Representatives from the video gaming industry on Monday, in a letter viewed by The Hindu, sent a representation to the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), asking the government to treat video games separately from real money games that involve wagering real money. This comes as the Ministry moves to regulate “online gaming,” whose definition for now is limited to real money gaming platforms.
“The current draft notification combines ‘video games’ and ‘online games played for stakes’ into the same regulatory purview,” the consortium of over 40 video game and esports companies said.
Indian companies that have signed this representation letter include Ludo King developer Gametion, and two large gaming live-streaming platforms, Loco and Rooter, as well as Indus and MaskGun creator SuperGaming to name a few. Chennai-based Outlier Games organised the effort.
“We note that there seem to be no countries in the world which recognise and regulate” these two categories of games similarly, the letter said. “Prudence requires that this distinction be acknowledged and considered in an appropriate light.”
“Broadly, the advanced video game markets globally like the USA, Canada, the U.K., the EU, Japan, South Korea and Australia have legislative treatment that is clearly demarcated,” the letter added. “Thus, we must very strongly impress upon the policymakers, regulators and other arms of the government to treat online games played for stakes and video games as distinct subjects.”
Industry officials have sought a consultative meeting with MeitY, like the one scheduled between representatives of the real money gaming industry and government officials, for Tuesday.
The draft amendment to the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 proposed by MeitY only qualifies as “online games” those where a player “makes a deposit with the expectation of earning winnings”.
Union Minister of State for Information Technology Rajeev Chandrasekhar indicated, however, that this definition may be expanded to include other types of games, which worried a few firms in the video gaming industry, as they are not eager to be regulated under the same framework as real money gaming platforms.
In the letter to MeitY, the consortium said treating these categories similarly would run counter to India’s stated positions at trade negotiations, specifically those held under the auspices of the World Trade Organisation.
The consortium said that in view of increased international investment into the Indian video gaming industry, the government would need to “provide enhanced clarity” for investors and multinationals with a stake in the Indian gaming industry.
In the letter, the companies pitched a system of classifying video games by age for India, as is done in the United States by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB); in Europe via the Pan-European Game Information (PEGI) system; and in some other countries through the International Age Rating Coalition, whose ratings sometimes appear on app marketplaces in India, such as Google Play and the Microsoft Store.
The consortium argued against censorship, reasoning that doing so for video games was more expensive than was the case for films. “ [...] if the costs to censor a video game specifically for the Indian market outweighs the potential business, the video game companies would choose to skip an India release, a move that can affect the growth trajectory of Indian video games industry,” the letter warned.