The international gaming industry is by no means a small commodity. With net assets, profits and turnovers reaching over the $billion point, gaming companies are coining it in the industry - the insight of which is “eagle eyed” by many South African gamers.
South African gamers comprise of a market that some may find surprisingly large. Unbeknownst to many who think that gaming is for certain age groups and can be tightly packed into one archetype, South African gamers might encompass the middle aged fellow that lives next door, the mother of two kids down the road, or even your wise cracking uncle.
To better understand the psyche of South African gamers, we must first take a good look at the local industry, what people are playing and why they are playing it.
South African Gamers - The consumer & lifestyle
When we think “South African Gamers”, the stereotype of a sixteen year old high school student comes to mind. A lover of pizza and cream soda, this couch potato enjoys nothing more than to loaf around with his eyes glued to the LCD monitor rendering impressive graphics. The sounds of war cries, weaponry, engines from souped up cars and the clashing of swords are commonplace in the “game room”. Little air conditioning and only a few grunts of approval here and there keeps his mother worried about where his concept of reality has gone. The ultimate fan of alternate reality in essence learns a lot more about the harshness of life and is therefore much more desensitised to the goings on of the world around him.
Although this market exists in the younger age brackets who are financially dependent on parents that fall into higher LSM level, to say that the above paragraph is an accurate and majorative reflection of South African Gamers couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, the average age for gamers in South Africa ranges in the 30’s, and many of the chosen genre preferences fall into the landscape of “strategy”.
Most South African gamers who take this lifestyle seriously play these kinds of games to enhance their strategic thinking, as the practise exercises one’s reflexes, hand-eye coordination, mental cognitive prowess and focus levels. The overall effect on honing in on these skills in a fun, interactive and competitive manner can boast positive implications for day-to-day activities, as well in the workplace.
One such game that is popular on the strategy scene for older South African gamers is StarCraft. The futurist, space-age based strategy war game requires attentive focus, an innate understanding of your available resources and how to impose your attack and defence to, in essence, “crush” the enemy. This game, along with other such as Age of Empires, World of Warcraft and Civilisation appeals to the more mature market of gamers that encompass the South African market.
Shoot-em-ups are revered for their realistic graphics and simulation of real life situations. These games (that some parents are not too happy with) are the rage with the teenage and young adult market who prefer to be “in the action”. This aligns with the youthful spirit and attitude of the market, whereby the energetic and “always on the move” psychographics coincide with what these games have to offer. Why not control an army, go into battle with your friends and conquer worlds whilst inducting allies to rally to your side? A few great examples of this realm that South African Gamers go crazy for would be Call of Duty, Battlefield, Killzone, Fallout and Team Fortress.
South African Gamers - The industry (local and international)
The international gaming industry is a force to be reckoned with. Communities of like-minded individuals ban together to form teams who compete against each other in international tournaments. An interesting insight is that gaming in this context is no longer restricted to hobbyists and casual interest seekers - it has become a fully fledged profession.
Dota, a “multiplayer online battle arena video game” is enjoyed by millions on the local and international scene. With worldly Dota tournaments pooling prize money of over $10 million, a winning position can guarantee champions the sweet life. Big names in gaming such as Activision, EA, Blizzard and Tencent (a Chinese investment holding company) sponsor these events in a world-class fashion. The 2014 League of Legends World Championships (held in Singapore and South Korea respectively) prize pooled an impressive $2,130,000 was orchestrated with 16 teams and a total of 82 players. Don’t be mistaken though - these are the the top elite of that particular circuit and thousands of players (and groups) had to qualify in the preliminary rounds first.
The Asian gaming landscape seems to be on top of this industry. Although the U.S is following closely behind, as the events bring local celebrities into the mix for promotion, branding, sealing and packaging. In fact, the culture of gaming in Asia is so integral to the aspirations of the youth that it is seen as an attractive quality in man if he has a high ranking online gaming score for dating purposes.
South African gamers will have to wait quite a while until we have established the facilitation of such an offering. We do, however have a homegrown hero and international representative that we can cheer for in the online realm of gaming - a man called Robert Botha that goes by his pseudonym of PandaTank. Having won many competitions for his participation in SA teams, he has even been awarded Protea Colours for his merits - which is given out to any sportsman/woman who represents South Africa in an international sporting competition (perhaps a reflection of what’s to come in terms of gaming recognition as an official sport?)
There has also been a recent scoop in the local gaming community - Desktop Dungeons. Dany Day, alongside colleagues Mark Luck and Rodain Joubert have pioneered a feat not before seen on the South African gaming landscape (if there ever was one before!) by creating the country’s highest grossing indie game. Labelled as the perfect coffee break game, Dungeon Dragons is a “quick-play roguelike-like puzzle game.” The popularity of this venture has returned millions of rands in revenue (roughly R1 million in an hour at the most impressive sales peak, to be exact). Never before has a homegrown project made such an impact on the local scene. Constantly evolving, the game was recently adapted for iOS and Android smartphones - granting a more versatile exposure for potential customers.
South African Gamers - What does the future hold?
There is a big trend in the mobile gaming market, whereby social media based games are sweeping the nation by storm. Candy Crush and Angry birds are two mobile games that made a huge impact on the South African lifestyle. Almost everyone with a smartphone was playing the games, or at least had heard of them/ were interested in playing them.
As smartphones become better equipped to render state of the art graphics, more games with realistic qualities, a smoother feel, enhanced interactivity, online features will become popular with South African gamers. The market is already wide and open enough for a saturation of app developers to showcase their creativity - there however needs to be a utilisation of the right media channels to advertise and communicate the value of these games to the consumer. YouTube is the perfect example of a platform to engage the mobile game consumer. After all, if you are willing to spend data/use wifi to download a game on your phone, you are more than likely using YouTube’s mobile platform to browse for videos in your leisure time - as well the other mobile based apps and technologies.