign of how engaged a country is with gaming is its presence in eSports. While the national eSports scene isn’t the biggest, plenty of South African gamers has climbed the international ranks to win big prizes, with a certain PC FPS game clearly being the choice among competitive gamers now.
Of the top 20 highest earning South African eSports players, one made their money playing Hearthstone, four with FIFA 18, one with FIFA 21, and all 14 of the others staked their claims in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. This includes each of the top-five highest earners from the country. The biggest are “JT,” “Sonic,” and “Detrony,” who have earned $120,000, $115,000, and $44,000, respectively. It’s clear that South Africans have a knack for CS:GO.
Whether it’s because of the affinity for the game across the nation or it just being the focus of the fledgling competitive scene, CS:GO is the main eSports title. While there’s a handful of DOTA 2, StarCraft, and Overwatch teams, the 11 squads for Counter-Strike is the clear majority. It won’t come as a surprise that the majority of ZA representatives in eSports are CS:GO players, clocking in at 24.
Creating the entertainment around gaming
While maybe even laughable a few decades ago, a big part of the gaming experience for millions of people now is watching others play games. Twitch is the primary platform for this, boasting several lifetimes’ worth of game video hours from charismatic and likable streamers. That said, Facebook and YouTube have also emerged as important platforms for game streamers and game content creators in recent years.
From South Africa, we’ve had “Dangerous Dave” on YouTube channel Super2bit, Twitch-based “The Caramel Gamer,” and high-ranking GWENT player “MissLadyJay”. Not only do these streamers expand and localize the gaming scene in South Africa, but they also demonstrate a passion for the entertainment medium.
The South African gaming market will only continue to grow, perhaps exploring more new games as they release. What is certain, though, is that as it grows, more top talents will emerge in the competitive scene and as popular online streamers.