The gaming sector has time and again surfaced into the list of top ad violators of the ASCI guidelines and Code of Conduct, along with the ad regulations prevailing in the country by law. This year too, gaming as a category contributed to 4% of ad violations in the half-yearly complaints report released by the self-regulatory body of advertising in the country.
Commenting on why the gaming sector continues to be one of the major violative sectors for ASCI’s Code of Conduct and Guidelines on Advertising, Gaurav Mehta, Chief Marketing Officer, Zupee, pointed out that it is the conflation and wrong tagging of real money gaming (RMG) and skill-based gaming industry with gambling.
“If one looks at the list of these offenders, there are a lot of offshore gambling sites under the guise of content sites, news sites, etc. who have been advertising massively on broadcast and on digital media. Because they are based offshore, they have not been following the guidelines in letter and in spirit with the country’s regulations,” he asserted.
Furthermore, he also went on to highlight that the distinction is not very stark and thus the plight of the gaming sector in the country in terms of advertising is that because of the misdemeanours and misdeeds of the offshore gambling sites, it is the RMG sector in the country which is being seen in a bad light.
“The RMG sector has been very rule-compliant when it comes to advertising and giving out disclaimers when ads are rolled out in any of the mediums. If one actually looks at any of the big advertisers in the past few years from the RMG Sector, they have been marketing in a manner wherein they are disseminating information in the right manner and as prescribed by ASCI in the internal codes,” he stated.
When asked as to what led to the inception of Zupee, Mehta stated, “In the past three-four years, the RMG category was mostly about fantasy games like Cricket Fantasy, Sports Fantasy, etc. and the other category was card games like Poker, Rummy, etc. But it was Zupee who identified that there was another angle or big segment within the RMG sector that was left untapped- casual and board games.”
Furthermore, Mehta also went on to emphasise that from an innovator and creator’s perspective, Zupee had decided to foray into the casual and boardgame sector within the RMG Industry in 2018.
“The first game that Zupee had augmented by inducing skill-based elements, post its foundation, was ‘ludo’ and since then the growth has been tremendous because we are catering to an audience that was left untouched by the fantasy and card game cohorts of the RMG sector,” he said.
Throwing light on the growth journey of Zupee, Mehta stated that it is one of the fastest-growing online RMG companies in the country and within the casual and boardgames segment it enjoys a 95% market share.
“We have over 70 million users installing our platform - and that too in a sector which didn’t exist earlier within the RMG sector, which is one of the fastest growing industries in the country and is worth over $2.3 billion as of now,” he added.
Upon being questioned as to how the advertising strategy of Zupee has fared out so far, Mehta ascertained that through innovations it has talked to an audience that was not playing on the Fantasy or Card games cohorts.
Giving perspective on the media strategy of Zupee, Mehta said, “We actually got gaming to a new target audience altogether through more focus on digital marketing in the initial few years. But lately, in the past eight-nine months, we have ventured into traditional mediums including TV, Radio, etc.”
In the views of Zupee’s Mehta, their media mix has been constituted in a way that it enables the customers to make an informed decision prior to coming on to the platform to attain the desired value.
“Our creative or narrative strategy is to make sure that we give all the possible information in the easiest way possible so that once a person thinks about downloading Zupee, he or she knows exactly what needs to be done to gain value out of the platform,” Mehta said.
On a slightly nostalgic note, Mehta also reminisced that earlier, it was mostly the fantasy and card game cohorts within the RMG sector that had been investing aggressively in digital and offline mediums and had led to the formation of the RMG sector in a meaningful manner.
While revealing Zupee’s long-term goals, Mehta highlighted that since the casual and boardgame sector is one of the youngest members of the RMG universe, as a result, the major objective at hand is to increase the adoption of the category through marketing efforts.
“We also want to make sure that our marketing efforts are oriented towards education. For any new category to do well, you need continuous participation from the users and that only happens when they are being educated at all points of time and are aware that the platform thinks about them and disseminates accurate and correct information to their audiences for making informed choices,” he stated.
In the views of Mehta, their biggest differentiator or USP is that they enjoy the first-mover advantage in the category of casual and boardgame within the RMG universe.
Moreover, the games that Zupee has been rolling out include Snakes and Ladders, Carrom, Ludo, etc. which the audience has already played at some point in their life and are culturally deep-rooted and are oriented towards strategies and skills amongst others through gameplays and augmentations.
Zupee’s Mehta also went on to highlight that the gaming industry grew massively during the pandemic and interestingly, it continues to grow further even in the post-pandemic world as people saw a lot of functional as well as emotional value coming from gaming, which is why it has become an important part of the consumers’ lives.
Additionally, Mehta also went on to assert that their target audience is amongst one of the largest potential audience bases in the entire gaming universe. “There are certain rules that Zupee follows which prohibits children under 18 years of age from playing the game and that our games can only be played in the states which allow RMG games to run within their territorial boundaries,” he stated.
“Gaming as a sector is inherently skill-based and thus once the distinction and the narrative becomes clearer between them, the majority of the country will allow these games,” added Mehta.
While sharing his opinion from an industry perspective, Mehta also expressed the hope that once the industry grows and becomes bigger than what it is today, a unified policy network which takes into cognisance the interests of all stakeholders would be warmly welcomed.
Upon being asked as to how will the ongoing 5G rollout give an added boost to the gaming industry, Mehta replied that the latency optimisation that will come along with the technological advancement will do wonders for the gaming sector in the form of more immersive gameplays and more augmented and the virtual reality-based gaming sectors will gain tremendously with the 5G rollout.
Additionally, throwing light from a brand perspective, Mehta said, “I do think and hope that Zupee is one of the most loved consumer internet brands in the country, sector-agnostically.”
On a concluding note, he said that with the 5G and cheap data rollout accompanied by better handsets, the gaming environment will only grow by leaps and bounds and there would be nothing that would be able to stop India from becoming a gaming powerhouse on a global level and exporting unique properties, titles, and newer ways of gaming internationally.