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Carry1st, an African mobile games publisher, receives investment from Sony

Sony is making a bold foray into Africa’s burgeoning video game industry with a strategic investment in Carry1st, a Cape Town-based video game studio. This undisclosed investment, facilitated through Sony’s Innovation Fund venture arm, marks the beginning of a partnership aimed at exploring various commercial opportunities in the region.

Cordel Robbin-Coker, CEO, and co-founder of Carry1st, initiated discussions with the Sony Innovation Fund nearly nine months ago, highlighting Africa’s potential as a significant market for video game growth. With increasing console adoption in countries like Nigeria, Morocco, and Algeria, Carry1st sees an untapped console opportunity on the continent.

Sub-Saharan Africa’s gaming industry is projected to surpass $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 considerable growth potential.

Carry1st’s partnership with Sony extends beyond expanding PlayStation in Africa. It also delves into broader go-to-market strategies and digital payment solutions. 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, offers African gamers a platform to purchase games using local infrastructure, bank accounts, and popular payment methods like 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 providing a seamless online experience.

Established in 2018, Carry1st specializes in developing social and casual puzzle-based mobile games tailored for an African audience. While initially creating games for clients like Activision, the company 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.

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

Sony’s investment in Carry1st marks 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.

Source: adapted from an article by Sophie Blake, Author for Mobile Marketing Reads.

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