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What the 2016 IESA survey reveals about South Africa’s gaming industry

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Interactive Entertainment South Africa released the findings of their 2016 (March 2015 - February 2016 financial year) industry survey. As with last year's report (then covered by Make Games SA), it looks at the state of the video games industry in South Africa, using game development as the metric. The results are fascinating, and it's especially interesting to see the changes from the previous year.

IESA 2016 Industry Findings -  Continued Growth

South Africa's gaming industry shows a persistent growth year on year. Below is a summary of the numbers, stating the 2016 financial year first and 2015 second.

  • 255 Jobs created vs. 253 in the prior year
  • 176 Permanent jobs created vs. 152 in the prior year
  • 103 SA-developed games released vs. 67 in the prior year
  • R100 million total value vs. R53 million in prior year vs. R29 million in the prior year

(ICYMI: In April 2015, Newzoo reported that gaming would reach $91.5 billion sales globally by the end of 2015.)

The total value growth of SA's game development studios over the past three years is extremely impressive. However, I believe we will see a decline in next year's survey as the devs who released those hits in 2015 are either working on their next game or taking a break. In 2016, we've also had no big releases like last year's Broforce and Stasis. A Day in the Woods from RetroEpic was also a big hit with mobile gamers in 2015 as its very impressive "Unsung Hero" win with the $50,000 publishing contract showed.

IESA 2016 Industry Findings -  Concerns

The two major concerns from last year's survey remain - racial and gender inequality.

  • 2 Game studios out of SA's 31 pay overtime
  • 90% of game dev studios are controlled by white men
  • 10% of game dev studios are controlled by people of colour
  • 0% of game dev studios are controlled by women

There is at least some improvement from 2015's survey as two studios reported 100% black ownership - last year there were none. South Africa's dominant white male demographic for game development follows international trends, so it isn't unique. That being said, according to IESA chairman, Nicholas Hall, there are three main reasons why people of colour and females are struggling to break into game development.

  1. We "inherit" a lot of employees and employers from Traditional IT sector (predominantly white male).
  2. Games aren't seen as a "real" career yet so it is not seen as mainstream.
  3. For PoC the truth is poverty follows racial lines in this country, and this has two effects. We see less PoC "indies" because they simply don't have the capital or luxury of not being able to earn an income for 2-3 years while making their first game which most likely not be a success. Game development doesn't pay well compared to other industries either, so in the more service orientated or medium sized studios we don't see many PoC because the greater salary packet from Banking or traditional IT is "worth" more than working in the industry (especially if the salary needs to support extended family).

It has to be said, that the white male demographic is the pioneers of SA's games industry and their commitment to its growth is something highly commendable. I hope we see more diversity as the industry matures, but may we always be thankful and honour those who took the first steps.

  • R72 700 of the R100 million total worth came from locally developed games bought by SA gamers
  • 0.07% of the revenue comes from sales of locally developed games
  • R0 government funding for the local gaming industry

The above figures are extremely concerning as it shows that South African gamers don't buy locally developed games. It means the continued increased in total worth is thanks to local games selling well overseas. According to Hall, the reason for this is because of how local devs distribute their games - digital only - and many South African's don't have access to the Internet. Alongside the issue of availability is the high cost of broadband services.

It is also a huge concern that there is no funding from government for the South African gaming industry. It's clearly making a valuable contribution to the economy in terms of job creation and revenue, and is more than deserving of financial support from government.

A big thank you to Nicholas Hall and the IESA for their invaluable work and service to the South African gaming industry. We should all follow them on Twitter, and check out the IESA website for more insight into SA's games industry.

I want to close by making an appeal to our gamers - BUY LOCAL GAMES.

Han: Twitter / MWEB GameZone: Twitter | Facebook | YouTube

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