Multiple executives at online gaming companies, which continue to be a part of IAMAI’s committee on digital gaming, said the platforms did not see the interests of the industry grouping aligning with their own. These people also pointed out that the companies in the sector were working with specialised industry lobby groups on a proposal for SROs.
The development assumes significance as the online gaming industry has begun deliberations on setting up a self-regulator as proposed in the rules notified by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (Meity) last month.
The rebuttal to IAMAI’s proposal by gaming companies comes at a time when the industry body is witnessing sharp rebukes from Indian startups for being in favour of Big Tech interests. Last week, ET reported that India’s top Internet entrepreneurs were up in arms against what they termed as a lack of “credence” in the nodal industry grouping.
These founders are demanding a change in the leadership at the IAMAI, which they contend has become a “mouthpiece of Big Tech,” while failing to represent the interests of home-grown digital companies.
The government had informed gaming companies on April 7 that the industry would have three months to submit proposals for their SROs, failing which the government would initiate its own process of establishing a regulator for the sector.
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“After the draft rules were notified by the government, the IAMAI did approach us along with other leading names to form an SRO under them but we have said no to this idea,” one of the people aware of the discussions said.”Gaming firms had already distanced themselves from the Internet body over its comments to the Meity that the draft rule ‘was right on intent but poor on scoping’. So, there is concern on alignments. Other gaming-focussed associations are in the process of finalising applications,” this person added.
In February, online gaming companies had written to the Meity distancing themselves from IAMAI’s views on the draft online gaming rules. ET had reported this development exclusively on February 6.
“The focus of gaming companies right now is to set up SROs that are credible. In any case, the instruction from the government has been that the SRO will have to be an industry-represented body and not an industry-dominated body … accordingly companies are working with specialised industry associations to prepare the proposals,” another executive said.
As per the online gaming rules, the SRO will have to be set up as a legal entity under the Section 8 of the Companies Act. Its members will include an individual having online gaming industry experience; another person with experience in promoting the interests of online gaming users; an educationist; a mental health expert; an information and communication technology expert; a current or former member of an organisation dealing with protection of child rights; a public policy, law enforcement or public finance expert and any other individual approved by the government.
The government will initially notify three SROs, and depending on the workload of these, will consider notifying more at a later point.
Gaming companies are working with specialised associations such as the E-Gaming Federation, which has members including Games24x7, Junglee Games; the All India Gaming Federation, comprising the likes of Zupee, GamesKraft, Paytm First Games and MPL; and the Federation of Indian Fantasy Sports with members such as Dream11 and Fantasy Akhada, in addition to over a dozen fantasy sports startups.
Queries sent to Dream11, Zupee, Games24x7 and MPL did not elicit a response till press time Sunday. A request for comment sent to IAMAI president Subho Ray also went unanswered.
The Internet industry body had first expressed its desire to set up a gaming self-regulator in December last year.
In a statement, the IAMAI had asserted that it was best suited to form the proposed SRO for online gaming. It had argued that given the association’s hands-on experience in running a Ministry of Information and Broadcasting-mandated and registered SRO for online curated content companies, and another industry-driven SRO with the support of the Ministry of Consumer Affairs for the edtech sector, “we are best suited to set up and manage the online gaming SRO”.
However, the idea of an industry-led SRO was quickly shot down by the government. On January 16, minister of state for electronics & IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar said that the government would not allow companies and intermediaries operating in the gaming sector to control or dictate the narrative at self-regulatory organisations.
Later, the IAMAI issued a statement opposing certain proposals in the draft gaming rules. One of the key objections related to verification of each game through a self-regulatory body for service providers or advertisement platforms.
It had said the process of verifying each game with an SRO would be “impractical”. Sources aware of the goings-on said this proposal, which has now been notified in the final rules, would impact other IAMAI members like Meta, Amazon, Google and other Big Tech platforms, which might have played its role leading to the public statement.