African gamers head into Kombat

eSports is big business globally and in Africa, tournaments such as PSG’s ‘Fatalis’ are attracting gamers who aren’t just looking for fun, but careers.
A portion of a mechanical gamers keyboard, photographed from above, backlit with red light.
Swetha Ramesh

Written by Swetha Ramesh

PR & Social Media Specialist

If you’re not familiar with the world of eSports, prepare to have your mind well and truly blown. Online gaming has gone mainstream and video gamers all over the world now battle against one another in huge events and tournaments. Millions of fans eagerly watch professional gamers compete in popular games, such as Arena of Valor, Fortnite, League of Legends and Call of Duty.

The numbers involved are staggering, with the market heading towards the $2 billion mark in terms of value. Top players can earn prize money in the millions of dollars and reach multi-million audiences. For example, the forthcoming Arena of Valor World Cup will offer a $10 million prize pool. Fortnite’s 2019 World Cup Final was even bigger – $30.4 million. And while you might expect these tense finals to be something viewers enjoy from the comfort of their couch, eSports tournaments are routinely held in huge arenas, attracting thousands of fans, who gasp, cheer and perch on the edges of their seats. To give you an idea of the seriousness with which eSports is being taken, the International Olympic Committee are thought to be studying their success, triggering much debate about their validity in such an event. And like all sports, eSports have their megastars, who are followed by armies of fans.

Two such celebrities joined thousands of spectators at the Pro Series Gaming (PSG) ‘Fatalis’ – a Mortal Kombat tournament held recently in Nairobi, Kenya and sponsored by Canon Central & North Africa. Sylvia Gathoni AKA ‘Queen Arrow’ found fame as the first the first woman in East Africa to be signed by a professional eSports team and was subsequently honoured by Forbes Africa in their respected ’30 Under 30’ list. With her was Brian Diang’a or ‘Brianthebeast19’, as he is known to his fans. Brian has been gaming professionally for nearly ten years and now organises tournaments around Kenya, as well as mentoring young gamers. Their role at PSG Fatalis was to keep the audience hyped as they followed the matches to their finale. They were also able to spend some time talking about their experience as pro-gamers and the kit they recommend. This included the same Canon EOS M50 Mark II camera that was used to capture and livestream the PSG Fatalis finale.

Queen Arrow (left) and Brian Diang’a (right) kept the audience hyped during the Pro Series Gaming Mortal Kombat ‘Fatalis’ tournament in Nairobi.

What’s not quite so simple is the tournament itself. Mortal Kombat has a well-deserved reputation as a game that is not for the faint hearted. Famed for its gruesome finishes (the ‘fatality’ moves, which give PSG Fatalis its name), this one-on-one tournament certainly puts plenty of sweat on the brows of the gamers. A classic 90s title, it has been given several makeovers throughout the years and sold a very respectable 70 million copies worldwide. However, it’s popularity as an eSport has been something of a slow grower, but its following is dedicated and consistent, with Twitch showing around 300,000 hours of viewing every month. At PSG Fatalis, the best eSports athletes in Africa stabbed, lunged, stomped and kicked their way to a share of a generous prize pot, as well as a bundle of Canon goodies.

PSG have held over 5000 such tournaments in Africa, and Dennis Waita, Team Lead at PSG, doesn’t see this slowing down any time soon. “The level of eSports awareness in Kenya has increased rapidly and the number of tournaments is also increasing,” he says. “eSport is an important driving force in the African video game industry, as more young people are participating and seeing it as a career opportunity.” This makes sense, as Africa’s population overall is exceptionally young and finding employment can be challenging. Organised tournaments and eSports role models such as Brian and Sylvia are bringing fresh and entrepreneurial ideas for careers in a digital world. Equally, the easy accessibility of technologies such as Epic Games’ ‘Unreal Engine’ will bring new, even more thrilling, photoreal and immersive experiences to the market – both from major players in gaming and smaller artists too.

It's an industry that shows absolutely no sign of slowing down in terms of impetus and investment – particularly when these kinds of technologies hold so much promise for any future metaverse. Right now, the global market is worth an estimated $196bn and reaches over 530 million people. With numbers like these, it’s hard to conceive how gaming can get any bigger, but it will, and they feel truly conservative when you look at current predictions. PWC, for example, suggest that the industry could be worth a staggering $321bn by 2026. We could say ‘watch this space’, but it’s far more likely that you’ll be too busy watching a virtual one. And it’s this level of possibility that brings such excitement, enterprise and fresh thinking to an industry that’s going to grow and grow.

Swetha Ramesh PR & Social Media Specialist

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