The Act Of Public Relations For Online Gaming
The gaming industry has undergone a revolution in the recent years. This is one industry that is poised to become one of the most significant sectors in the coming decade. From being a taboo to gaining mainstream recognition, the Indian online gaming industry is growing exponentially year after year. It is expected to be worth $1.1 billion by 2021, as per a report by Google-KMPG.
Online gaming has established a strong foothold in the Indian entertainment industry. With a user base of about 628 million gamers, the entire gaming ecosystem has got a renewed boost within the Indian economy. This ecosystem comprises gamers of all ages, game developers and designers, marketers and investors all working in tandem to come up with the latest cutting-edge games, offers and newer concepts for players. All this mounting interest and potential has brought India in the bracket of top gaming markets amongst emerging global economies.
The popularity of online gaming is best evidenced by the rising popularity of online card games, such as Poker, Rummy and new-age games like fantasy sports and esports. Multiple reasons have worked in favour of India and helped in making it a popular up-and-coming investor-friendly market. Being a young country with more than 75% population being under 45, with about 560 million of these being active internet users, accessibility and comfort of playing games on mobile phones, localized content that gives a highly immersive experience to the gamers, and a booming IT and tech sector are reasons that have catapulted the Indian gaming market on the global scene.
Laws and Regulations for the Gaming Industry
In recent few years, the behaviour, preferences and lifestyles of Indian consumers have drastically changed due to more disposable income, increased consumer awareness and extensive internet and social media penetration. As a result, now consumers are making a shift from just need-based choices to more aspirational consumption, a form of spending anticipated to more than double by 2025.
Majority gamers are under the age of 24 years. Probably due to being more tech-savvy and having more fondness and free time on hand they have taken to gaming. But this is not to say that the games aren’t being adopted amongst the older generation. Thus, due to the spiked consumption, a number of gaming laws have been laid down to regulate the gaming industry. In India, betting and gambling laws, both online and offline are enacted by each state. Most laws usually permit skill-based games but games of chance are clearly prohibited under most Acts (The Public Gambling Act, 1867 which has been adopted by certain states including Uttar Pradesh, Delhi & Madhya Pradesh and other gaming laws enacted individually by each state for its own territory).
Overall, games of skill are permitted but the games of chance still need to be reviewed and made permissible by law. Hence, in terms of gaming laws, many areas in India come within a grey zone. However, a pertinent point to be noted here is that these state legislations were enacted prior to the advent of online gambling in India. Therefore, the references of gaming/gambling in India in different state legislations is only in relation to physical premises, except Sikkim and Nagaland, which are the only two states who have introduced regulations related to online gaming.
A review of state gambling laws for online gambling in India shows that except the state of Orissa and Assam, most of the states have excluded entirely the ‘games of skill’ from the ambit of its respective gaming/gambling laws. While playing certain games, including ‘Poker’, in both online and offline modes, is permitted under the laws of West Bengal, Sikkim and Nagaland, subject to license from the appropriate State Authorities. But this is applicable only within the territorial limits of the respective state. Goa allows gambling only in Government-permitted places operating as Casinos.
Need for Responsible Gaming in India
Responsible gaming is a practice targeted at providing a safe, genuine and authentic gaming experience to online gamers. It lays down a range of measures devised to ensure that the lure of playing an online game doesn’t bring about any negative effects on the physical and mental health, personal life and finances of the player.
With the speedy growth of the online gaming industry, a huge population has taken to playing online games during their leisure time. The millennials today are highly tech-savvy and spend most of their time playing games online which may lead to compulsive playing disorders in them. Conventional videogames have an end to them or may become monotonous after a point of time. But the Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPGs) are endless and limitless systems of goals and targets. In these, the player continues to become stronger and richer by touching new levels and collecting treasures, power and weapons on the way. These ongoing challenges and the desire and zeal to accomplish the various stages in a game lead to an addiction which may hamper one’s lifestyle and cause life-long disorders.
Most players indulge in disciplined gaming but some may face trouble controlling themselves when playing, despite being in a financial crunch. Often there are times when a player finds it compulsive to stay at the tables until he wins at least a hand. He ends up playing the games for too long and this habit eventually results in a disoriented and disturbed personal life.
This is why to prevent the glaring addiction problems arising from gaming, online game companies need to be more socially accountable for over-addictive use of their products. Responsible gaming operators can pitch in to help gamers improve control over their own behaviour by tying up good game design with robust gamers policies and recommendation services.
In addition, game developers and publishers need to be mindful of the structural features of the game design. The rapid absorption rate, development of characters, and multi-player features make these games addictive and problematic.
One way of combating this could be to condense long quests so as to minimize the total time spent in the game to win a prized item. Another effective way is to implement responsible gaming through the introduction of responsible gaming feature across web, mobile and app. Adda52.com, India’s leading poker website, has launched a new ‘Responsible Gaming Feature’ on its website to protect its players from the adverse consequences of real money gaming. This feature enables players to set limits on the tables, deposits, or stakes and also self-exclude from the game for a pre-set period of time. Initiatives like these serve to minimize gaming addiction and promote self-control amongst the players.
How PR can help in Image Building of the Gaming Industry
Despite the popularity and fame that the gaming industry has gained in recent times, there still remain parts of it that are considered a taboo or not viewed favourably by many. A PR agency can do wonders for overhauling this image of the industry. The role of a PR agency is to be a link for communication between the organization and the public. If you come with a story, the public relations department will make sure it is delivered to the right audience, in the right manner. To do that, four elements are important:
- The Idea
Not all information is worth bringing in the limelight. To be worth communicating, an idea needs to have substantial value for the media and the consumer. So, the PR agency will work on building a narrative around your game so that when releasing to the public, it successfully builds an excitement around it.
- The Message
It’s important that your message reaches the audience in a comprehensible manner. If you pitch your game as ‘Unreal Engine-based AAA FPS’, it might talk to a handful of tech-savvy blogs and magazines. But if it is to reach a broader public, it requires a different, more relatable wording.
- The channel
A PR agency will help pick out the medium that will best suit your brand and message. Print media and magazines will go to the press about weeks later whereas websites will publish any news within a minute. Selecting the right channel, at the right time, to announce the right piece of information, is crucial for the success of your game.
- The Delivery
Once your idea and the channel through which it is to be released are ready, your PR agency will figure out how to send it. It could be by mail, sent with a fancy press kit or rather just an e-mail. This is something the PR professionals will be working out for you.
Apart from these, a PR agency will help in negotiation for exclusives and magazine covers, and in organising interviews, trade shows and exhibits. The PR professionals act as intermediaries who work dedicatedly towards the adaptation and delivery of a message to the relevant audience, to create awareness, bring acceptance and drive the sales of a game when it becomes available.
Media Mantra is the top gaming PR agency in India. Boasting a solid track record of sharing stories in the media that highlight the growing success of the gaming industry, Media Mantra has contributed towards bolstering the position of gaming companies. And the agency is playing its part in educating the masses about the positive side of gaming.
How the Global Pandemic has Changed the Gaming Narrative
The ongoing Covid-19 crisis has led to the gaming industry hitting a jackpot. Since the lockdown forced everybody to stay indoors, consumption on digital media platforms increased. Not just streaming platforms, gaming platforms also have seen a rapid surge of users and increase in the amount of time spent by consumers on such platforms. As a result, gaming platforms have grown more than other online media amid the pandemic. The lockdowns brought in place due to the pandemic boosted user engagement and has led to the acceleration of existing trends within the gaming industry. The initial data shows huge growth in playing time and sales since the lockdowns began.
Now that the game industry is making major strides, there is a need for gaming brands to re-strategize their PR and marketing efforts. Hiring a PR agency to do the branding and marketing for them will be a move that will hold them in good stead in the times to come. The gaming industry, more than any other sector, needs to have good public relations, especially during these Covid – 19 times.
Smart PR agencies know which piece of news to look at coming up in the pipeline so as to adjust and adapt the gaming companies’ announcements to be more in tune with the issues and needs created by the coronavirus outbreak. The type of announcements that gaming companies deliver as a brand across their various channels need to be sympathetic, compassionate, and sensitive to how people may be feeling during this difficult period.
Summing it up
Overall, it’s the post-COVID future that the gaming companies should keep in mind when updating their PR and marketing plans. Sooner or later, the coronavirus pandemic will end, therefore the traction gained in this time needs to be best utilized in gaining more positive results.
PR agencies can help to re-evaluate objectives and strategies, and can contribute in outlining what needs to be achieved once the crisis is over. Thus, this is the best time for planning. In this manner, businesses will be more likely to hit the ground running when everything returns to relative normality. And yes, while the coronavirus pandemic is likely to hit most businesses negatively, the gaming industry is set to gain immensely from it and should view it as an opportunity. It’s an opportunity to connect with users in new uncharted ways.