Sony invests in African mobile games publisher Carry1st

Image Credits: Carry1st

Sony is boldly venturing into Africa’s burgeoning video game industry, having invested an undisclosed sum in Carry1st, a Cape Town-based video game studio. 

This strategic investment, facilitated through Sony’s Innovation Fund venture arm, establishes a partnership that explores various commercial opportunities. Cordel Robbin-Coker, Carry1st’s CEO and co-founder, initiated talks with the Sony Innovation Fund nearly nine months ago, emphasizing Africa’s potential as the next major market for video game growth. With console adoption rising in countries like Nigeria, Morocco, and Algeria, Carry1st sees an underrated console opportunity in Africa. 

Sub-Saharan Africa’s gaming industry is projected to exceed $1 billion in 2024, with many gamers acquiring consoles from “gray” markets. Sony aims to leverage its investment to expand PlayStation’s presence in Africa, tapping into the region’s significant growth potential.

Carry1st’s partnership with Sony not only focuses on expanding PlayStation in Africa but also explores broader go-to-market strategies and digital payments. The collaboration aligns with Sony’s ambitious goal of selling a record 25 million PlayStation 5 units in the 2023 fiscal year. 

Carry1st’s localized payment service, Pay1st, provides African gamers with a platform to buy games using local infrastructure, bank accounts, and payment methods such as M-Pesa and mobile wallets. As the console business model shifts towards digital downloads, free-to-play games, and in-app purchases, Carry1st aims to adapt by offering a seamless online experience.

Founded in 2018, Carry1st specializes in developing social and casual puzzle-based mobile games tailored for an African audience. While the company has primarily created games for clients like Activision, it is now venturing into developing its own original titles. With three new games currently in development, Carry1st plans to launch its debut first-party game in 2024. 

The startup has experienced significant growth, with revenues surging nearly ninefold between 2021 and 2023. Despite being in the early stages, Carry1st has played a vital role in bringing Western game franchises like “Call of Duty: Mobile” and “Valorant” to Africa. 

Sony’s investment in Carry1st represents the first financial commitment from its flagship African venture fund, Sony Innovation Fund: Africa, launched in October 2023. With an initial allocation of $10 million, this fund aims to support early-stage startups in Africa’s entertainment industry. Carry1st’s latest deal adds to its impressive list of backers, including Andreessen Horowitz, Bitkraft Ventures, Google, Riot Games, and rapper Nas, contributing a total of $60 million in funding to date.

In January 2023, Carry1st raised $27 million in a funding round led by Bitkraft Ventures, with Andreesen Horowitz, TTV Capital, Alumni Ventures, Lateral Capital, Kepple Ventures, and Konvoy also participating.

Written by Sophie Blake


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