The gaming industry in India is slowly finding its foothold in the country in more ways than one. For starters, India bagged a bronze medal at the inaugural Commonwealth Esports Championships in DOTA 2 last year. India will also compete in five titles — FIFA 22, Street Fighter V, Hearthstone, League of Legends, and DOTA 2 — at the 2023 Hangzhou Asian Games. Furthermore, the Centre in December 2022 also recognised esports as a part of multi-sports events. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has also weighed in on the proposed amendments to the IT Rules, 2021, in relation to online gaming.
Under such a backdrop, it would be interesting to see what the upcoming Union Budget 2023 will bring for the sector.
How much is India’s gaming sector currently valued at?
As per Invest India, an investment facilitation platform, India is currently the largest mobile gaming market in the world in terms of app downloads.
Online gaming revenue saw a growth of 28 percent to $1.2 billion in 2021 and is expected to reach $1.9 billion by 2024. In terms of INR, the country’s gaming industry is expected to reach Rs 38,000 crores by 2026.
Also, in terms of fantasy gaming, India’s user base currently stands at 130 million. There are nearly 303 million mobile gamers in the country.
What does the gaming industry expect to see in Budget 2023?
Esports Federation of India President Vinod Tiwari said, “The Budget needs to be increased and allocated extensively for the growth of esports and the training of athletes. We need to find ways Indian esports can be taken further to the global platform which is only possible with better infrastructure, financial aid, and the right environment to nurture these talents.”
“It would be a great advantage to the esports community if our Government considers allocating the “Esports Development Fund” similar to countries like Malaysia, Korea etc. which would support Indian gaming studios to build esports video game titles based on Indian history/ethos,” Tiwari added.
“It is tough to predict much, but it would help the esports sector if the government can allot a decent share of the budget for the esports industry. Indian Esports still has a long way to go and needs attention on funding for research and development, it needs reforms in tax incentives for game developers and esports organisations,” said Richa Singh, the CEO and co-founder of esports fantasy platform FanClash. “More training centres need to be built, we need professional trainers and exchange programs which could be beneficial to strengthen their strategies and be prepared for international tournaments.”
“Governments may also consider regulations and policies to support the growth of the industry to minimise risks of fraud, protect the rights of gamers and promote fair competition,” Singh added.
“The [esports] sector eagerly awaits a progressive policy structure from the government as well as consider levying a lower tax slab than the existing 18 percent,” said 8bit Creatives founder and CEO Animesh Agarwal, “The sector aligns well with the government’s digital economy vision, and we expect the budget to lay out a specific plan for the growth of esports including setting up of a task force, plans for infrastructural development for esports, training programmes, youth awareness programmes, and most importantly an esports vision for India, defining a future state where we want to be.”
He added, “We also need government impetus to invite more investments into the sector, through a mix of ease of business & financial incentives in the budget.”
“We definitely depend a lot on direct investments and these investors play a crucial role. We hope [the Centre] can suggest minimum taxation costs for this segment to attract more investors,” said Rohit Jagasia, founder and CEO of Revenant Esports. “The multi-sport event tag adds value to the credibility of our new-age sports i.e. esports like any other mainstream sport played in our country and we hope the prize pool winnings of our esports athletes should be exempted from income tax just like any other sportsperson.”
“We are hoping for Internet and broadband services to be made cheaper and more accessible,” said Alpha Zegus founder and director Rohit Agarwal. “The greater majority of the Indian gaming audience is from Tier 2 and Tier 3 towns, and a slash in internet pricing would encourage more young adults to take up gaming.”
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