By Paul Ndiho
Kenya is gearing up to host the inaugural Africa Esports Championship in Nairobi in August this year, and younger players have already participated in several leagues in the build-up. Kenyan gaming events companies are hoping to cash in and become significant players in the global arena.
The global gaming industry valued at over US$135 billion, has Kenya’s budding gamer’s sights set on honing their gaming skills to build professional careers as the fast-growing industry continues to create opportunities on several fronts.
Video gaming form of entertainment, and has even grown to become a spectator sport. At a club in Nairobi, players recently had a chance to battle it out in the Kenya National League of the Africa Esports Championships.
Gaming has become a big business and has given rise to games being played in tournaments that offer impressive amounts of prize money.
“If you look at countries like those in the West and Asia, esports has become a full-time occupation. Where you have dedicated athletes who compete in games, so I can list some of them like, ‘League of Legends’ has a dedicated league. ‘Over Watch’ in multiple continents, whereby the players are paid a stipend, and they also earn money from endorsements they receive from sponsors and corporate investors, and this has now changed the landscape of the sport, where people are taking it far more seriously, like an actual sport,”
Esports already boasts an estimated 250 million players worldwide in a growing market worth about US$1 billion. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) recognized esports in 2017 as a sports activity, but the IOC maintains that the structure of esports and its focus on commercialization currently hamper immediate hopes of inclusion in the Games.
Sylvia Wahome also is known as ‘Queen Arrow’ in gaming circles, is Kenya’s first female professional gamer and is currently signed up with a US-based esports XiT Woundz team.
“I see myself becoming one of the most recognized esports athletes not just because of my gender and because of my skill, yeah because I am taking the slow and gradual steps to improve in my gameplay,”
Esports is the competitive side of electronic gaming, with multiple players battling against each other usually in teams, often in matches that are streamed live to crowds of young fans
“Well yes, with the growth of the industry especially at the numbers that the industry is growing in the international market, I believe that esports will be a career option very soon in Kenya,”
Several African countries are well positioned to benefit from gaming because of their youthful population and broadband access. Talent managers are also seizing the opportunity to nurture professional gamers.
“We know there are quite many talented players already, so as the sessions grow as the competitions expand, we feel like we are going to capture quite some talented players that will enable Kenya to compete against the best in the world,”
Global esports revenues are expected to hit $US1.1 billion in 2019, up 27 percent since last year amid ballooning revenues from advertising, sponsorship and media rights to competitive video gaming, according to a report from Newzoo, a gaming industry analytics firm.