Video game has always been an enjoyable sport for Nigerians millennial; according to Renaissance Capital report, about 23% of Nigerian population (young persons) was involved in playing video games by end of 2021 and the industry recorded $185m the same year. Videogame has now gone from an exciting hobby enjoyed with friends and family, especially among young people, to a multi-billion dollar industry, known as e-sports.
What is E-Sports
E-sports is basically the application of competition and structure to the participation of sporting events in computer games. It involves professional video game sports (can be played on computer, mobiles or consoles), where players compete against each other in front of an audience; which can be actual physical attendees or virtual streaming of the game, for millions of viewers on streaming sites like twitch, youtube, huzu etc.
The difference between playing casual video game and participating in esports; is that in esports, players compete against each other in an organized manner, in front of an audience. Esports even though performed digitally, have the same characteristics as actual live sports; with teams, sponsors, commentators etc.
E-sports has not been officially recognized as a sport in Nigeria, however it has been endorsed by the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development (MYSD). Nigerian E-sports Federation (NEF) is the governing authority for e-sports segment in Nigeria; they even organized its own league in 2020, through their official league management body; Nigeria Esports League (NEL). NEL currently run games like PUBGMobile, CODMobile, BrawlStars and FIFA.
How Nigeria Rate in Global Esports
Nigeria has all the characteristics needed (massive youth population, avid sports enthusiasts, big video game market, strong internet infrastructure, availability of smart phones etc.) to make esports a booming industry and to dominate Africa’s esports market and be a force to be reckoned with, on the global esports food chain; but that has not been the case, as Nigeria is still lagging behind other countries.
Thus far, no Nigerian esports player has been listed on esports earnings list. Other African countries like South Africa (the king of African esports), Kenya, Zambia, Ethiopia, Morocca, Algeria and Egypt all have gamers listed.
Nigeria has also not produced gamers that has done well in the global competition, which might be attributed to lack of opportunity and exposure. How many big tournaments has been organized and publicized in Nigeria, big enough to rival that of other countries?
Without world class tournaments exhibited domestically, how will talented players, even local ones be discovered, and without executed tournaments, being given grand publicity to attract international attention, how will discovered gamers be put on the map. It is not rocket science, check out the profiles of a lot of the country’s sport and entertainment superstars; and see how publicized domestic achievements in the face of global attention, propelled them into global recognition; because without known talented gamers, what will really be the point for organizing world class tournaments.
There are without a doubt, undiscovered talents in the country that will rival their international counterparts and help to put Nigeria on the map, as home to talented esports gamers.
The Video Game and E-Sports Industry in Nigeria
There has been some locally organized competitions in Nigeria by both the governing bodies and private sectors, like Fingaz n Thumbs; a FIFA 20 Competition held in Lekki, a League of Legends (LoL) tournament held in 2020, KONIODR tournament organized by Dr. Sid in December, 2021 and a host of other locally and internationally organized competitions/tournaments.
There are also some esports organisations springing up and taking giant strides. Some of the known ones are PLAYARONE; that connect gamers across different consoles, pcs and mobile devices, where people play their favorite games and win cash; ELYTE Games, founded by 18 year old Haechi Carl in 2019; TECHPLUS, they have a community of over 60,000 gamers and have organized over 40 gaming tournaments across several cities in Africa; CHOPUP, GAMEPLUG Limited; GAMESOLE, BISONPlay founded by Tobias & Dave; Maliyo Games, founded by Hugo Obi, EDU Shola Games, they have created about 15 games since 2014, like Chike the Sky raiser; Magic Carpet Studio, they built and developed the game, Naija Rush available on the App and Play Stores; Naija Game, founded by Shola “Spetakula” Adenipebi who is also a gamer etc.
There are various gaming teams in Nigeria, competing in esports competitions, like LXG esports, Pro PUBGM, LESF, Sidizens Gaming, Spartan Force, Killer Ravens, KoZinz, XTrolls, Genesis, Alphas etc. We also have gamers like Chukwudi “Street Fighter V” Okoli, Trust “efootball PES 2021” Ehigueze, Daniel “Dox Ose” Osemudiame, currently signed to Sinister 5 in South Africa etc.
School Games Ltd (SGL)Nigeria, entered into a deal to become an affiliate of North American Scholarship Esports Federation (NASEF) that will provide free tournaments, programs, curriculum and expertise to help scholastic esports grow and thrive in Nigeria. They will also offer meaningful esports career and STEM education alongside tournaments. (Learn more at www.nasef.org)
Giving the above mentioned statistics, it is still surprising that Nigeria is not dominating the esports space especially in Africa. There should be more government involvement and sponsorship. If you look at the top countries producing world’s best esports gamers, there is a commonality to be observed; South Korea have government supported academies to develop future professional gamers, China’s government established a dedicated esports town to develop the next generation of gaming talents; Danish government has made tremendous efforts to nurture the esports scene by taking notice and promoting talents within their country; Finland is not left out, their president even invited top esports players to the government castle; even South Africa has officially recognized esports by an act of parliament etc.
There is need for government to take cognizance of the fact that esports is fast gaining popularity with almost the same level of viewership akin to popular off-line sports. They should ensure that existing or proposed sports regulatory management, cover esports events and athletes as they will that of traditional off-line games.
E-sports if harnessed and promoted well, within the country with enough coverage to put it on center stage, like other real time sporting events, will become a career option for many young Nigerians.