Google is preparing to run a one-year pilot to permit daily fantasy sports apps and rummy games on Play Store in India, changing its long-held stance on disallowing real-money fantasy games.
With the pilot, the company is looking to address a request from India’s fantasy gaming community, which has been unhappy with Google for not welcoming their services on its store.
Google’s pilot will be active for one year starting September 28. The company said daily fantasy sports (DFS) and rummy apps incorporated in India will have to apply to get onboarded to the Play Store.
Google has also mandated that these apps do not use Google Play billing for in-app purchases during the pilot.
Google takes ‘measured approach’
DFS games typically are those where players use their knowledge of events and athletes to select or manage rosters of simulated athletes whose performance directly corresponds with the actual performance of human athletes on sports teams or in sports events.
Up to now, Google India maintained a strict policy against daily fantasy sports apps because it believed that many new internet users would struggle to understand the complexity of the games and could lose real money.
Google India’s enforcement was so strict that in 2020, it pulled popular fintech app Paytm from its Play Store for several hours because it was promoting what Google deemed as gambling in the app.
“We are constantly exploring ways for local developers to build successful businesses and offer delightful experiences on Google Play. Through this pilot program, we are taking a measured approach that will help us collate learnings and retain an enjoyable and safe experience for our users,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement to Indian media.
India’s fantasy sports market is projected to grow from $4.3 billion in FY2021 to an estimated $20.5 billion by FY2025, according to a report by the Federation of Indian Fantasy Sport (FIFS) and Deloitte.
The fantasy sports market in India has a user base of around 130 million, which is highest in the world.
‘Potentially a game changer’
Dream11, Mobile Premier League (MPL) and Games 24×7 are the top three fantasy gaming service providers in India – all three have turned unicorn, crossing a valuation of $1 billion or more due to their popularity. Dream11 is valued at over $8 billion while MPL is valued at over $2 billion.
While their apps are unavailable for Android operating systems, users can still sideload or install them using a software package directly from the Internet.
“I am thrilled with the announcement of Google Play’s pilot program to allow fantasy sports and rummy on the PlayStore. This could potentially be a game changer, as the PlayStore has seen a 200% increase in active monthly users in India last year,” Bhavin Pandya, co-founder and co-chief executive of Games24x7 was quoted as saying by TechCrunch.