A group of 10 independent video-game developing firms has requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a "uniform and fair" treatment of all entities following the suspension of Krafton's popular Battlegrounds Mobile India (BGMI) game.
Saying that BGMI's suspension had "shaken the industry to its core", the founders of the gaming firms said in their letter to the PM that such "arbitrary decisions run counter to established principles" and would deny opportunities to an entire generation of Indians.
Founders of gaming firms Outlier Games, Story Pix, Lucid Labs, Roach Interactive, Godspeed Games, Uniplay Digital, Silvine Game Studios, Xigma Games, Playbae Games and Bornmonkie signed the letter, a copy of which has been reviewed by Moneycontrol.
India was lagging considerably in creating high skilled entrepreneurs and a workforce for video games, the letter that was sent on August 8 said.
While capital and infrastructure were critical to the survival and development of the industry, global video gaming companies, with their experience and next-generation technology, were needed for a robust gaming ecosystem in India, the founders said.
They requested Modi’s "urgent intervention in the matter" and sought a fair framework for all players.
"There is a greater need for a clear set of standards and framework to ensure fairness and uniformity to all stakeholders,” the letter said.
The founder said the industry wanted to proactively engage with the government to form a robust set of video games-centric policies.
“This will go a long way in creating an enabling and conducive environment which facilitates the growth of the video game industry allowing the industry to compete globally," the letter said.
In May 2022, the government set up a seven-member inter-ministerial task force chaired by minister of state for information technology Rajeev Chandrasekhar to work on regulations for the online gaming industry and identify a nodal ministry for the sector.
Seeking a level playing field
Since then, the minister has held multiple rounds of discussions with skill gaming platforms, industry associations, lawyers and gamers who have sought a light-touch self-regulatory policy framework.
However, Outlier Games founder Harish Chengaiah told Moneycontrol that prominent skill-based gaming platforms represented only one side of the industry. Their letter intended to "get their voices heard".
“When the government wants to formulate policies, they have gone to only prominent players. Nobody comes and talks to us in terms of what the video games side of the industry wants, which is becoming a big problem," he said.
"Since we are small and medium companies, we are yet to grow to that stage as the gaming industry is very new in India. So, we need time and we need proper regulation in the first place."
BGMI was pulled out of Google Play Store and Apple App Store on July 28 following a government order. The app was also removed from third-party marketplaces such as Codashop and BGMI's website.
Before the ban, Krafton had claimed that BGMI had surpassed 100 million registered users in India in July. It had clocked about $33 million in-app spend from July 2021-July 2022, according to estimates app intelligence firm Sensor Tower shared with Moneycontrol.
This is the second instance that Krafton is facing a ban on a mobile game title in the country after the South Korean firm’s flagship title PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG) was banned in September 2020 with 117 other China-linked apps over data security concerns.
Since then, Krafton cut ties with its publishing partner Tencent, a Chinese firm, and took over all publishing responsibilities in India.
It also set up a subsidiary and invested about $100 million across various local startups in areas such as video games, esports, and entertainment.
While the government has not officially commented on this suspension, Chandrasekhar recently told Moneycontrol that any app "sending data back in violation of our laws will be taken down. It has nothing to do with which country the app originated in".
The development also comes at a time when the gaming sector is seeing unprecedented growth in terms of downloads and revenue on the back of coronavirus pandemic-induced home confinement.The gaming market was estimated to be at Rs 13,600 crore for the financial year 2021 and is expected to touch Rs 29,000 crore by FY 2025, according to a KPMG report.