What Is Esports?
Esports, short for electronic sports, are video games played in a highly competitive and organised environment. Genres can range from wildly popular, team-oriented multiplayer online battle arenas (MOBAs) to single-player-first-person shooters. Virtual simulations of physical sports to extravagant survival battle showdowns are also all the rage. It’s turned online gaming – and betting – into an exciting and profitable spectator sport.
Esports started up in the 90s before really taking off in the late 2010s. As with traditional sports, this modern form of gaming is also broken down into competitive electronic leagues and esports tournaments.
Instead of competing and attending in a physical arena, competitors and audience members can play and watch via PCs, mobile and other streaming devices. Being able to watch from virtually anywhere on Earth is one of the phenomenon’s biggest drawing cards. Platforms include Twitch, Facebook Gaming, YouTube and Discord, with Twitch being the biggest esports platform there is. This trend has become so widespread that the demand to play in and attend these rivalries at arena events is on the rise.
The Esports Market in South Africa
Today, esports has grown into a sprawling multi-billion dollar industry with hundreds of millions of fans worldwide, including right here in sunny SA. With that being said, how big a bite does local esports take out of the global electronic gaming pie?
According to the New York Times, viewership of traditional sports is declining, while that of esports is on the rise. It spells bad news for the former but provides an adrenaline shot of opportunity for esports enthusiasts everywhere. This boom is so significant that almost every major popular video game on the market has some type of pseudo-professional circuit. An eager appetite for electronic sports is growing yearly, and esports in South Africa is no exception.
As an economically developed powerhouse in Africa, Mzansi takes centre stage when it comes to flying the flag for African esports. According to a report by analytics company Newzoo and gaming platform and publisher Carry1st, we’re the largest market in Africa and have the highest consumer spending at $290m. An estimated 95% of gamers interact via mobile. This more affordable method of access greatly supports gaming expansion in the region.
According to Statista, revenue in SA’s esports market is projected to reach $7.66m in 2023. It’s also expected to show an annual growth rate (CAGR 2023-2027) of 8.89%, with a market volume projection of $10.77m by 2027.
With worldwide revenue in the esports market estimated to reach $1,624.00m in 2023, Mzansi’s bite of the gaming pie seems tasty indeed, with lots of room for further growth. This bodes well for the future of the sport from a southern tip of African perspective, né?
Esports Organisations in South Africa
While esports hasn’t been officially recognised as a sport in South Africa, it has been classified as a ‘mind sport.’ Similar to disciplines like chess, it’s administered by Mind Sports South Africa (MSSA). They’re a national governing body that has been officially recognised by a local Act of Parliament.
With the guidance of organisations like the MSSA and the Confederation of African Esports, SA is helping to grow esports games on the continent.
As part of the International Esports Federation, MSSA runs a range of events at home that spans from school to National Championship level. One of the biggest is the ESL African Championship’s World Electronic Sports Games (WESG). Two others are the Mythic Royal Vox Cup Series and the Predator Winter Slam.
Some notable local esports organisations include:
- ATK Goliath Gaming
- Bravado Gaming
- White Rabbit Gaming
- DNMK Esports.
Other national associations and federations are:
- Africa Electronic Sport Association (AESA)
- Confederation of African Esports (CAES)
Your Guide to Getting Into Esports
We all know that heroes are forged in battle, right? Even those casually dressed in tekkies or flip-flops.
And that leads us to the potentially million moola question: how to get into esports in SA that, in turn, might spark an international career?
Sam “Tech Girl” Wright is a Mzansi esports shoutcaster, broadcaster and content creator. As a shoutcaster, she hypes up, describes and analyses esports gameplay as it happens. Sam now mainly works on bigger European broadcasts but cuts her teeth on local events. She suggests ambitious players sign up with Mettlestate and ACGL to start with – two of the biggest tournament organisers in the country.
Friendly to casual competitors, these organisations host weekly events for a slew of different titles. Both also have discords running, allowing you to chat with other players on the lookout for teams and get advice on how to join an esports team. For more on how to turn your gameplay into a career, check out some of Tech Girl’s videos.
Bravado Gaming and Goliath Gaming are two more of the biggest esports organisations in SA. They sign top players and help them compete, offering sponsorship and bucks to cover expenses. But how to make it all the way there? According to SA’s own Aran “Sonic” Groesbeek – a now-retired professional CS:GO esports player – you simply need to become good enough to be in the right place at the right time.
How To Join Esports In South Africa
In a Fin24 interview, the general secretary of MSSA, Colin Webster, gave some tips to turn your casual interest into a passionate career.
Pick your game carefully, ensuring it’s internationally popular and well-established in the esports industry. Examples include DOTA 2, CS:GO, StarCraft II, and League of Legends. If the latter’s your favourite, then be sure to play and watch LoL esports.
Invest in the correct equipment, ensuring it’s not outdated or inferior. A powerful and easily transportable setup is key.
Practice, practice, then practice some more. A good example is CS:GO. As you play, keep honing your reaction speed, peak points, weapon spray control, map knowledge, and utility usage. Record and review all your competitive games and analyse your strengths and weaknesses.
Enter LAN tournaments to gain experience. This is an excellent way to mentally prepare for bigger future games and develop BMT (big match temperament). Also, keep a logbook of all your wins and losses.
Play the long game. Far too many players look for opportunities offering quick returns, i.e. individual tournaments. Webster believes that these are often underwhelming and unsustainable. It takes about five years of dedicated gaming to ping on the radar of teams willing to offer you a contract substantial enough to live on.
Esports Betting in South Africa
If Fortnite isn’t your forte or you’re not a whiz at World of Warcraft, there’s no reason to shy away from esports. Betting on esports is a great way to get in on the action (and hopefully earn real money online in the process).
Firstly, is it legal to bet on esports? The answer is yes. Betting on esports is not that much different from traditional sports betting in South Africa.
In Mzansi, some fully licensed bookmakers like Betway offer full esports betting coverage. These providers get their sportsbook licenses from the regulatory body in each province, such as the Gauteng Gambling Board.
Don’t be deluded into thinking you should play at an esports-only bookmaker, either. With traditional betting sites, you actually get better esports event coverage. Not to mention improved esports odds.
You’ll also find more ways to facilitate your betting on esports on superior betting platforms. On well-established online gaming sites, SA customers have a variety of payment methods to choose from traditional bank transfers to new methods like 1ForYou and Blu Vouchers.
The most common basic bets are Tournament Winner or Match Winner. Even though certain bookies may offer you lesser-known and game-specific betting options, the more common betting types are:
- Group Winner
- Group Of Winner
- Handicap Bet
- Outright Winner
- Total Rounds.
Some bookies also offer proposition bets (prop bets). Specific examples will depend on the individual game. For instance, in First Blood, you can bet on which team will score the first kill of the match. Some prop bets include the number of kills a specific player might get in the match, how long a specific match will last, and the longest kill streak. These types of esports bets are certainly different from your traditional sports betting!
How to Bet on Esports in South Africa
Ready to get betting? To give yourself an esporting chance, follows these steps:
Choose a reputable esports betting site
Look for an online sportsbook that offers esports betting in South Africa. Make sure the site is reputable, secure, and licensed.
Create an account
Register for an account on your chosen esports betting site by providing your personal information, including your name, address, and email.
Verify your account
Verify your account by submitting the required documentation, such as a copy of your ID or driver's license, to confirm your identity.
Once your account is verified, deposit funds into your account using a payment method of your choice, such as a credit card, debit card, or e-wallet.
Choose an esports event
Navigate to the esports section of the sportsbook and choose the event or tournament you want to bet on.
Place your bet
Place your bet on the esports event or tournament by selecting the team or player you believe will win. You can also bet on other outcomes, such as the total number of maps played or the first team to score.
Watch the live score
Tune into live streams and keep track of the esports live score while the game is being played. You can use a variety of resources to track the live score, such as the sportsbook's website, a dedicated esports live score website, or a mobile app.
Collect your winnings
If your bet is successful (yay!), the winnings will be credited to your account. You can then withdraw the funds using the payment method of your choice.
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Several South African bookmakers offer esports betting. We recommend using a local bookmaker for placing your esports bets. This way, you’ll be betting at a site that operates under local conditions, unlike overseas bookmakers, who might have great offerings but are technically illegal to bet with.
The following betting sites are fully legal and licensed within the borders of South Africa and their respective provinces.
Hollywoodbets have added esports as a permanent feature on their site, in addition to their traditional sports betting and online slots. This was an excellent move from one of South Africa’s biggest bookmakers.
Read our full Hollywoodbets Review.
World Sports Betting
World Sports Betting are the market leaders in esports betting. Not only do they cover a wide variety of games, but they also offer live streaming and excellent markets for punters to explore. Check out their esports betting fixtures and markets on the WSB site. When you sign up, you can claim a free R50 bet.
Playabets have solid esports offerings, highlighting the most popular markets and events. They also offer new users a free R25 bet, which is certainly worth claiming if you’d like to try a risk-free esports bet.
Read our full Playabets Review.
Sunbet has a solid esports offering to keep esports punters happy. They have an exclusive R200 extra free bet on your first deposit, plus a 100% match if you sign up through a link on their website.
Sportingbet offer esports fans great markets and a wide variety of fixtures. They have some of the most competitive esports odds in Mzansi and offer new users a 100% deposit match up to R2,000. You can bet from both desktop and mobile while enjoying great features like cash out and bet editor.
All in all, South Africans should count themselves lucky to have such a variety of great bookmakers offering electronic gaming betting. It's a match made in esports heaven and bodes well for the future of this growing industry.
Esports Earnings in South Africa
According to AFK Gaming, star international esports players can earn between R147,916 and R221,874 per month. Lower-level participants can expect around R29,583.
On average, however, many pro gamers earn between R7,500 and R14,900. The estimated salary varies and depends on the game and level you play at. It also depends on which gaming association you join and, of course, your team's placement in competitive esports tournaments.
As one of the fastest-growing entertainment mediums around, the gaming industry’s expected to have a Compounded Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 12.18% in Africa between 2021 – 2026. When you pair this with the ever-increasing internet speeds from local ISPs, professional gaming may soon become a viable career option for committed players. Mzansi leads in total annual gaming revenue in Africa, with the local industry earning $290 million (R4.71 billion) in 2021.
To show what's possible, here’s a list of the top 10 South African pro players and their total tournament earnings thus far.
|Johnny “JT” Theodosiou||CS:GO||R2,032,461.68|
|Aran “Sonic” Groesbeek||CS:GO||R1,879,112.99|
|Rhys “Fadey” Armstrong||CS:GO||R742,486.32|
|Dimitri “Detrony” Hadjipaschali||CS:GO||R720,521.66|
|Ruan “Elusive” van Wyk||CS:GO||R643,805.97|
|Thabo “YvngSavage” Moloi||FIFA||R527,300.28|
|Rieghardt “flexye” Romatzki||CS:GO||R345,932.09|
|Trevor “kaNibalistic” Morley||CS:GO||R344,995.00|
|Dominic “Domsterr” Sampaio||CS:GO||R342,178.82|
Whoever preached that playing games doesn’t pay should be eating humble pie around now, because those are some big bucks.
How Many Gamers Are There In South Africa?
24 million South Africans are gamers, which is a staggering 40% of the population! This makes SA the largest video game market in Africa.
As per Games Industry Africa (GIA), Sub-Saharan Africa’s the fastest-growing gaming region in the world. The data also shows that Africa's total number of gamers increased by 142% between 2015 and 2021 — from 77 million to 186 million. Not too shabby. Not too shabby at all.
And SA leads the gaming industry on the Mother continent with the highest saturation of gamers.
Esports Teams South Africa
The Rainbow Nation is home to some of the biggest teams in Africa, from ATK to Bravado Gaming (among many others). Mzansi hosts regular tournaments for both domestic teams and others across Africa to take part in, hoping to expand their roster of talent and amp up their experience.
Some major international organisations have looked to South Africa to acquire new players. For example, Cloud 9 previously signed a local duo for their CS:GO (Counter-Strike: Global Offensive) esports team.
Here’s a list of the most popular esports teams in South Africa:
- Bravado Gaming
- White Rabbit Gaming
- Goliath Gaming
- Aperture Gaming
- Damage Control
- Lounge Gaming
- Online Kingdom
- Energy eSports
- Big 5 Esports
- BerZerK Gaming
Top Esports Games
So, you’ve finally made it to one of the biggest esports team in the country and are about to springboard onto the global arena. Which games are most worthwhile pursuing?
While the list of top esports earners mentioned makes it clear that CS:GO is among the most lucrative games on offer, many others are also played in SA (and the rest of the planet) at competitive and highly profitable levels.
The top esports games include:
- DOTA (Dawn Of The Ancients) 2
- StarCraft II
- Rocket League
- League of Legends
- StarCraft: Brood War
Esports Tournaments South Africa
All locked, loaded and ready to unleash your gaming challenge beast mode upon the world? Bakgat. Start local by joining up with some of the hottest esports tournaments that Mzansi has to offer and get your game on.
One of the best ways to discover what your local area/city/province has on offer is through social media groups. Reddit, Facebook and Discord are your friends. Simply google “City name – Reddit/Discord/Facebook – Game title – Esports”, and you’ll likely strike gaming opportunity gold. Many universities and colleges also host regular events, tournaments and meet-ups. They're worth hitting up for more info to see how you can join.
The best alternative to digging up the latest local esports tournament news is to go directly to the source by visiting individual team and organiser websites.
Rush host an annual multi-game event that celebrates the very best that local esports has to offer. Rush is where fans, supporters, enthusiasts and newcomers to esports can experience the thrill of watching SA’s top gamers and teams competing for prizes. Their events come with a big screen and live commentary (shoutcasting), adding to the excitement.
The Umzansi Esports League, brought to Africa by Nodwin Gaming, is another popular esports tournament worth investigating.
Egamers World is another handy resource. Check them out at for the lowdown on what thrilling events are coming up next.
Keen to join in on some action? Then kick things off at the FIFA Nations Series to score big.
One final font of knowledge comes courtesy of Esports Africa’s website. For a tour of other upcoming tournaments, their esports gaming calendar has you covered. Decide which events strike your fancy, then prepare to bring your A-game.
Ready. Set. Game.
So gamers, gurus and gamblers galore — opportunities abound in South Africa’s growing esports landscape. So why not become an online legend and let the e-games begin? Think outside the X-Box and play it forward because those who game harder win more often. And remember: whatever you play can pay.
How big is esports in South Africa?
Revenue in the esports market is projected to reach US$7.66m in 2023. Revenue is expected to show an annual growth rate (CAGR 2023-2027) of 8.89%, resulting in a projected market volume of US$10.77m by 2027. Streaming is the market's largest segment, with a market volume of US$2.71m in 2023.
How to make money gaming in South Africa?
The most popular way professional gamers make money is by competing in tournaments. Professional gamers compete in tournaments to improve their skills, prepare for international tournaments and win prizes and titles.
Does Africa have eSports?
Yes, Africa is home to a large esports community. Gamr Africa is an African esports platform that manages, tracks, organises tournaments and provides infrastructure for people to go pro. It was founded in 2021 and has already held over 130 tournaments across multiple countries.
How much does a gamer earn in South Africa?
According to AFK Gaming, top-tier international esports star players can earn between R147,916 and R221,874 per month, while lower-level levels can expect around R29,583.
Is gaming big in South Africa?
It certainly is! At least 40% of South Africans are glued to their video, online, and digital games. The number of players could grow to more than 25 million this year.
How to make money playing FIFA in South Africa?
Are you a FIFA fanatic? If you want to play FIFA for money, there are plenty of options. Stream on Twitch, start a YouTube channel, compete in tournaments and join an esports team.
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