The rise of eSport in South Africa


Johannesburg - Year after year, the biggest YouTube channel in the world has belonged to one person – Felix Kjellberg, more commonly known as PewDiePie. With a massive 54.1 million subscribers, the 26-year-old Swede is considered the most important YouTuber in the world, and was reported to have made about R1.5bn since 2010. The bulk of his content consists of his funny, spontaneous and high-energy reactions while playing video games.

Fast-forward to 2017 and platforms such as Twitch now make it easier for users to become PewDiePies themselves – giving them a dedicated space to stream their own gaming channels and make money from it.

eSports, or competitive gaming, has also become huge, with an estimated global year-on-year growth of 43% in 2017 to $696m, and an estimated audience of 385 million people.

SuperSport recently partnered with British gaming channel Ginx TV, and now offers a 24-hour channel to DStv Now subscribers (still streaming-only, for now). Mega8 eSport, a South African game content producer with a dedicated YouTube channel, is now on Ginx and is streaming local gaming content to South African and international audiences.

“We as a team sat down and asked ourselves, how can we actually make it easier for the average Joe to watch our eSports tournaments? Because 40% of eSports viewers are actually not competitive gamers, but people who play occasionally,” says Mega8 general manager Given Radingwana on the idea for the partnership. “Then when we caught wind that Ginx TV was coming to South Africa, it felt like a match made in the stars. We sat down with their team, showed them our content and explained to them what our goal was, which is to make eSports matches available to all, regardless of demographic or [income group], because like any other sport, it also aims to unite us as people, as a country. They loved our work and the rest, as they say, is history.”

Mega8 recently broadcasted the Mega8 Dota 2 Winter Cup tournament on Ginx. I asked Radingwana what other titles were fit for competitive gaming.

“Fifa is probably the most commonly watched eSports game, but it hasn’t made a big play in the community yet. Counter Strike: Global Offensive is currently the biggest game in terms of viewership in South Africa because it’s easy to understand and pick up,” says Radingwana. “Whereas Dota 2 is more of a purist game – it requires complex strategies and casting of spells, which, unless someone explains the objective of the game, is hard to pick up. Luckily, the community tends to cross-watch games.”

Today, top tournaments at expos such as Rage offer million-rand prizes to winning teams. In fact, the organisers of Rage recently announced a weekend-long eSport tournament called Rush at the Sandton Convention Centre from July 21 to 23, with three stages, screens and dedicated seating areas. Undoubtedly, the sport is becoming serious in South Africa.

“The market value of South African eSports may be comparatively low to that of the US, but we can say that, to date, we are sitting at just below a R20 million industry with very little visibility on how much brands are investing into eSports in South Africa,” says Radingwana. “I believe it’s just the beginning, there are really big plans in place and we intend to grow this industry in a big way. We are prepared to do justice to our gamers.”

Catch Mega8 eSports content on Ginx TV, available on DStv Now and supersport.com. Don’t have internet? You can watch Ginx TV’s The Bridge on Thursdays at 22:00 on SuperSport 6 (DStv 206)

Tickets to Rush can be bought at computicket.com



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