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Devs object to Indian government lumping video games in with gambling

Dozens of Indian game and esports outfits pan proposed rules that put gaming and real-money wagering under same regulatory purview

A group of 44 Indian game developers and esports companies are objecting to a government plan that would combine traditional video games and real-money gambling games into the same regulatory category, a move that say inappropriate meshes two entirely separate industries.

The group was organized by Outlier Games, and counted executives, founders, and board members of Gametion, Nodding Head Games, Ncore, Loco, Lila Games, and SuperGaming among its members.

"The business model, consumer engagement behaviour, legal environment and peripheral operations of the two industries are totally different between video games and online games played for stakes," the letter says. "Thus, it is neither accurate nor fair for the two to be clubbed together under the same regulatory framework as it calls for distinct measures rather than blanket measures to address the unique circumstances of the respective industries."

The developers note that no country considers revenues from online gambling when preparing games industry market reports and forecasts for the purposes of analysing its revenue generation or tax impacts.

The consortium is asking the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology to create a distinction between "video games" and "online games that are played for stakes."

As for addressing the government's legitimate concerns about the traditional gaming industry, the developers suggest the creation of an India-specific age and content rating mechanism along the lines of the EU's PEGI and North America's ESRB systems.

Beyond that, they also suggest "creating a robust framework to deal with issues such as children's addiction to video games, their exposure to in-game purchases, age-inappropriate content and online harm."

Gaming has caught the attention of the Indian government in recent years, for better and worse.

While prime minister Narendra Modi has expressed support for gaming and a desire to see developers bring Indian culture and folk tales to the world, India has also seen bans for games like PUBG Mobile, its replacement Battlegrounds Mobile India, and Garena Free Fire.

While the titles were banned due to apparent links to Chinese companies, PUBG Mobile was also banned in a number of Indian cities in 2019 as local authorities were concerned it was addictive, and provoked violence and anger in young people.

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Brendan Sinclair

Managing Editor

Brendan joined in 2012. Based in Toronto, Ontario, he was previously senior news editor at GameSpot in the US.