India is the second-largest gaming market in the world, just behind China. According to a recent report, in 2023, there will be an estimated 45 crore online gamers in the country. However, burgeoning demand had presented some concerns as well. Until recently unregulated, the industry has seen offshore platforms marking a presence in the country, with limited liability or recourse for users. User education and financial losses etc have also been concerns raised from time to time. Last week MeitY’s notified rules for regulating the online gaming sector that outlines robust steps to address these concerns and usher in a new era of safe and responsible gaming.
The MeitY rules aim to address issues around financial losses and user harm for online gaming users and prescribe the framework and the guidelines for safe and responsible gaming. The notified SRBs are expected to mandate frameworks with controls such as self exclusion based on self-prescribed time and spend limits, repeated warning messages, parental control etc.
The rules take a strong stance for transparency for users of gaming platforms, putting in place a number of mandates to ensure that players are aware of safety measures and their rights. According to the new regulatory framework, all OGIs and individual games must be certified by the self-regulatory bodies (SRBs) as legitimate and must display a certification mark. This will reassure the new users and give them the guidance to engage or disengage with a particular platform. Users will have confidence that the platform certified by an SRO will have the regulatory oversight to protect them.
Ensuring fair play
The rules also ensure that online gamers have a fair and a level playing field. A well-defined KYC mandate makes sure that users compete only against legitimate players on the platform. Furthermore, the platforms may also need to adopt additional hygiene measures basis the policies prescribed by the SRB to promote transparency and platform integrity. For example it is expected that SRBs may mandate gaming platforms to secure, among other things, no bot certification from a reputed testing agency. This will give a clear indication to the users that they are not competing against AI trained bots.
The Rules also mandate a robust and transparent grievance redressal process for the users. There are several layers of redressal available for the users. For the user, there must be a grievance officer available who is a resident of India. Grievances must be allotted a unique ticket number and addressed in a set amount of time, in order to be compliant with the rules. There is also an escalation matrix in place, where users can escalate the grievance to the SRO (self-regulatory organisation) level, and also to the newly formed Grievance Appellate Committee – which has a strong Government oversight. The mechanism has been co-developed with industry and other stakeholders, ensuring that all viewpoints are considered and that users have multiple avenues to address their grievances against any company
Collectively, these measures codify the steps OGIs must take under the new, regulated environment to ensure that users are protected and secure, and the industry finally receives the legitimacy it deserves.