Sports Nigeria's diverse gaming landscape in 2020


The gaming industry has exploded all over the world in recent years, reaching over US$150 billion in value, and helping to pioneer both the development and mass adoption of advanced technology. The rapid penetration of cost-effective gaming devices like smartphones, as well as the rise of professional gaming (eSports) has meant that gaming is no longer just a popular trend, but an integral part of day to day life for people from all manner of socio-economic backgrounds.

So far in 2020, gaming has risen to become one of the most popular activities carried out by players across the world. And just like the landscape is shifting rapidly in the western markets, here in Nigeria a diverse gaming world is also on the rise.

eSports in Nigeria
The global eSports sector is still in a key phase of growth and development, having just gone past the $1 billion in value mark in 2020, but it’s one of the fastest growing due to its continuous push for innovation and development. In Nigeria, the gaming industry has been keen to establish the country as the epicenter for eSports in Africa, and we’ve already seen some major developments take place in recent years.

In 2016, Amaete Umanah and a team of entrepreneurs established the African Gaming League, one of the first official bodies in the country to host tournaments for Nigerian players. Initially focused on running online events across four cities: Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt, and Uyo, in games like EA Sports’ FIFA, the AGL has since been able to “matchmake” Nigerian players with global tournaments and challenges.

Building on that momentum in 2020, The eSports Nigeria League was established as the country’s official eSports League organisation. With a mission to fully cultivate and develop professional gaming across the country, the League has established registered teams who now compete in both mobile and console titles like PUBG Mobile, Brawl Stars, Clash Royale, Fortnite, Apex Legends, Mortal Kombat, and League of Legends, among others.

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iGaming is growing
As the trend for professional console and mobile gaming increases in the country, so too does Nigeria's interest in iGaming, an umbrella term that covers real money online (and mobile) activities like casino games, poker, and sports betting. The emerging scene in the country is a little different to the rest of the gaming world’s, however. Whereas online poker platforms and their mobile app equivalents tend to dominate the iGaming sectors of major gaming markets like the US and Europe, in Nigeria it's the sports betting vertical that has been the most popular.

According to data shared by Affiliate Insider, there are around 60 million Nigerians between the ages of 18 to 40 who regularly participate in sports betting, including making use of online and mobile platforms. This amounts to a total market that is worth around $2 billion, with predictions that it will exceed that significantly before the year is out.

As far as the games themselves go, it’s the online slots vertical that is the most varied and most popular. Unbound by the restrictions that apply to land-based casino gaming, slots developers are unleashing their creativity to diversify the iGaming space in the country with themed games that are incorporating the latest in graphics, audio, and player engagement. There’s also a growing demand from players for games that give the best payouts in quicker times, leading to titles with between 97 and 99% RTP (Return To Player) consistently being the most visited.

Gaming on the go
With such a rapid increase in smartphone penetration — there are now around 2.9 smartphone users in the world — and such a widespread availability of affordable data plans and WiFi connectivity, it’s no surprise that mobile gaming is now the industry’s most popular sector. With the sector set to surpass 2019’s impressive performance following the global boom in mobile gaming earlier this year, Nigerians are fully embracing all that gaming on the go has to offer.
Around 83% of the population owns a smartphone, which is a considerable userbase that Nigerian developers have found the key to tap into. Yes, the aforementioned international hits PUBG Mobile, Brawl Stars, Call of Duty: Mobile, etc are just as popular with Nigerian gamers as they are rest of the world, but domestic app developers are creating games purely with the Nigerian userbase in mind.

Gildi Run, for example, is Nigeria’s take on the “endless runner” smash Temple Run, only it’s set in the hectic streets of Lagos instead of an Aztec Temple. Meanwhile, the local development company ChopUp has created and published a total of 30 mobile gaming apps in the last six years, including the ubiquitous Money Post, and Jagun: Clash of Kingdoms.

So, while Nigerian gamers are happy to follow international trends, there’s still considerable demand for locally-relevant content which really can’t be produced anywhere else in the world.