Google on Friday, extended the grace period, indefinitely, for existing online, real money gaming on the Playstore, following which small gaming companies, and startups, accused the internet giant, of engaging in arbitrary, and anti-competitive practices.

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The grace period, will continue till the next update, on Playstore policy, for digital fantasy sports (DFS), and rummy apps.

When contacted, the Google spokesperson said, expanding support of real-money gaming apps, in markets, without a central licensing framework, has proven more difficult than expected.

“We need additional time, to get it right for our developer partners, and the safety of our users. We’re working hard, to develop a thoughtful framework, and in the meantime, in India, we are extending the grace period of the pilot programme, so existing apps offering DFS, and Rummy games, can remain on Play, and users can continue to enjoy them.

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“We hope to have further updates in the coming months, on a path forward,” the spokesperson said.

The Google Play Pilot Program for DFS, and Rummy apps in India ended on September 28, 2023, and new apps, can no longer be part of the pilot programme.

The latest move, marks yet another instance of face-off, between BigTech, and startups, in the online, and digital space.

In September, 2022, Google launched a pilot programme, for distributing DFS, and Rummy apps, to users in India, with select apps from Dream11, Games24x7, etc, (that command high market share), with the promise, that the new policy will take effect after June 30, 2024.

The company has now decided to extend the pilot, as it is finding it challenging, to develop a framework, for real money games in countries like India, where there is no licence framework available to manage them.

Indian gaming industry body, All India Gaming Federation (AIGF), said the Google Play Store, conservatively holds over 90 per cent of the app distribution market, and they exert tremendous control, over the Indian mobile market.

“We are extremely disappointed by Google’s arbitrary, and anti-competitive decision. In this context, not having an inclusive policy, and discriminating, is a form of gatekeeping, and market distortion.

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“The disregard for Indian law, encouragement of anti-competitive practices, and limiting user choice, by a private entity, is alarming,” AIGF CEO, Roland Landers, said in a statement.

AIGF said, it was initially concerned about Google’s decision, to limit the pilot to certain gaming apps, but, believed, that the same, would eventually be expanded, to include all skill-based Pay to Play games.

“Their (Google) decision, grants them unchecked control, to pick winners in the market, favouring large companies, and preventing small, and emerging startups, from effectively competing in this sector,” Landers said.

He contended, that the situation underscores, the imminent need for ex-ante competition regulation, and the swift implementation of the Digital Competition Bill.

Google had been at loggerheads with several Indian startups, and digital entities over its PlayStore policies.

Antitrust body, Competition Commission of India, had previously ordered Google, not to mandatorily enforce, an earlier system of charging 15-30 per cent.

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Google, thereafter, imposed a fee of 11-26 per cent, on in-app payments.

Earlier this year, the company removed a large number of Indian apps, from its Play Store, like Bharat Matrimony, Naukri, Kuku FM, Shaadi, etc, for non-compliance with its in-app payment guidelines. It, however, restored the apps after the government’s intervention.

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