Continuing with its role of being a watchdog around emerging and high growth categories, the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has launched its first-ever detailed guidelines to make real-money gaming advertising safer and more responsible. In recent months, especially during the pandemic, online gaming has seen a huge and almost disproportionate surge.
This set of guidelines by ASCI have been developed to ensure that such advertising makes users aware of financial and other risks that are associated with playing online games with real money winnings.
Show me the money in gaming
- The Indian online gaming market, currently pegged at over $500m, has been growing and the pandemic has led to its growing leaps and bounds. As per estimates, it is well on its way to being worth $1.1bn by 2021.
- A recent KPMG study found the growth in online gaming to be 45% in FY20 with the user base exceeding 365 million by March 2020 on real-money games (RMGs). The card-based and fantasy segments both achieved strong traction.
- Like many other similarly positioned markets, India a mobile-first country has more than 90% of online gamers playing games on their phones.
- In 2019, around 5.6bn mobile gaming apps were downloaded in India – the highest in the world and representing nearly 13% of gaming apps globally.
Making game-advertising fair and transparent
The new guidelines will seek to comprehensively address growing concerns about the potentially misleading and harmful advertisements in the sector and will be effective from the 15 December 2020.
The rapid growth and the possible pitfalls of the RMG advertisements made ASCI look at the category keenly and develop advertising guidelines to ensure users are aware of the financial and addiction risks. For instance, gaming adverts targeting youth and families and hinting that these can become sources of income and livelihood for them.
Playing with the new set of rules
- As per the newly laid set of guidelines, no gaming advertisement may depict any person under the age of 18 years, or who appears to be under the age of 18, engaged in playing a game of online gaming for real money winnings, or suggest that such persons can play these games
- The advertisements should not present ‘online gaming for real money winnings’ as an income opportunity or an alternative employment option.
- The advertisement should not suggest that a person engaged in gaming activity is in any way more successful as compared to others.
- Every such gaming advertisement would need to carry a disclaimer as per the specified rules.
How – and why – ASCI plans to take an inclusive approach on gaming adverts
- Says Manisha Kapoor, secretary general of ASCI, “We have noted concerns about such advertisements, both from consumers as well as the government. The key fact that is completely suppressed in most of these advertisements is the real possibility of losing money. Millions of users of these apps come from lower-income families, who can ill afford to lose their hard-earned money.” To add to the damage, the frequent use of celebrities makes them even more risky – more attractive to consumers who end up trusting their heroes and role models blindly. These advertisements end up being misleading and are violative of the ASCI code, adds Kapoor.
- The plan is that even as the government takes a decision on the legal issues surrounding the sector, the newly formulated advertising guidelines will make online gaming for real money winnings more transparent and safer.
- These ASCI guidelines have got the support and backing of the government, via the ministry of information and broadcasting, The department of consumer affairs as well as the ministry of electronics and information technology.