Esports Is Now Officially Recognized Under India’s Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports
The President of India Droupadi Murmu released a notification for the Cabinet Secretariat revealing that esports in India is now a part of “multi-sports events” under the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports (Yuvak Karyakram Aur Khel Mantralaya) under the subheading B. Department of Sports (Khel Vibhag).
Online gaming is also officially recognized and it falls under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology. The Animation, Visual Effects, Gaming and Comics (AVGC) Promotion Task Force, which was established earlier this year after the Union Budget of 2022-23, has also submitted a report outlining the opportunities, challenges and recommended actions that the Government of India can take to promote and nurture the industry.
What the Move Means for India
AFK Gaming reached out to Abhishek Subbaiah, Managing Partner at Bridge Legal India and discussed the implications of the move. He stated that the development essentially indicates that the Central Government has recognized 'online gaming' and 'e-Sports' as businesses that should be handled at the Union level via the MEITY (Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology) and Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports respectively. While there aren't any actual Legal effects yet, one can expect some nationwide regulations to be prescribed soon.
He said, “The Devil will be in the details as always, however - what is 'online gaming', precisely? Will it include so-called 'real-money gambling'? Will it distinguish between games of skill and chance? How the Centre approaches this while keeping in mind the many State laws is something we will need to observe. All in all, still a positive first step to achieve some clarity since the Centre has recognised its responsibility (and more likely, the potential revenue to the Exchequer).”
“I think the more fundamental difference that needs to be brought in, still, is that between gaming and gambling - gaming as we and the world know it today will always have ties with eSports, being the top-tier competitive level as with any other sport. What we can expect through regulation (hopefully) should be clarity on what the scope of 'online gaming' is exactly that the MEITY plans to regulate, as well as how it will coexist with State laws - it's entirely possible that this development could further complicate an already ambiguous Legal space.” he added.
It is important to note that esports that fall under multi-sports events are recognized under the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports but standalone events might not be included. It is currently unknown if esports tournaments hosted by independent tournament organizers will fall under the same regulation.
Esports Industry Reacts to Government of India Move
Mr. Anirudh Pandita, Founder, Loco stated, "We welcome the Government of India’s decision to recognise esports as a component of multi-sport events and bring online gaming under the remit of MeitY. With this legislation, the government has underlined the importance of building a vibrant gaming ecosystem and we believe that if the industry works in resonance with the government, then India will become a global gaming superpower soon. In the past two years, Loco has been the largest investor in India’s game streaming and esports ecosystem and in 2023, we look forward to continuing our investment in domestic gaming technology and content initiatives.”
Lokesh Suji, Director, the Esports Federation of India and Vice President of the Asian Esports Federation stated, “Great news for us to begin the New Year. We have been constantly working on establishing the difference between esports and iGaming, and finally, our efforts have been fulfilled. We welcome this announcement by our government under the leadership of Hon'ble PM Modi ji, which will open new avenues to pour in more investment opportunities in this booming industry. From now onwards, we will have to build the proper infrastructure, training facilities and coaching for our young esports athletes. Only a short time until we see Esports being placed in the same league as cricket, football, basketball, etc. and having similar fan power, scale and craze.”
Rohit Jagasia, Founder and CEO, Revenant Esports stated, “Today can be said to be the greatest day in Indian Esports history. The collective efforts of the entire gaming fraternity along with the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports have finally reaped its rewards. We can now proudly consider Esports a legitimate sport in India. This revolutionary decision will not only transform the country's gaming landscape in terms of improved infrastructure, funding, exposure and providing education about the sector but will also put India on the global Esports map as a force to be reckoned with.”
Mr Animesh Agarwal, Founder and CEO of 8bit Creatives and ex-esports athlete stated, “The entire Esports fraternity in India will be rejoicing with this welcome news which has certainly been a result of the gaming community's collective efforts spanning over the last few years. Esports has already been considered as a medal sport in the Olympics and Asian games and this news will further boost the sport in the country as it was long overdue. The industry inclusive of developers, players and creators as a whole is growing at a fast pace and to come full-circle this recognition will be very thriving for the industry.”
Rohit Agarwal, Founder & Director, Alpha Zegus, stated, “One small step by the government, one giant leap for our industry. It's an absolute delight to see this news come in just when the new year is around the corner. Government recognizing esports as a multisport event will open a lot of doors for our space - whether it is more investors showing interest, bigger scale events, or even more support by family to take up esports as a career. We might also start seeing more international interest from both publishers and brands. This is the beginning of a new chapter for the industry.”
Abhishek Aggarwal, Founder and CEO, Trinity Gaming, stated, "AVGC sectors are the front runner in the new age economy growth structure of the country and can generate a good number of job opportunities and scope for all associated stakeholders. India is expected to become one of the world’s leading markets in the gaming industry."
Shiva Nandy, Founder and CEO, Skyesports, stated, "The inclusion of Esports under the Government of India (Allocation of Business Rules) is a big step to the widespread acceptance of the industry. It is also a very positive sign towards the growth of Indian Esports and for a medal-winning approach. Furthermore, the GOI has displayed understanding about what Esports is by allocating it under the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports. I'm confident that in the coming years we will be able to create an ecosystem where we can train young talent for esports just like we do for other sports."
AVGC Task Force Requests Framework to Regulate Online Skill Gaming
The AVGC Promotion Task Force has recommended changes to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) and has requested a dedicated budget to promote the sector.
The government task force has recommended establishing incubators to accelerate the growth of startups in the AVGC industry and has asked the MIB to look into tax rebates, incentivizing foreign direct investments (FDI), and offering research and development opportunities to the industry.
The AVGC Task Force’s report revealed that the online gaming sector in India grew by 28% in 2021 and reached over USD $1.22 billion in valuation. It noted that the growth was fueled by the consumption habits of consumers and the rise of digital media. Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the creation of the AVGC Promotion Task Force during the 2022-23 Union Budget and highlighted that India is among the top five markets in the world for mobile gaming.
The task force also outlined the importance of formal education for aspiring professionals in the AVGC sector. It noted that India is one of the youngest nations in the world with over 60% of the population in the working age group and about 46% of the population below 25 years of age. Formal education in the AVGC sector can help students join the industry and help grow it even further.
The Challenges of the AVGC Sector in India
While the government of India has shown interest in nurturing the AVGC industry, there are also some challenges that need to be tackled according to the AVGC task force.
There is a lack of authentic data for the AVGC sector
A lack of dedicated vocational training for AVGC jobs
The quality of output and human resources of the AVGC industry needs to be improved through adequate training
A lack of research and development
A lack of regulatory frameworks
A lack of globally popular Indian IPs
The AVGC Task Force reported that these challenges can be overcome through promotion of Indian content, gender equality, social inclusion, education, access to finance and technology, skilling and mentorship, and the creation of high-quality content.
Education and its standardization are essential according to the task force. It has recommended the introduction of new courses such as a Bachelors in Experimental Arts (Gaming), Game Art Design, Virtual Reality, and other important disciplines in the gaming, animation, and comic industry.