Local Gaming Industry on the Rise

The video game industry has advanced significantly as a result of the availability of photorealistic graphics, reality simulation, and internet connections with millions of other players in today’s games and gaming platforms. Video game playing is no longer only a kid’s pastime evolving into a way of life for people of all ages. In this article, EBR’s Eden Teshome tells a story on how gaming is growing both as a business and leisure both in Ethiopia and Africa, at large.

The global market for video games is enormous, with total revenues of USD180.3 billion in 2021, an increase of 1.4Pct from the previous year, when the industry experienced amazing growth fueled by the global epidemic. By 2031, according to industry analysts, global market revenues will top USD510 billion if the industry maintains its steady course of progressive expansion.

Natural market growth, increased internet accessibility, the creation of cutting-edge video game technologies, and the video game industry’s resilience during the pandemic in 2020, in contrast to many other economic sectors, have all contributed to its current status as one of the largest in the United States. Sales of video game-related software, hardware, and accessories increased as more people turned to video games for leisure as a result of lockdown orders. In the United States, USD1.6 billion were spent on video game hardware, software, accessories, and game cards in March 2020, a 35Pct increase from March, 2019. The market for video games in the United States reached an all-time high of USD85.86 billion in 2021, surpassing the previous record of USD 76.15 billion set in 2020.

A year prior to the pandemic, Yodahe Assefa, a student of international Economics, moved to China to complete his undergraduate degree.

“It began as a pastime to keep me occupied during the lockdown because it was boring to sit around in my dorm room all day without doing anything,” he told EBR. “Even once the lockdown was over, I kept playing the games. It has prevented me from visiting or going to many [unworthy] places, as I once did.” Jodahe enjoys playing a variety of games online, and after two months, he even purchased a gaming laptop.

Internet cafés, cyber spots, and gaming rooms used to be gathering places for gamers throughout Africa. The young gamers would play their favorite games on foreign-made gaming consoles and personal computers. Only a few people have the chance to unwind in their homes while admiring these extraterrestrial wonders. Thanks to cell phones, players can now play their favorite video games whenever they want, and most of the game’s graphics, languages, and even characters reflect the African culture and history. Furthermore, the popularity and accessibility of multipurpose gaming consoles have greatly facilitated the expansion of the continent’s video game sector. Unquestionably, the number of young gamers in Africa has grown significantly over the previous five years, indicating that the gaming sector is expanding.

From Algeria to Zimbabwe, Africa has long been poised for a Technological breakthrough, but, at the dawn of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, may be the ideal time for the continent to take the lead and play a significant role in the gaming sector is now. It is unclear what this signifies for the state of the gaming business today, despite the fact that it has the greatest teenage population. A New zoo analysis claims that Sub-Saharan Africa has seen a more than two-fold increase in gamers over the last five years, and that the region will continue to see the strongest global growth in terms of both mobile gamers and gamers who pay for games.

Around 28Pct of the population in Sub-Saharan Africa, or 303 million people, have access to mobile internet, according to a 2021 Groupe Speciale Mobile Association’s (GSMA) research on the mobile economy. Over 100 million extra mobile customers will be in the area by 2025, with Nigerians and Ethiopians accounting for approximately a third of these.

The survey also reveals that Sub-Saharan Africa now has 186 million gamers, an increase of a factor of two over the preceding five years. African players switched from consoles to tablets or, more preferably, cell phones, which led to this growth. In South Africa, where there are 24 million people, 40Pct of the population plays video games. Ghana has the second-highest percentage at 27Pct, followed by Nigeria at 23Pct, Kenya at 22Pct, and Ethiopia at 13Pct. South Africa is in first place with USD 290 million in yearly gaming revenue in 2021, followed by Nigeria with USD 185 million, Ghana with USD 42 million, Kenya with USD 38 million, and Ethiopia with USD 35 million. Data also shows gamers in South Africa are more likely to pay for games through traditional methods (43Pct) than gamers in Ghana and Ethiopia (33Pct) or Nigerians and Kenyans (32Pct).

This data demonstrates that the African gaming market is growing quickly and is prepared to compete in the global gaming market. This is made possible by homegrown gaming businesses, such as Qene Games. Dawit Abraham, a venture-backed entrepreneur from Addis Ababa, launched the company, which is based in Ethiopia, to create mobile games that showcase Africa’s wonderful culture in the global gaming and entertainment market, where they are now highly underrepresented. Some of Qene Games’ creations include the award-winning mobile games Kukulu and Gebeta. Both of them draw inspiration from an African storyline. For instance, Kukulu is the name of a chicken that originated from the Ethiopian traditional game ‘Akukulu Alnegam’, according to the game’s creators.

According to Dawit, “This is one of several mobile games with an African plot that offers potential for more creativity by mobile game developers.” Dawit continued, “Ethiopia alone has more than one cultural heritage; just think of what Nigeria, South Africa, Morocco, and the entire continent of Africa would present in terms of contributing to its mobile gaming industry.”

In early 2022, in order to connect the gaming business on the continent and encourage the talent development of young African developers, 10 African gaming development firms      formed the Pan Africa Gaming Group (PAGG). As the first game development studio to be a member of PAGG, Qene Games hopes to unlock the potential within the continent’s gaming industry by enhancing the pan-African cultural heritage that is ingrained in the creation of mobile games and by providing opportunities for more recent graduates who are interested in careers in mobile game development.

  In an interview with Forbes Africa, Dawit claimed that: “Due to its more than 3,000 years of history and culture, Ethiopia offers a tremendous source of creative inspiration. The fascinating mythology and folklore as well as the innovative and unique music genres that have been existing for centuries are all endless sources of inspiration for our game developers.”

Dawit believes that Africa may serve as a source of inspiration for developers looking to create real, regionally themed mobile games that would draw international players to the African market. “I also suspect there would be fierce competition among telecommunication operators who have been trying to get into the gaming business to try to fill the gap in distribution and sales,” he added.

  Even though the African gaming market is expanding quickly, there are still issues with distribution and revenue generation. However, according to Dawit, “The time is right, and Africa is the game, therefore these issues won’t prevent Africa’s gaming sector from reaching its potential.”

Since its founding three years ago, the Ethiopian Games Association has sought to map the whole of Ethiopia’s gaming landscape, to foster an active and involved population. It has two primary sections, the first of which is ‘Games for Entertainment’, which is the experience of playing for fun, companionship, or leisure. The second segment, dubbed ‘Games for Social Change’, addresses pressing social concerns by employing entertaining media and games.

“We are a team of about 30 people, but we have 200 to 400 volunteers,” Dagmawi Bedilu co-founder of Ethiopian Games Association and Chief of Strategies at Efuye Gela Publishers told EBR.

Gaming is not without controversy, though. Video game critics will emphasize that there are more negative aspects of video games than positive ones, and supporters will argue the reverse. In all actuality, when played in moderation, video games can have beneficial impacts. When played excessively, there can be negative effects as well.

  “In Ethiopia, there are 25,000 game zones, with more than 3,000 in Addis,” says Dagmawi. The game zones are the healthiest settings for youngsters to spend their free time. The gaming sector can be 10 times more lucrative than exporting wheat and other agricultural products since it does not require a lot of resources; all you need is a laptop and a person with the necessary skills, and we can produce a game fit for the global market.”

In comparison to earlier years, there are more game studios now, according to Dagmawi. Previously, there was only one gaming studio; nowadays, there are five; in contrast, South Africa has fifteen; Kenya has four; and here in Ethiopia, there are between fifteen and twenty independent game developers.

“Although the industry is still untapped and is a work in progress, it is nonetheless hopeful,” says Dagmawi. EBR

11th Year • March 2023 • No. 115


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