The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has issued new guidelines to protect online gamers from dangerous content. For the internet pay-to-earn sector, a self-regulation mechanism has been implemented, with SROs approving games that can operate in the country while adhering to the rules.
The Indian Ministry of Electronics and IT has introduced new rules to safeguard online gamers from dangerous content through a self-regulation model, overseen by SROs.
The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has issued new guidelines to protect online gamers from dangerous content. For the internet pay-to-earn sector, a self-regulation mechanism has been implemented, with SROs approving games that can operate in the country while adhering to the rules. These new online pay-to-earn restrictions have been incorporated as an amendment to the 2021 IT restrictions.
What is an online game?
The Indian government defines an online game as “a game offered on the Internet and is accessible by a user through a computer resource or an intermediary.”
However, online games that are involved in pay-to-earn will fall foul of the new rules. Minister of State for Electronics and IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar told reporters that “permissible online games are those games, pay-to-play or otherwise, that do not involve pay-to-earn, user harm in its content and do not create any addictive consequences for children.”
What is an SRO?
Self-Regulatory Organisations will assess if an online game is allowed or not depending on whether it incorporates pay-to-win. Three SROs will be notified initially, but the government may add more later. The new guidelines also require that SROs include an educator, a psychologist or mental health professional, and someone who is or has been a member or official of a child rights organisation.
What are the new rules?
The new rules can be summarised into the following points:
1. The government will establish multiple SROs comprised of members from diverse sectors. These SROs will decide whether or not a game is permitted.
2. Gaming companies or platforms must not offer, publish, or share online games with harmful or prohibited material. They must confirm the identification of internet gamers.
3. Online games using any form of pay-to-win (including advertisements) would be outlawed.
4. SROs will also ensure that games meet the criteria to prevent mental harm through parental controls, regular warning messages, and age-rating systems.
5. Gamers will be able to opt-out after hitting their time or money constraints.
Aside from the above, Rajeev Chandrasekhar clarified that pay-to-play is allowed but it will become unpermissible if money is staked on the result of the game. He added that any SRO that permits such games would be breaking the rules. This was in response to a question about some apps that offer cash prizes based on the outcome of IPL cricket matches.
What are the new rules aiming to do?
The Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) has asked SROs to prominently mention a framework for verifying an online pay-to-play game on their websites and/or mobile apps. This framework will be put in place to guarantee the following:
1. The government will establish a number of SROs comprised of representatives from diverse industries. These SROs will decide whether or not to allow a game.
2. Online games with hazardous or prohibited content must not be offered, published, or shared by gaming companies or platforms. They must confirm online gamers’ identities.
3. Any form of pay-to-win (including advertisements) in online games would be outlawed.
4. Through parental controls, frequent warning signs, and age-rating systems, SROs will also ensure that games meet criteria to minimise mental harm.
5. Gamers will be able to opt-out after exceeding their time or money limits.
How have stakeholders reacted to the proposed rules?
Online gaming companies and industry associations have welcomed the new rules. While some have called it a landmark moment, others have hailed it as a means to promote gaming innovations in India.
“The release of the new online gaming rules is a watershed moment for the industry, as it recognizes online gaming intermediaries and distinguishes them from pay-to-earn. The rules will go a long way in helping India to become a global leader in gaming and also contribute to the continued success of Brand India and Create in India,” said Sai Srinivas, CEO and Co-Founder of MPL.
According to Srinivas, the new laws’ legal framework will increase investor trust. He also stated that the sector anticipates less regulatory fragmentation at the state level to establish a more stable business climate and combat pay-to-earn platforms.
According to Dr Subi Chaturvedi, Chief Corporate Affairs and Public Policy Officer at InMobi Group, the new standards would stimulate innovation and support ‘create in India’ and ‘brand in India’ activities. “It will ensure the responsible and transparent growth of the industry, safeguarding consumer interests while curbing the proliferation of illegal offshore pay-to-earn sites,” said Chaturvedi.
Echoing a similar sentiment, Deepak Gullapalli, Founder & CEO, Head Digital Works (A23), said that the announcement of new rules by MeitY is a positive turning point for the gaming industry. “The clear definition of pay-to-play and permissible games will be crucial in catalysing the growth of legitimate industry players. This framework will allow us to innovate and operate freely while ensuring that the necessary guardrails are in place to safeguard the users,” he said.
Shiva Nandy, Founder and CEO of Skyesports, said, “As an esports tournament organizer, the new rules are a great sign as they clearly distinguish between online gaming and pay-to-play. I look forward to seeing a lot of homegrown online games being created by Indian developers. I urge that the approval process for these developers through the SROs is swift and uncomplicated.”
Credit: The Indian Express