Sony is making a bold bet on an African gaming startup to boost PlayStation’s reach in the continent

African gaming

Carry1st, an African gaming startup, exclusively told CNBC that Sony has made a strategic investment in the company and is looking to collaborate with the PlayStation manufacturer on new business potential.
Sony is placing a significant wager with this investment on the expansion of the video game market in Africa, which has expanded quickly in recent years despite a general dip in sales worldwide following the epidemic.
Although there aren’t many information available at this time about Sony and Carry1st’s partnership, it probably involves working together on certain titles and expanding the PlayStation name in African gaming.

Sony is taking a big risk by investing in the African gaming market.

Video game company Carry1st, situated in Cape Town, South Africa, has received an undisclosed investment from the Japanese consumer electronics and gaming giant through its venture arm, the Sony Innovation Fund, Carry1st exclusively informed CNBC.

The agreement is a calculated risk investment that will allow the two businesses to collaborate on various business ventures. The two businesses are now in the “exploratory stages” of their collaboration.

The CEO and co-founder of Carry1st, Cordel Robbin-Coker, stated that discussions with the Sony Innovation Fund started eight or nine months ago. He made the argument to the manufacturer of PlayStation consoles that Africa is the next major region where video game sales would increase.

“Our pitch is that Africa is a prime market for that, as large companies like Sony that have really strong footholds in tier-one and tier-two markets start thinking about where the next billion customers and gamers are going to come from,” Robbin-Coker said in an interview with CNBC.

Robbin-Coker stated, “We believe very firmly that there is an incredibly underrated console opportunity in Africa,” pointing to nations where console adoption is significantly increasing, such as Nigeria, Morocco, and Algeria.

Sony is entering a game industry that is still in its infancy but has enormous development potential. According to data by Carry1st and venture capital firm Konvoy, the gaming market in Sub-Saharan Africa is predicted to produce over $1 billion for the first time in 2024.

According to Robbin-Coker, a lot of gamers in Africa purchase consoles from sellers who import them from other countries and resell them locally, or from “gray” marketplaces.

Expanding PlayStation in Africa

A facet of Carry1st’s collaboration with Sony was aiding the massive gaming and entertainment company in growing PlayStation’s presence in African gaming.

A facet of Carry1st’s collaboration with Sony was aiding the massive gaming and entertainment company in growing PlayStation’s presence in African gaming.

In the fiscal year 2023, Sony predicted that it will sell a record 25 million PlayStation 5 systems, making it the best-ever year for a PlayStation console. Shortages resulting from a lack of chips and supply chain interruptions plagued the PS5 at first.

By investing in Carry1st, Sony is staking its claim that the PS5 will see significant rise in sales in Africa as its next big market.

“We hope to be able to support [Sony] in a number of ways, including broader go-to-market strategies and digital payments, and help them expand their PlayStation reach in the region,” Robbin-Coker stated to CNBC.

He pointed out that Carry1st might benefit from the evolving console market, where sales have shifted from mostly being made in-store for actual consoles and games to a more online experience with in-app purchases, digital downloads, and free-to-play games. African gamers may purchase games utilizing local infrastructure, bank accounts, and payment methods including M-Pesa and mobile wallets thanks to Carry1st’s localized payment service Pay1st. Carry1st is the company’s online marketplace for games and supplemental material, where game developers may generate money from their creations.

In development are original games

Founded in 2018, Carry1st focuses primarily on creating casual and sociable puzzle-based mobile games for the African market.

At the moment, Carry1st exclusively develops and produces games for other customers, such as Activision. However, the business has announced that it would be creating three new games this year as part of its own unique products.

Although not much is currently known about the original games, Robbin-Coker states that he “firmly believes” Carry1st is on schedule to release its first-party game sometime in 2024 and that he is “very confident” about the road map for the series.

Although Carry1st is still in its early stages of development, its growth has accelerated recently. According to Carry1st, its income increased by about nine times between 2021 and 2023. Due to the sensitivity of the data, Carry1st stated that it was unable to provide a more complete view of its financials.

African gaming
African gaming

Carry1st brings popular Western video game brands to Africa, including “Call of Duty: Mobile” and “Valorant,” in collaboration with Activision, Supercell, and Riot games.

The firm is the creator of the mobile games Ludo Blitz, “Mine Rescue,” “SpongeBob Krusty Cook-Off,” and “Mancala Adventures,” which were created in collaboration with Nickelodeon.

With its October 2023 debut, Sony Innovation Fund: Africa is a flagship venture fund that was created to invest in early-stage African entertainment industry entrepreneurs. With its investment in Carry1st, Sony has made its first financial commitment to this sector.

The Africa fund of Sony Ventures Corporate, the company’s venture capital division, received an initial $10 million.

In a statement, Antonio Avitabile, general director for EMEA at Sony Ventures Corporation, stated, “We are excited to welcome Carry1st as our first investment in Africa.”

“With our investment in Carry1st, we hope to experience and contribute to the tremendous untapped potential for the gaming market in Africa,” stated Avitabile.

“We are excited to collaborate closely with Carry1st’s elite management team to foster the company’s expansion and investigate possible business prospects with Sony Group companies,” Avitabile continued.

With this recent transaction, Carry1st has added another well-known name to its roster of venture investors. The startup has received $60 million in investment thus far from Andreessen Horowitz, Bitkraft Ventures, Google, Riot Games, and artist Nas.

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