The Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) of India is attempting to recognize and regulate the growing gaming industry of the country, particularly with real-money games. However, the initial draft of this amendment to the IT law presents a problem. It has clubbed video games and gambling apps under the common term: “online gaming.”
Real-money gaming like gambling, rummy, and fantasy applications is miles different from video games played for leisure, such a law would have negative implications for the booming industry in the country. Fortunately, the MeitY has said that this is a draft amendment and is taking public consultations.
As such, a group of Indian gaming and esports companies led by Indie game developer Outlier Games’ founder Harish Chengaiah have banded together to highlight this shortcoming of the proposed amendment. It also explained in a letter to the MeitY the differences between real-money gaming and video gaming. Additionally, it also highlighted the importance of separating both.
Gaming and Esports companies write to the Government of India
Video gaming is a growing industry in the country and a very lucrative market. International gaming developers like Krafton and Ubisoft have also set up offices in the country. The Indian government is also making a push to promote local video games in the country.
A recent letter signed by 40+ companies, highlighted that these efforts to grow the local gaming industry can be “derailed” due to its clubbing with gambling apps. The letter also mentioned how this matter is taken up in other countries. It highlighted that globally, online games played for entertainment are called “video games”. The industry behind this is referred to as the “video games industry.”
Real-money gaming and fantasy applications, on the other hand, are called the “iGaming industry.”
What are the recommendations to the government of India?
While the proposed amendment by India’s IT ministry falls short, such regulation is urgently needed in the country. Up until now, online rummy and fantasy applications have been able to operate without many purviews. They have also engaged in harmful and manipulative advertising.
As such, the letter gives three recommendations to the government on how to tackle this issue. The first recommendation says that the government should create a “regulatory distinction” between “video games” and “online games that are played for stakes.”
The letter also addressed the government of India’s concern that certain games are too addictive and harmful to the youth. In the past, several Indian states have banned PUBG Mobile for having a negative impact on children.
For this, the letter says that an “India-specific age content rating mechanism” should be set up similar to the PEGI in Europe and ESRB in North America. It should also have a framework to deal with issues related to gaming addiction and exposure to in-game purchases.
The letter is definitely a positive initiative by the gaming and esports companies of the country. With the government welcoming suggestions from all stakeholders, it remains to be seen if these concerns are taken into account when the final amendment is put forth. The MeitY hasn’t given a timeline on when that may happen.