As gaming market grows, should India limit its kids from playing online?

SEP 08, 2021

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Gaming has a higher adoption among the younger population in India with the 18-30 age group, and only 18 percent of the total age group of 5-14 are engaged in online gaming, said Roland Landers, CEO, All India Gaming Federation (AIGF).

India's gamer population has seen a significant jump in the last few years, thanks to digital penetration and further aided by COVID-19 impact.

And with that, consumption of online games has increased amid children in India as well.

According to KPMG 2020 report titled A Year Off Script, the overall user base for online games in India has increased from 269 million in FY18 to 365 million in FY20.

"India has close to 400 million gamers as of June 2021," said Prashanth Joshua Mandapalli, CEO, Mobius, a game development company.

When it comes to consumption of online games among kids, Roland Landers, CEO, All India Gaming Federation (AIGF) said citing the KPMG report that "gaming has a higher adoption among the younger population in India with the 18-30 age group, and only 18 percent of the total age group of 5-14 are engaged in online gaming."

While the kids user base is small, Karan S Kumar - Leadership at InnoPark Pvt Ltd, a company that focuses on gaming and entertainment, said that online gamers in India are estimated to touch 675 million by 2025, making India the second largest online gaming market in the world after China.

This means that more users under the age of 18 will add to overall gamer population in India.

"Nowadays, most Indian parents believe that gaming can be a great stress buster for kids," said Danish Sinha Founder of Gamestacy, a game development company.

In fact, a study by YourDost, an online counselling and emotional support platform noted that most Indian parents believe that online games are beneficial for kids especially in times of COVID-19.

However, parents have concerns too, biggest worry being kids getting addicted to online games.

Due to a similar concern, India's neighboring country China has restricted kids from playing online games for three hours a week.

In China, over 15 percent of overall gamers are under 18.

So, out of 720 million gamers China has, 110 million are gamers under 18.

Back home, around 72 million gamers out of the overall 400 million gamers in India fall under the age group of 5-14.

Spending more time playing online

Although the number of kids consuming online games in India is low currently as compared to its global counterparts, time spent playing online is increasing significantly.

Pranav Panpalia, Founder, OpraahFx, influencer marketing and management company that works with gaming influencers noted that "on an average people spend about 7.5-9 hours per week in gaming, and the number for kids is expected to be almost 1.5x higher than this."

Parth Das, founder of The Collective Ace Group, a service hub in gaming said that gaming has benefited heavily from COVID-19 with overall increase in engagement levels across all player and age groups.

"The time that children spent playing online games was amplified due to the lack of activity as schools and colleges went fully remote combined together with lockdown and preventive measures that left them with limited to no options with extra curricular activities," he added.

According to Mandapalli, time spent on gaming post lockdown increased 65 percent. "For children, this number is amplified further as education has moved online and adopted gamification as a channel of learning."

So, does this mean India needs to restrict kids from playing online?

Play online, but responsibly

Panpalia said that there cannot be blanket rule for everyone under the age of 18.

"Kids of different age group have different level of maturity, and they need to be handled that way. Moreover, with the COVID situation, kids haven’t been playing outdoors, and such a limitation will make kids frustrated and just create catastrophe at every home."

In addition, many Indian families are now accepting gaming as a career thanks to the growing Indian gaming market, especially esports which is expected to reach Rs 250 crore in 2021, according to a 2021 EY report titled Ready. Set. Game On!

Also, the prize pool in India is expected to grow at 66 percent CAGR to reach Rs 100 crore by 2025.

This is why AIGF's Landers said that "those aspiring to be pro-gamers for a career will need to spend extra time practicing like a sportsperson will do for any physical sport."

However, he added that moderation is the key for any activity including overall screen time and the time spent on gaming.

Mandapalli said that casual games which involve in app purchases should regulate transactions when it comes to teenagers or children.

When it comes to real money games, he added that the industry restricts such games from being accessible to anyone under the age of 21.

While industry players agree that kids need to be taught responsible gaming, Panpalia said that "imposing stringent rules will only fuel distress among the minor gaming enthusiasts."

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