Currently at a nascent stage, the Esports industry stakeholders fear micro-governing that will impact the growth of the sector
From the Asian Games to now Olympics, Esports has been acknowledged as a mainstream sport globally. While the Tokyo Olympics included it as a pre-series event and not yet a meddaled event, Asian Games has given it the proper recognition. As the Esports industry gains more traction internationally, the need for the government to legitimise the segment and give it proper recognition has increased. The question is no longer ‘if’ the government will draft a framework legitimising the sector but ‘when’. Sample this: In Asian Games 2018, Tirth Mehta had won a bronze medal for India. Unfortunately, it was not included in the medal tally as esports was a demonstration title and was also not recognised by the government. But with Asian Games 2022 around the corner, the urgency to establish the sector has increased. “With the growing talent in India, We have high hopes of winning medals in the upcoming Asian Games 2022. Hence, now is the time for the government to establish a framework and recognise the Esports sector so that we can go full scale on the preparations for Asian Games 2022,” Lokesh Suji, director, Esports Federation of India and vice president, Asian Esports Federation (AESF), told BrandWagon Online.
However, with the talks of legitimising the Esports sector comes the government’s need to regulate. While the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports (Sports Ministry) along with other government bodies are in talks of regulating the Esports sector, the industry opines that it should frame guidelines rather than putting regulations. “Esports is at a nascent stage in India. Hence, the need to regulate the sector before it reaches its potential does not sit right with us,” Rajan Navani, vice chairman and managing director, JetSynthesys, said.
But before setting up the framework or regulations, the government needs to first clearly understand the sector. Due to its nascent stage along with the fact that Esports is continuously evolving, the sector is shrouded in obscurity. Hence, it is imperative to differentiate Esports from other online gaming segments and lay down the clear definition for the layman. Post which the government should strive towards forming an Esports body consisting of people who understand the ecosystem, experts and authority. From eminent personalities who have experience of content and content certification and can create guidelines, to jurists who can help in creating frameworks and rules coupled with six to seven Esports industry stakeholders, analysts believe that the Esports body should comprise this broad spectrum of experts. “The central gaming body should have a perfect balance of the right set of people understanding the ecosystem, experts and authority. Further, it is imperative that this body be given a certain amount of power to solve any queries raised on its own, otherwise the whole system will be defunct. I believe this is what the government should strive towards rather than getting into the micro-nuances of governing and regulating the Esports sector,” Manish Agarwal, CEO, Nazara Technologies, highlighted.
Post the formation of an Esports body, the government should frame holistic guidelines that encourage both global and local games, foster physical and mental fitness as well as define terms and conditions for fairplay. Further, the games that are certified as Esports should have a clear guideline on age appropriation, content appropriation as well as a local and global mix of the content. “Esports is very much like any other sport. Hence, the same rules should apply for this sector with certain additions customised to Esports. The framework should also keep a check on gamers data and how international and domestic publishers are utilising it,” Rajan Navani, vice chairman and managing director, JetSynthesys, said.
The government has been talking with industry stakeholders for the past two months with regards to the Esports sector. Along with formulating the regulations and guidelines, the government is also trying to understand the new segment enough to draft a fair framework for both publishers as well as gamers. According to the latest FICCI-EY report on Esports in India, Esports currently has over 150,000 professional players and generates viewership from 17 million people across 14 broadcast platforms. This is expected to grow to 1.5 million professional players, 85 million viewers and over broadcasters by FY25. Industry stakeholders believe that to further boost the Esports sector in India and help it become a mainstream sport in India as well establish its legitimacy, the government should organise Esport national championships under the official status of sports and broadcast it on Doordarshan.