Video games: Africa soon at the helm?
With nearly $ 75 billion generated in 2015, the global video game industry begins 2016 under very good auspices
New technologies are rapidly transforming this industry to the point of constantly reshaping its players, users, business models and supports. Game publishers, development studios and distributors must now adapt to these new uses so as not to sink.
For economic and socio-cultural reasons, Africa has long remained excluded from the game. Yet today, it has every chance of returning to the world. part.
Africa takes it to the next level
The lack of high-tech equipment, the low incomes of the populations and the faltering penetration of the Internet have constituted obvious obstacles to the emergence of a mass culture of video games. Today, various factors suggest that the continent is ready to welcome this market. We are witnessing, on the one hand, the emergence of a younger middle class, more connected and aspiring to new needs.
Mobile subscriptions are now close to one billion and there are more than 350 million smartphones on the continent. On the other hand, the global video game market is changing rapidly and is eyeing the smartphone more than ever. According to our forecasts, global smartphone game sales could even surpass PC and console sales for the first time this year.
This small screen revolution is symptomatic of the emergence of new gaming practices. If our pocket companion is gradually appearing as a privileged medium, it is because a new typology of players is participating in the transformation of uses.
Indeed, the multiplication of the supports had the effect of considerably widening the base of the players: whereas the “hardcore gamers” occupied all the ground and played mainly on computer or console, they were joined by “casual gamers”, a large base of users who play games on smartphones for entertainment and to pass the time on public transport journeys, for example.
In this logic, it is not surprising that nearly 1.75 billion smartphones and tablets serve – or have already served at least once – as support for video games.
The awakening of the entrepreneurial spirit
Driven by the rise of used and low-cost smartphones which could represent a market of 17 billion dollars in the world, the African video game sector therefore has all the latitude to emerge. It is already polarizing the attention of the giants of the sector who have forged partnerships with certain local mobile operators. Some countries are more mature than others, such as South African, Nigerian, Ghanaian, Cameroonian and Tunisian design studios which display a promising dynamism.
At the origin of these projects, we find many individual initiatives coming from young entrepreneurs or friends linked by a common passion.
Fans of video games, IT, development or design, these young shoots embark on the adventure on their own and with few resources, for lack of dedicated training structures. Thus, before entering the big leagues, the Cameroonian studio Kiro’o Games cut their teeth by developing several amateur games in order to adapt to the demands of their consumers.
However, most companies and design studios first had to navigate on sight to assess consumer attentions. For good reason: no market study has been carried out in French-speaking Africa to establish a typical consumer profile or a more detailed segmentation of the target. One thing is however certain, the gaming industry constitutes a rich breeding ground for the entrepreneurial spirit emerging in Africa as evidenced by the many individual initiatives which have met with success through perseverance.
A new vector of dissemination for African creativity and culture
It is interesting to observe that the most dynamic African development studios have placed their heroes, storylines and environment in an African context. Like Kiro’o Games with “Aurion, the legacy of the Kori-Odan” and Maliyo with “Mosquito smasher”, the games recall situations in which Africans can imagine, or even identify.
African history and myths are an extraordinary source of creation within easy reach of game designers. Many draw their artistic inspiration from traditions, customs, scenes from everyday life or traditional characters with which they are familiar. In the long term, African video games could turn into a powerful vector of expression for the young African generations, far beyond borders.
However, the funds are not always there. Governments are still reluctant to invest or sponsor these start-ups although in Central Africa the desire of certain States to participate in the emergence of the sector is visible. It is therefore necessary for States to encourage this type of initiative, the sector having proved its dynamism and its capacity to create jobs.
The video game sector is still a UFO in the African landscape but arouses attention and questions, the first steps in a collective awareness of the sector’s interest in the African economy.
New technologies are gradually making their way in Africa; the transformation of consumer habits, digital education and the dynamism of young generations of entrepreneurs could lead to the emergence of video games of a new genre.
Soon the African Fantasy?
For over 25 years, Thierry barbaut helps companies and organizations in their developments in Africa with mobile and digital expertise. Thierry Barbaut is also digital manager ofMicro Projects Agency, developers of renewable energy projects in Africa and speaker on many African themes.
Article published in partnership with Karim Koundi, responsible for the TMT sector in French-speaking Africa