Mobile gaming is becoming increasingly popular around the world. Smartphone manufacturers and game developers are beginning to focus more and more on the market. Cloud-based gaming, AR and VR capabilities – the potential for mobile gaming to be the centre of breakthroughs and advancements is real. In its current standing, mobile gaming has two distinct branches: iGaming and eSports. They are two markets which have different demographics. Both of these are being satisfied and are satisfying South African gamers. Mobile gaming in the country is bigger than PC and console gaming. It is thriving.
A major reason for mobile gaming’s trajectory is the environment which enables it.
Firstly, the availability of affordable handsets have been integral to mobile gaming’s rise. PC and console gaming are expensive endeavours. Let alone how hard it is for anyone to get their hands on the recently released next generation consoles. They need a lot of hardware to work and work well. Smartphones are simple, by comparison, and far more affordable. People have better access to these games.
Secondly, the South African government has invested in the communications infrastructure. 5G is coming. It is live in South Africa now but not everyone has 5G-ready smartphones. However, the foundations laid by better 3G and 4G connectivity will be what enables 5G to hit its potential heights. 3G and 4G’s implementation is one reason why mobile gaming thrives, also.
One negative, limiting factor is how expensive data is. While it is cheaper than countries in North America, it is the most expensive in Africa. Data isn’t just used for gaming, obviously, but for sending text messages and using the internet. Therefore, gamers tend to have to spend that little bit more on data to match their desire to play.
iGaming is one branch of mobile gaming, as mentioned. This describes casino and sports betting games. This is a growing market globally. Land-based casinos and bookmakers were worried about the rise of iGaming. It is, for instance, more convenient for someone signing up to play casino games in South Africa at slotheaven.com rather than travel to a land-based casino. This convenience, though, isn’t the only reason which appeals to gamers.
There’s, also, the bonuses which land-based casinos struggle to contend with. Sign-up and in-game bonuses can bulk out bankrolls and provide free spins on certain games. Many have VIP schemes, which land-based casinos can offer, which provide entry to exclusive events aswell as offering tailored bonuses.
Online casinos do seek to replicate the luxury experience land-based ones cultivate. However, there are others which focus on the instant fun which they can provide.
The other branch is esports. These are games like PUBG or Arena of Valor, for instance. The games which are more closely associated with PC or console gaming. Not all games from this area transfer to mobile, though. Cyberpunk 2077 won’t be available from any smartphone store. However, more and more major developers are optimising their games for smartphones or releasing exclusive games from them: Call of Duty being one notable example. While there are smaller indie games which have more strategy and role-playing elements, the more popular games are multiplayer shooters which have battle royale and arena structures. These have a high ceiling of interest as the competitive scene and nationally and internationally organised tournaments have big prize pools and generate that ‘sporty’ drama which traditional sports have. Franchised leagues in the USA are getting airtime on ESPN now, and South African and African tournaments are getting shown on Twitch and YouTube. All this points towards a normalization of esports. Soon, it will likely be talked of in the same breath as traditional sports.
South African game developers are getting in on the act too. Creating games suited to mobile gaming rather than pursuing PC or console. South Africa frog-leaped PC and console gaming and went straight to mobile, and this creates a feedback loop which supports and looks to sustain itself.