Across Africa, the video gaming market lags behind other parts of the world, particularly North America, Asia and Europe. The biggest 10 markets for video game sales are countries from these regions, with China leading by a large margin.
In fact, Africa had the lowest video game sales of any region in 2017, generating $741 million. Fourth place Oceania made twice this and Europe, the Americas and Asia made $22 billion, $31 billion and $59 billion respectively.
Within Africa, there is a board spread of the amounts spent on video games in each country. The biggest five markets are Egypt ($293 million in 2018), South Africa ($216 million in 2018), Morocco ($129 million in 2018), Nigeria ($122 million in 2018) and Algeria ($107 million in 2018).
In 2018, Kenya’s spending on video games was much lower, at just $72 million, up from $50 million two years earlier. That doesn’t mean the video gaming industry is strong in the country, in fact, the opposite is true with revenues expected to double in the coming years.
Mobile Lead Growth
With the biggest blockbuster titles costing as much as Ksh10600 (US$100), they are inaccessible to all but the wealthiest of people. Instead, the majority of video gaming growth has come from casual games, a trend that’s seen around the world.
Casual games usually don’t take long to play, they are easy to learn and offer infinite playing time. Good examples include PokerStars, Candy Crush Saga, and Scrabble GO, all of which are free-to-play and are available on multiple platforms. These casual games have enjoyed a growth of 30% in the first half of 2020, in addition to seeing downloads increase by 150% throughout 2019.
In Kenya, mobile gaming is helped by the fact that the country has a much higher penetration of smartphones (at 91%) compared to elsewhere in Africa where the average is 80%. The nation also has the highest proportion of mobile internet connections compared to desktop computers in the world.
In fact, 83% of all internet traffic came from a mobile device in 2019. Part of this can be attributed to the fact that broadband internet was only introduced in 2009, at the same time as smartphones, meaning the two technologies directly competed with each other instead.
Local Game Developers
While international titles like FIFA and League of Legends are popular in Kenya, there is a growing market for locally developed games too. One of the first locally developed games was “Adventures of Nyangi”, which was heavily inspired by the successful Tomb Raider franchise, but with an African as the playable character.
Sales were slow in 2007 when the game was released. Lack of access to high-speed internet made it difficult for Kenyan’s to download the 700 MB game, so he began burning CDs to sell it in stores. While the sales were not earth-shattering, the game was still in the top four best sellers in the few shops that stocked it.
Other local developers are springing up across the country. One of the most successful of these is Weza Interactive, a studio based in Nairobi. Their biggest title is Mzito, a free-to-play platform adventure game where the player must work to wake up “sleeping lions” to save Africa from “ancient corruption”.
Co-working space and other incubation facilities have sprung up in the capital to help game developers grow. For example, the Nairobi Games Center offers modern decor, free internet, motion capture equipment, a VR lab, green screens and a recording studio to help developers build quality video games. Prices start at just $5 (500 KSh) per day, and you’re even allowed to take your pet with you.
The Future is Bright
While Kenya currently lags behind some other African countries in terms of video game sales, it appears to be working hard to close the gap. With great facilities and strong talent helping to produce homegrown video games, Kenya will likely be a much bigger player in the market in years to come.