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SAVING THE S8UL OF THE INDIAN GAMING INDUSTRY

Author: Bhuvan Apoorva Jha


The gaming industry in India is a behemoth in the making.


A report by a leading agency pegs the gaming industry in India at just over

thirteen and a half thousand crores and the total revenue generated is estimated

to double in just under three years. Those are mind-boggling numbers for a

country that is just starting to reap the dividends of increased digital penetration,

on the back of the government’s flagship programme ‘Digital India’. That

growth has been driven primarily by the easy access to cheap data plans and

mobile phones in the country. Coupled with the tendency of increased screen

time in a post-pandemic world, the confluence has served to put a young,

thriving, vibrant population on the world wide web.


However, as with any nascent industry whose growth has been largely organic,

there exist underlying issues that need to be addressed if the youth are to fully

realise their potential in this area.


One, the propensity to overtax this sector must be resisted. The gaming industry

is by and large audience funded. Individual gamers receive donations from their

viewers, depending on their in-game skills, personality engagement or a mix of

both. This is in addition to what successful individual gamers receive from the

host platforms (YouTube/ Twitch/Loco) and brand collaborations. Currently,

the proposal to levy 28% Goods & Services Tax is under consideration. In

combination with the high income tax applied to earnings from gaming, they

have the potential to make the Indian gaming industry unsustainable.

Historically, gaming has been considered at par with betting and horse racing

while formulating such measures. However, that has proven to be

counterproductive as tax revenue from both betting and horse racing industries

fell after the introduction of the tax. Moreover, gaming is a skill-based

enterprise and keeping it at par with a game of chance has the potential to be

detrimental to the gaming industry.


Two, the effective enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) in the

Indian context has to be guaranteed. The National Intellectual Property Rights

Policy of 2016, due for review, needs to comprehensively re-consider the

sectoral concerns of the gaming industry, particularly for the protection of

content created by the individual gamer. Criminal penalties are not expressly

available and civil remedies are difficult to obtain and do not have a deterrent-

level effect. That dispute resolution and redressal may also be inordinately

delayed due to an overburdened judiciary does not help ameliorate the situation.


Three, the youth-driven gaming industry needs to be better regulated. With

young impressionable minds streaming for hours on end, the audience

engagement at times takes a turn for the worst. What follows is the choicest of

expletives traded, threats made and ultimatums issued - all while an audience

that surpasses the live engagement of major news channels watches on.

Incidences of online disagreement being extrapolated to ‘offline’ real-life

consequences have also been recorded. The way forward has to include better

juvenile protection enforcement, especially when it comes to online

engagement. The onus of that lies not just with the government but also with

host platforms such as YouTube, Twitch and Loco. That online harassment and

abuse being passed off as ‘trolling’ is no secret, however, those boundaries

quickly vapourise when dealing with a juvenile. The National Commission for

Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) ought to play a more proactive role,

especially in educating and informing the youth about their rights when online.


Four, the mad rush to become an overnight sensation must be acknowledged

and addressed. Most professional gamers aspire to be the next big gaming

streamer. That only a handful of individual creators dominate the scene

currently is a testament to their perseverance and ability. There has been Indian

representation in global gaming events and much to the author’s surprise, the

Indian teams did manage to hold their own against teams from countries that

have traditionally dominated the field. This augurs well for the industry. For a

country with the massive demographic dividend that India boasts of, individuals

proficient in the art of online content creation have the potential to become

ambassadors in the extension of India’s soft power globally.


However, what also needs to be acknowledged is that additional skill-building

has to be considered by individuals wanting to make a name for themselves in

this field. The odds are stacked against a gamer and even if one does become a

nationally recognised professional streamer, the shelf life is unknown. Unless

separate financial avenues and skill enhancement are considered, relying solely

on an online platform-based career wouldn’t be the most prudent strategy for an

individual.


The Indian gaming industry is young and restless. What it needs is a facilitative

environment for it to germinate and grow into an industry that reflects its true

capability. For the day is not far, when an Indian team knocks the dominators

off their perch in a global tournament. Until that day, we invest in our youth and

back them to the hilt.


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