In this research, 80 Level Research team aims to present insights on the consumer market in Africa (the economy, game audience and their preferences, and also payments solutions) in order to equip the region's development decisions with facts.
What Can Be Expected From African Gamers
Although countries on the African continent can economically be classified as developing ones, one shouldn’t hurry to overlook this region. Our research has indicated that Africa is one of the fastest-growing mobile markets. Over the last 5 years, the number of gamers there has doubled.
Moreover, according to gamedev experts from Africa, they are very motivated and enthusiastic to push the gaming industry towards further growth, which is another driver for the region.
Managing Director at Free Lives, Dominique Gawlowski
Foreigners often look at Africa or South Africa with the attitude of “yeah, whatever,” but the reality is that they have no concept of the amount of stuff being done here: it’s massive. Obviously, there are no big AAA Studios like Blizzard or Ubisoft, but there are many extremely gifted artists, developers, and programmers living here in South Africa.
Sub-Saharan Africa is the region where people play games a lot. Here are the top countries with the highest total annual gaming revenue, saturation of gamers, and density of players who regularly spend money on game-related purchases.
Free to play
The African consumer game market is underdeveloped at the moment:
- Mobile is undoubtedly the main gaming platform on the continent due to its accessibility and spread.
- Add to the pot the general poverty multiplied by the fact that a huge part of African gamers don’t have a “paying mindset” yet. People in Africa aren’t as willing to spend money on games as they are in other countries.
CEO, Co-founder, Chair at Interactive Entertainment South Africa IESA, Nicholas Hall
Much like the rest of Africa, the majority of gamers in South Africa play mobile games, and that is because hardware is expensive. The country is very far away from everything else, geographically speaking — getting things there is really expensive, and there are not many manufacturing capabilities. This drives the cost up. There is also a high degree of unemployment, and gaming is ultimately a luxury. All these factors push the consumer market away from paid, premium experiences and expensive consoles, and more towards free-to-play experiences.
It’s safe to say that those two factors already cast aside buy-to-play (premium) & subscription monetization models from “the greatest potential” pedestal on the local markets, which means the best two business models are free-to-play with ads and free-to-play with in-app purchases.
Mobile Money Is the New Black
Thinking about the most popular payment method, the first thing that usually comes to mind is credit/debit card, and that answer is right for a lot of regions. However, it’s not exactly true for the African continent. Again, African countries shouldn’t be treated as one, yet they do have something in common in this field. There are numerous financial barriers, leaving a huge amount of the population “unbanked.” Only ~48% of adults across the entirety of Africa have access to regular banking, according to Statista.
Most people with a bank account are concentrated in countries like South Africa and Mauritius that have more mature banking systems. Looking for a way to work around this obstacle, Africa turned to alternative payment methods, especially mobile money services. And those did rise: In some sub-Saharan countries, more adults have a mobile money account than a regular bank account.
Founder & CEO at Digital Realm Entertainment, Thomas Shiva
There are many payment barriers for gaming. For example, when some people can’t make an in-app purchase, they consider email purchases and microtransactions. If their region isn’t yet supported for buying a game, some of them are forced away from that game and try to find something else.
Companies cannot have everybody rely on Google Play and Apple Pay because they have their own flaws and limitations. For instance, if somebody pays in Ugandan or Kenyan shillings, but a service only accepts US dollars, it will be really unprofitable to buy with regional currency because the rates are outrageous. Moreover, there can be big problems with refunds and returns of money. So, if you have a solution that provides easy access to payment and payment processing where Africans can pay in their local currency and be able to pay for any service, then you have access to 1 billion people who are going to benefit from your product.
Mobile money systems allow people to get cash from/to their mobile account through agents located at different places within the country (even in remote areas). Agents act as human ATMs. You can also use mobile money for e-transactions wherever those are accepted. So a mobile money account in Africa is basically the same thing as a regular bank account but without any actual bank present. At the beginning of 2022, 33% of adults in sub-Saharan Africa had a mobile money account, compared to 10% of adults globally (The World Bank Report).
English, French, Spanish, or More Than 1000 Local Languages
Africa certainly can be named an exciting region language-wise: the amount of languages spoken on the continent varies between 1,250 to 2,100. However, taking into account the historical aspect of colonization, the languages of colonizers still remain lingua franca or at least as the language of commerce in many African countries. It has a great influence on the way decisions about game localization and business handling are made. Across the continent, there are five European languages spoken on a mass level — English, French, Portuguese, German, and Spanish.
Co-Founder and Managing Director at Forspex Entertainment, Mohamed Bendjebbar
The language barrier exists throughout Africa. But if you have offices in Africa, you will still be able to use English as an international language of business. However, you can’t find a lot of people speaking English in some regions (like Algeria, Tunisia, Ivory Coast, etc). So, having someone on the team who can translate materials in these languages is a plus for the company and it’s always good to have local experts or consultants while doing something on this continent.
When it comes to translations, it is not much of a problem, except for in countries like Guinea or Kenya — and in Nigeria, they speak Pidgin, which is a mixture of English and another language. But for countries like Zambia, they speak English, and they are okay with games being in English — it is no trouble for them.
Our informants expressed two polar opposite opinions regarding the question of content localization. In the schema below, we display supporting arguments for both positions:
Is There an African Game?
Who is the target audience of a game made in an African country? Well, as it was proved by our respondents, it is quite challenging to make a game for African audiences for two reasons:
1) They are willing to consume Western content. Their main interest is an exciting new story, just like any gamers’ is globally (titles like FIFA, Angry Birds, Clash of Clans, and PUBG Mobile are very popular in African countries).
2) The gamedev industry experts in Africa claim it is difficult to monetize African audiences (we have a whole section about game monetization down below).
CEO, Co-founder, Chair at Interactive Entertainment South Africa IESA, Nicholas Hall
In South Africa, at least, they make games for Western audiences because that is what is commercially viable. Africans still play these games, though, but that is because they play Western games anyway. The largest game on the continent is FIFA.
African consumers just want new games; they don’t particularly care how they are themed — Angry Birds, Clash of Clans, PUBG Mobile — all of those are huge in Africa; They are not particularly African, so just reskinning those games to cater more to an African audience doesn't lead to any certainty of success in the region.
- Based on these two reasons, most African developers prefer developing for international audiences, as that’s more commercially viable.
- There is one distinct feature of African games that appeared — their narration and story-driven format with a lesser focus on gameplay. It was stated many times by our respondents that African games are unique in their storytelling.