On the 28th of January 2021, a roundtable hosted by panelists hosted by Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct and moderated by Khumo Morane and featuring panellists including Monica Rorvik, Kgositsile Poonyane, Oupa Makhalemele, Raymond Ledwaba, Nick Hall and  Thierry Baujard gathered to discuss the recent unveiling of the South African Gaming Report.

They discussed the current state of the South African Gaming Industry compared to other countries, gaming regulations & policy, investments & government interventions, commercialisation of the gaming industry, skill development and report recommendations.

Presenting the vision

The Roundtable kicked off with Nick Hall sharing a summary of the report. He highlighted and gave thanks to the stakeholders and funding partners Agence Française de Développement  (AFD), National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF), Gauteng Film Commission (GFC), Cape Town, Western Cape Tourism, Trade and Investment (WESGRO) and Ubisoft.

Nick quoted Jay Shapiro one of the interviewees for the report and the CEO of Usiku Games based in Kenya. 

Jay said “ Building a game, and building a game studio are two very different things. Two buddies in a bedroom can teach themselves Unity/Maya and build a cool game that fits what they are already passionate about or enjoy playing.

But building a game business requires competency in accounting, HR, sales, operations. It means spending a lot of your time doing what you don’t enjoy, or making games that are not for you. It means committing to always hiring people who are better at what they do than you could be, rather than trying to prove that you are the best through hackathons and competitions.

Lastly, to be a founder requires financial strength. To be able to work with no pay for 2+ years, and to be able to either fund the business itself or to build enough trust of your competence & experience, that investors will fund it for you. That means having been through it before as a manager or part of a past founding team. That’s really hard to do when you are a 20-something, self-taught.

Rich white kids tick a lot more of those boxes.” Many panellists would later refer to that quote a couple of times throughout the panel discussion. 

Nick then shared the vision of the South African gaming industry:

  • To be the leading game development/animation hub on the continent. 
  • To be in charge of its own growth and development supported by key stakeholders like Government and Academia.
  • To have a diverse makeup of studios creating unique IP and providing world-class outsourced services to the global ecosystem.
  • To be inclusive and diverse in terms of its ownership and employee base.
  • And to be ‘sturdy’ meaning not reliant on a single entity (internal (Government policy) or external (International AAA studio)) to ensure its viability.

The 10 Year Plan

  1. 25 studios employing at least 50 people in 10 years.
  2. 50%+ Black-owned studios in 10 years.
  3. A significant number of studios developing their own IP and providing services.

In conclusion, Nick highlighted some short, medium and long term goals in the report. One of the short term goals were to get better at showing off and promoting the successes and wins in the industry. This is because it will help contextualise the viability of the industry when engaging with other stakeholders. More people need to get aware that they can build a career in the games industry.

The future looks bright for the South African Gaming Industry and I can’t wait to see the great things they have envisioned for themselves unfold one by one.