eSports in South Africa

September 13, 2017

From small tournaments few years ago, eSports in South Africa have morphed into a phenomenon, watched by an audience of hundreds of thousands weekly who fuel an industry worth US$5 million in the country.With eSports, the physical element isn’t there like it is in a normal sport, but it’s definitely the same sort of dedication you put in the same sort of team work so it’s def a sport.It’s a fast moving industry and gaming in South Africa will earn $10 million this year, that’s up from $1 million just three years ago. The country dominates the list of highest earning eSports players in Africa. In the most developed cities in the country, students into the IT industry after they’ve done high school and maybe they can get into comp programming are being recruited or taking up the sport.In a recent tournament teams were fighting for prizes worth tens of thousands of dollars, so there is a lot to play for. Those knocked out, were still plugged in to what was happening around them. League of Legends is a multiplayer online battle arena, so popular that there is about 500,000 South Africans that play it, compare that to any other sport in the country and no matching.This year more than 2 million South Africans have watched the world championships series online. eSports is definitely a career option in the country today.What I’ve found is that a lot of students actually have a passion for gaming in South Africa.During peak-times, thousands of South African players simultaneously launch the game on their computers. Connected through online servers, League of Legends players form small teams and choose avatars characters, called champions. They take to a fantasy battle map, wielding swords, firing arrows and casting spells with the aim of destroying the nexus, or heart, of the opponents base. Along the way teams explore the jungle between bases. They fight turrets, computer-generated minions and monsters, collect gold, and enhance their abilities.

Another common eSport game in South Africa is Dota 2, a well know fantasy battle game.The legitimacy of eSports in South Africa is a source of constant debate, but not amongst the gaming community. The top players are scouted for teams in Johannesburg, Cape Town, and even further afield. Professional teams pay salaries and give the gamers a home well known as gaming houses. Training day in and day out, South African gamers hone their reflexes, problem solving, mental stamina and teamwork.Some of the best players in the country have joined teams outside South Africa which offer the same avenues for success like those in America, Europe and Asia. It’s grown over the past three years.The whole competitive gaming scene in South Africa is about to go through massive transformation and no doubt in my mind we are about to see real professionalism come in from real companies, and real sports franchises and real investors. Recognizing the untapped market of both competitors and consumers of gaming, the South Africa eSports community is working to position itself.Revenue opportunities for full time gamers are growing in South Africa as well. There’s a bursting fan base eager to watch notable gamers live stream their virtual exploits online.If you thought playing video games was the preserve of mostly teenage boys in their bedrooms, think again. E-sports or whether you call them competitive online multiplayer video games have become big business and South Africa is leading African continent that path. The owners of one of the dominant competitions turned over a million dollars in June alone and part of that is driven by spectators, not just players. The surprising power behind e-sports in South Africa isn’t the huge numbers of people who play them. It’s the huge numbers of people who watch people playing games. Up to 45 per cent of people who watch don’t actually play themselves, preferring to clock up something like 10 million minutes watching others play on platforms every month, or, they go to locations around the major cities to watch the battle streamed live. I think whats missing is the e-sports community in South Africa to informally unionise to help protect players’ rights otherwise the future looks bright.

Contador Harrison