Video Gaming on the Rise in Ethiopia





Fikirte Alem, a middle-aged mother and her 16-year old son Ebenezer Fantahun, were at Yirga Haile Market Center in Merkato, Gojjam Berenda, looking for a PlayStation, a popular video game console.

Fikirte budgeted 5,000 Br to buy the game system as a reward from her and her husband to their son for a fruitful academic year.

Ebenezer, who usually goes to businesses called “game zones” to play video games, managed to convince his parents to buy the game console, so he can play it at home.

PlayStation is the brand name Sony Computer Entertainment gave to a series of video game consoles that it created and developed. PlayStation leads the gaming industry globally, and Ethiopia is no exception.

In 2016, Sony dominated the game console hardware, software and service market by capturing a total market share of 57 percent, which translated to 19.7 billion dollars of spending by gamers, according to market researcher IHS Markit. Sony continued its dominance in 2017, and overall sales are expected to rise well above 20 billion dollars in 2018 thanks to the growth of digital console games.

Sony’s share of the market is almost double that of its nearest competitor, Microsoft’s Xbox, and well ahead of its other two rivals, Wii and Nintendo.

The local market is dominated by PlayStation, and the video game business seems to boom during the summer season when schools are closed and when students are at home for the summer holiday.

This may also be helped by a general belief among parents like Fikerte that these games enhance their children’s cognitive abilities aside from offering entertainment. Prices for the game console and accessories range between 1,700 Br to 15,000 Br in the local market depending on versions, updates and the retail stores that sell them.

The local market is dominated by PlayStation, and the video game business seems to boom during the summer season when schools are closed and when students are at home for the summer holiday.



The first generation of PlayStation was released in 1994 with 5,170 games, followed by updates of the system six years later. In 2006, the company introduced PlayStation 3 (PS3), and the eighth-generation PlayStation 4 (PS4) was introduced in 2013 with 1,812 games.

There is an array of accessories used for game control and to enhance the experience, including gaming controllers, audio and communication equipment, pointing devices and remote-control gadgets.

“Summer season is when our business booms,” said Nasseri Abdulsemed, marketing director of Glorious Plc, the exclusive importer of Sony’s PlayStation console in Ethiopia, adding that youth aged between 15 to 18 are their primary clients.

Over 64pc of secondary school students in Addis Abeba actively play video games and the trend is rising year-to-year, according to a 2015 study conducted by Befekadu Wondimu,  ‘’The Influences of Electronic Media on the Academic Performance, Behaviour & Social Interactions of Students of Secondary Schools in Addis Abeba City Government.”

This rising trend is directly related to the increase of disposable income, according to Hailemariam Kebede, a lecturer and coordinator of graduate programs at the Department of Marketing Management, Addis Abeba University College of Business & Economics.

He asserts that the video game console prices are not cheap but demands for the games are rising.

“When the market demand for the gaming product rises and there is no significant discount on prices being offered, it shows that disposable income of urban parents is growing.”

The rise of disposable incomes globally has triggered the expansion of leisure products such as PlayStation, and that is what we see taking place in the local market, according to Hailemariam.

The rise of disposable incomes globally has triggered the expansion of leisure products such as PlayStation, and that is what we see taking place in the local market, according to Hailemariam.



“Competition among the youth and their families is also a factor for the rise in demand for the products,” he said.

Adolescents and youth, whose families cannot afford to buy the consoles, have the options of playing at game zones.

Break Game Zone, located in Aymen Building near Mexico Square, is one of the arcades that offer the game for a fee.

Break Game Zone has been thriving for the past couple of years, according to Mebrahtu Gebreselassie, owner and manager.

“On average, we see 20 people coming into the arcade every day,” said Mebrahtu.

The stores charge players by the minute and depending on the duration of the games, collect between three Birr and five Birr for every five minutes of play.

After school hours and the summer are when Mebrahtu sees an increase in the number of people coming into his store.

Kibrom Tesfamariam, a 21-year-old sophomore, is one of the regulars of Break Game Zone, who comes to play PlayStation.

“I usually come here after school, with or without my friends,” he said.

“We have the latest generation of products, so many young people come to play them,” Mebrahtu told Fortune, who started his business with PlayStation 3 (PS3) and upgraded to PS4 to satisfy his clients’ demands and requests.

Although the video game business is thriving, some experts argue that the game has negative effects on children’s brains. Young people can get addicted, become less social and it can affect the academic performances of the children if families do not intervene, according to Seble Hailu, psychologist and television programme host at one of the local television stations, Nahoo Television.

World Health Organisation defines addiction to digital-gaming or video-gaming as a disorder characterized by “impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities and a continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.”

In Ethiopia, mostly teenagers were addicted to these games, but these days the trend has switched to adults, according to Befekadu’s assessment.

Though many people become familiar with the games and have these products at their homes, Glorious plc claims that some of the products are bought in the blackmarket.

Other consoles, accessories and software are imported by family members from abroad.

“There is also an expansion as a result of lack of enforcement of laws concerning copyright issues,” said Nasseri of Glorious.

Fikirte believes that she made the right choice in buying an authorised product from an exclusive importer.

“I decided to buy my son a game that excites him,” she said, “I will buy him the video game for summer entertainment, because it keeps him at home.”

By MAHDER HADDIS
FORTUNE STAFF WRITER





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