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India has become home to a booming online gaming industry, fostering an attractive domestic market, and an ecosystem of creators. The online gaming market grew 28 per cent in 2021 and is expected to generate revenues of over ₹29,000 crore in FY 2025.
A far cry from the days of Contra and Mario, today’s immersive, multiplayer games are the gateway into the metaverse enabled future. The industry has moved from a pastime/entertainment into becoming the core identity of digital-native users. Online gaming is one of the fastest growing job creators, generating high-value employment for thousands across India, and has elevated Indian gaming companies in investor league tables globally.
But the gaming industry in India suffers from inherent perception challenges (often wrongly conflated with gambling) and lacks regulatory clarity.
Moreover, certain State governments have identified gaming as gambling, and the Supreme Court has had to get involved. The potent mix of (a) perception challenges and (b) regulatory confusion had led to losses to the exchequer, and is impacting the investment climate.
As a response, the Centre is exploring self-regulation with the industry. However, some stakeholders suggest that self-regulation may bring its own set of challenges.
Age ratings for games in Europe and the US are monitored by their Self-Regulatory Organizations (SRO) PEGI and ESRB. There are numerous examples of self-regulated industries, both with and without substantial regulatory oversight. On the other hand, India has seen questionable enforcement efficiency of SROs.
The FICCI survey on Advertising Standards showed that ASCI (Advertising Standards Council of India), a voluntary self-regulation council, has not been able to regulate effectively. India is not alone in this challenge.
The big question, therefore, is who protects public interest? Perhaps the industry may want to offer a tiered redressal mechanism, a pre-emptive olive-branch of sorts, to resolve issues internally and later escalate issues to regulators that it cannot resolve within.