The number of mobile gamers in sub-Saharan Africa has risen to 186 million people from 77 million in 2015, according to a 2021 study commissioned by Newzoo, a games analytics company and Carry1st, a South African gaming platform.
With 24 million gamers, South Africa tops the continent having 40% of its population playing followed by Ghana (27%) and Nigeria (23%) in second and third places respectively. Meanwhile, Kenya and Ethiopia finish fourth and fifth in the continent with 22% and 13% of their population into gaming respectively.
"Africa is home to the largest population of young people in the world, and this upcoming generation will grow up digitally native with videogames as their primary entertainment preference," Jens Hilgers, the founding general partner at BITKRAFT Ventures, said.
Carry1st raised a $27 million pre-Series B round from Bitkraft Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) and Konvoy Ventures to drive mobile gaming adoption on the continent. TTV Capital, Alumni Ventures, Lateral Frontiers VC and Kepple Ventures, also participated in the round.
"We are delighted to partner with BITKRAFT, one of the world's top gaming VC firms, alongside a16z and other existing investors as we continue on our mission to scale awesome content in Africa. 2022 was a year of significant growth but together with our partners, we look forward to making 2023 even better," Cordel Robbin-Coker, Carry1st Co-Founder and CEO said.
Carry1st was founded by Cordel Robbin-Coker, Lucy Hoffman and Tinotenda Mundangepfupfu in 2018. The company started as a game studio, developing and launching its own mobile games. But a projection on what it could be in the long run made the company switch tactics.
Instead of the studio model (quite popular among gaming companies in Africa), Carry1st sought to become a regional publisher, thereby opening the continent to international studios. Also, the company helps local studios that find it difficult to create games with a global appeal by pairing them with strong operators.
With the pre-Series B, Carry1st will develop, license and publish new games, and expand Pay1st—an embedded finance platform that enables startups to make revenue from owned games and third-party games.
The funding round is coming off the back of a successful year which saw the first game from its CrazyHubs gaming accelerator become the Number 1 downloaded game in the U.S. for a few days last July, according to data.ai. CrazyHubs is the accelerator Carry1st launched in partnership with CrazyLabs, one of its six partner studios.
The game, The President, is loosely based on a fictionalized Donald Trump and was developed by Nairobi-based Mekan Games, it has 10x the company's revenue.
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Recall that in January 2022, Carry1st extended its Series A round by $20 million, after raising an initial $6 million for the round in May 2021 from several investors, including Riot Games, the developer and publisher behind the most-played PC game globally, League of Legends.
To further deepen their partnership, using Pay1st, the duo are piloting a local payment infrastructure that will serve the American video game developer's users in Africa, starting this year. "We learned that African users don’t need their own games; they want to play the best games in the world," Robbin-Coker told TechCrunch in 2021.
"The partnership [with Riot Games] is our big initiative this year because we built all this cool tech around payments and digital commerce, and we leveraged it only for our games, he added. "But we figured that we may as well leverage the opportunity to partner with awesome big game companies that maybe aren’t yet ready to license their games to us fully but would like to make more money in the region and understand how profitable Africa can be for them."
Aside from the aforementioned collaboration, Carry1st is also building on the momentum of a successful partnership with Call of Duty: Mobile in South Africa that happened in the last quarter of 2022, where Carry1st, acting as a local partner, instructed and directed the video games franchise on ways to achieve scale in South Africa during a three-month pilot test.