Gamers will follow the language

Subordinate to Roskomnadzor, the Main Radio Frequency Center (GRCHTs) proposed to introduce legislative regulation of the gaming and eSports market in Russia. To prevent potential security threats, in particular, it is proposed to extend to the industry the requirements of the Yarovaya Law on storing user messages. The government’s interest in the gaming market is growing, its participants admit, but they warn that it will be easier for services to turn off communication in games than to store data.

“Kommersant” got acquainted with the study of the Scientific and Technical Center of the Federal State Unitary Enterprise GRCHTs (subordinate to Roskomnadzor) dated May 28, dedicated to the e-sports and gaming industry. In it, experts drew attention to the fact that the risks of legal uncertainty in the field of video games in Russia remain high, and therefore “it is necessary to look for mechanisms to regulate it.”

The owners of gambling platforms, according to the HRChTs, should be obliged to store in Russia information about the transmission of messages and images, as well as information about users and the content of messages, including video and audio. Similar requirements under the Yarovaya Law apply to telecom operators and organizers of information dissemination (ORI) – these are forums, instant messengers, social networks and dating services.

Games like Among Us and Fortnite have created a new trend by actually becoming social media, the study said. This gives rise to “a possible negative impact on personal development, as well as the risk of using the gaming space for the purposes of agitation and radicalization, the spread of terrorism and extremism.” In the “context of preventing economic threats”, the HRC considers it necessary to establish the legal status of game currency, loot boxes (paid virtual containers with random content), streaming platforms and donations (rewards from users).

So, services for collecting donations can be used for money laundering. But so far, the HRChTs admit, only China and South Korea have experience in regulating the gaming industry.

Roskomnadzor told Kommersant that they agree with the relevance of the issues raised, but the recognition of the ORI streaming platforms and other ideas of the GRChTs require “broad discussion of legislators, law enforcement agencies and the industry.”

The volume of the Russian video game market in 2020 grew by 35%, to 163.4 billion rubles, was previously estimated by My.Games, the gaming division of Mail.ru Group. According to PwC estimates, the volume of the Russian esports market in 2019 reached $ 28.6 million (1.85 billion rubles).

According to the Pixonic producer Maxim Fomichev, the government was not particularly interested in regulating the gaming market before, but the attention “noticeably grows against the background of how, during the pandemic, gaming projects became platforms for communication”. An illustrative example is China, which rather quickly banned Animal Crossing (a series of games in the genre of life simulator from Japanese Nintendo) for the political statements of the players, the expert noted.

Karen Ghazaryan, Director General of the Institute for Internet Research, says that the ideas of regulating gaming platforms have been “floating around for a long time.” But, in his opinion, storing the correspondence of players in this case will be useless: “Unlike the messenger, where the user can be calculated by metadata or phone number, there are virtually no means of identifying the author and recipient of the message in games.”

Maxim Fomichev doubts that game developers and game platform owners will willingly comply with data storage requirements if they lead to significant costs: “It will be easier for them to completely cut off the possibility of communication than to create an infrastructure for the implementation of the Yarovaya law.” Game developers will begin to resist innovation if significant funds are required, agrees the founder of Loudplay Vitaly Starodubov. Telecom operators estimated the costs of implementing the Yarovaya Law at tens of billions of rubles: for example, in 2019, MTS spoke of 50 billion rubles. for five years, in “MegaFon” a little earlier – about 40 billion rubles. for the same period.

Dmitry Shestoperov