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2015 in SA Gaming - We Laughed, We Cried and We Raged

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2015. What a year it has been for South African gaming. Everything was bigger and more; bigger expos, more events, and better opportunities. SA gaming was also on TV and radio - a few times! In 2015 South Africa's gaming sector reached new heights through the participation and efforts of every gamer, game developer, gaming organization and industry person. We thank you all.

Here's to what made us laugh, cry, and rage. Looking back at 2015 in SA gaming.

FPB launches pre-publication Internet censorship

In March, the news broke that SA's Film and Publication Board gazetted The Draft Online Regulations Policy. Once passed, the law would require - YouTubers, gaming websites, Bloggers, game developers, for that matter, anyone publishing online - to first submit their content to the FPB for approval. The Online Regulation Policy has far-reaching implications; no wonder South Africans raged. 

The FPB Online Regulation Policy became every South African's problem. Media outlets condemned the Online Regulation Policy as an attempt at censoring SA's Internet. The FPB, however, remained adamant that they were only interested in monitoring and preventing child pornography, and in providing consumers with information to ensure that children are protected from "inappropriate" content.

Nicholas Hall, a founding member of Make Games South Africa and lawyer at Michalsons, has been looking into the Online Regulations Policy since the first announcement. In April, he attended the FPB's "Gaming Dialogue" workshop. He concluded that the FPB wasn't so much interested in censorship as most South African's believed, but that "It's rather a case of poor implementation of a good idea."

In October, Carte Blanche finally investigated the FPB's Online Regulations Policy. We published a full report on the investigation that you can read here. In the report Carte Blanche investigative journalist, Claire Mawisa, concluded: The Draft Online Regulation Policy proposed by the Film and Publication Board (FPB) is far-reaching and absolute in its censorship, with little clarity on practical implementation. Africa’s worst Internet Censorship Law.

Bye Bye Kalahari - Is this going to be good for SA gamers?

On April 30 Kalahari.net merged with Takealot.com to form South Africa's biggest online retailer. SA gamers hoped that the merger would push competitive prices into the market. We are still waiting. It looks like MWEB Digital and Gaming Manager, Desmond Kurz was spot on:

"It certainly could be true that a combined Takelot and Kalahari might offer us a larger choice, but I think that argument doesn't hold true for gaming as we have a limited set of suppliers. It's more likely that the two powerhouses coming together are going to result in less competition and higher prices. My hope is that their combined purchase power will lessen this impact as they are able to take advantage of a greater economy of scale."

Goodbye and thank you to NAG Magazine for an amazing 17 years

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In May, South Africa's most popular gaming magazine, NAG, announced that it was shutting down the printing press for good. The sadness was real. NAG introduced many SA gamers to gaming, and it felt like we lost part of our gaming heritage. Tweets and Facebook posts streamed in as we said goodbye to one of SA's biggest gaming icons.

Although NAG has gone digital, South African gamers will always fondly remember those epic magazine covers, brilliant articles, and game demos.

The gaming, tech and geek expos of 2015

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South Africa said it will never happen. eGe proved us wrong and held Cape Town's first gaming and tech expo in May. It was a roaring success, so much so that rAge followed suit ;). I kid; not really, they've been working on holding rAge Cape Town since 2008. More is better, SA gamers benefit, GG we say. So, from 2016 the fairest Cape will play host to two SA gaming expos! We thank eGe for daring to be the first. Cape Town salutes you. See you in July 2016 for the second eGe Cape Town expo.

In July Geekfest came to town time stood still and there was laughter. For one whole day, we played like children, got high on life, and lived like there was no tomorrow. We sparred with Knights, rubbed shoulders with Iron Man, met a Space Marine, Penguin and Harley Quinn provided entertainment. We also met a dog called, Potato San, two Silent Hill nurses showed us how to boogie, and a load shedding demon showed up for the party. They dazzled us, entertained us, and we loved them all.

SA's biggest game and tech party, rAge, again broke its attendance record with an all-time high total of 33,068 visitors. That's just under 6% up on 2014's attendance. "The 53-hour, 2,568 player NAG LAN captured the imagination and tested the skills of its dedicated participants with the final LAN statistics reaching 143TB downloaded and 46TB uploaded – a mind-blowing 189TB in total. Internet Solutions provided the 6.5Gbps connection, representing a 25% increase from 2014."

And let's not forget, in October Canal Walk hosted their first gaming and tech expo. Things are heating up in Cape Town ...

SA gaming on TV and Radio

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In July, Carte Blanche aired the first South African focused video game coverage in 27 years. "What once was a very specialised industry overseas, has now moved closer to home with Cape Town becoming a hotbed for emerging talent in the game industry. Some have earned as much as a million rand in just one day. Carte Blanche meets independent young game makers upping their game to grow an industry that could be worth billions to the local economy."

Keeping with the topic of growth in SA gaming, in September, PricewaterhouseCoopers published their SA Outlook Report for Entertainment and Media. The report looks at the past year's statistics and makes predictions based on those stats. The PWC report shows one thing for SA gaming. Growth. “Video games will grow healthily through to 2019,” at a CAGR of 6.6% with the industry reaching R3.6 billion at that point. This figure is more than double that of the 2010 figure which saw the industry at R1.6 billion, and up from the R2.6 billion in 2014. 

Cliff Central picked up on the PWC report and had an "unscripted, uncensored SA games industry stats" talk with MWEB Gaming and Digital manager, Desmond Kurz. Kurz expanded on the report, saying that “Not many people realize just how big the gaming industry is in South Africa. If you look at a comparison on Spend, that 2.6 billion does not include gaming hardware. That means that the 2.6 billion is mainly focused around software purchases.” 

A big shoutout to Gareth Cliff and his Cliff Central team for airing so many gaming stories. The gaming statistic story was just one of many.

We had joy, we had fun, we had ...

We also had one moment where that rare thing that never happens, happened. The South African gaming community united in a moment of rage and disappointment. rAge 2015 did it. The expo organisers thought it acceptable to allow Pickup Artist South Africa to have a stall. Well, they failed to attract, and instead offended men and women alike. Our men know how to treat women thank you very much. You can check out the united response from SA gamers here.

Now let's talk about good things. MWEB GameZone had two unforgettable game launch parties. In September we had a "shoot and score with FIFA 16 launch," and in November "the force was strong with our Star Wars Battlefront launch. We can't thank the Battlefront main sponsor, Gigabyte enough, for making the event extraordinary. Both events were trending in South Africa during its respective launches, and ENCA Tech Report also covered the Battlefront launch.

Something else that brought us much joy was when SA developer, RetroEpic, won a $50,000 publishing contract. Their little gem, A Day in the Woods, won the international Unsung Heroes competition. You can grab it on a Christmas special during the month of December on iTunes and Google Play. Another great moment for SA gaming was when YouTuber, Grant Hinds, hit 1 000 000 Channel Views. It's not four months later, and he boasts 1,477,260 views! Keep on rocking Mister Hinds!

On November 10th, the South African Rand finally unlocked on Steam. And there was great rejoicing, except for those times game listings disappeared. The Paypal service was also terminated for South African Steam users. On October 5 I predicted that Sony would announce the first PS4 price cut, and it happened just three days after, on October 8. The price cut extended to South Africa, but local retailers were slow to reduce their prices. Black Friday South Africa came and went, leaving mostly sadness in its wake. Talking about local retailers, did you see the rage over the failed Toys R Us super pre-order sale?

And ending with a good SA gaming announcement. In September MWEB launched new uncapped ADSL products to get your game on.

Our deepest thanks to everyone that made 2015 an exceptional year for South African gaming. You probably noticed the lack of eSports mentions in the article, but don't despair; we're working on something big. "Looking back at 2015 in SA eSports" coming to you as soon as possible.

2015 in SA Gaming: Honorable Mentions

Han: Twitter / MWEB GameZone: Twitter | Facebook

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