By Adedapo Adesanya
The Japanese consumer electronics and gaming giant, Sony, has invested an undisclosed sum into South African startup, Carry1st, as it seeks to boost its growth and reach in the African gaming market.
Sony’s investment in Carry1st marks the first financial commitment of its new flagship African venture fund, Sony Innovation Fund: Africa, which launched in October 2023 to invest in early-stage startups in Africa’s entertainment industry.
The deal will be part of an initial $10 million allocated in the Fund.
Carry1st’s localized payment service Pay1st allows African gamers to buy games using local infrastructure, bank accounts, and payment methods including M-Pesa and mobile wallets. Game makers can monetize their games on Carry1st, the company’s online marketplace for games and add-on content.
According to Mr Cordel Robbin-Coker, CEO and co-founder of Carry1st, the deal is a strategic investment that will see the two companies partner on a range of commercial opportunities including the development of new games.
He said the discussions began over eight months ago and both companies are in the “exploratory stages” of that partnership.
In an interview with CNBC, he said that his pitch to the PlayStation console maker was that Africa is the next big market to find growth in video games.
Sub-Saharan Africa’s gaming industry is expected to generate over $1 billion for the first time in 2024.
“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, our pitch is that Africa is a prime market for that.”
Mr Robbin-Coker said countries like Nigeria, Morocco and Algeria as places where console adoption is rising a lot, adding that Carry1st’s partnership with Sony was about helping the games and entertainment giant expand PlayStation’s footprint in Africa.
“We believe very firmly that there is an incredibly underrated console opportunity in Africa,” he noted.
Sony will also be using the opportunity to boost the sale of the latest PlayStation console – the PS5.
“We hope that we can help [Sony] to expand their reach of PlayStation in the region and support them in a range of ways, including broader go-to-market strategies, as well as digital payments,” Mr Robbin-Coker added.
He noted Carry1st could take advantage of the changing console business model, where sales have gone from primarily in-store payments for physical consoles and games to a more online experience marked by digital downloads, free-to-play games, and in-app purchases.