Paytm First Games makes a comeback on Google Play Store

BENGALURU: Almost three weeks after being banned, First Games, the gaming arm of payments processor Paytm, made a comeback on the Google Play Store, on Monday.

This news comes after the Paytm app and First Games were banned from the Google Play Store on September 18, as it violated Google’s guidelines on ‘gambling’ and ‘fantasy real-money gaming’ for app developers.

“We don’t allow online casinos or support any unregulated gambling apps that facilitate sports betting. This includes if an app leads consumer to an external website that allows them to participate in paid tournaments to win real money or cash prizes, it is a violation of our policies,” Google said in a blog post last month, reiterating its guidelines before the start of Indian Premier League (IPL) season.

Under its app-description, First Games continues to promote fantasy cricket. “Make your dream team, play fantasy cricket and win Paytm cash for free,” reads the app description.

Further, the app at present is allowing users to make a team on their platform for upcoming IPL matches.

A communication sent to a Paytm spokesperson did not elicit an immediate response.

Earlier, Mint had reported that the ban on Paytm First Games may have been because of the efforts of Federation of Indian Fantasy Sports (FIFS). The federation said that Google was favouring certain fantasy gaming apps, hinting at Paytm First Games, according to persons familiar with the discussions.

Now, over the past week, Indian startup founders have heavily lobbied and questioned the ‘autonomy’, which Google commands over the Indian startup ecosystem.

Last week, Google in a blog post also reinforced its Play Store policies, which required Android app-developers to leverage the search major’s billing system, and pay 30% in commissions to the search major for selling a digital product or service.

Softening its stand, Google on Monday said that it will be “setting up listening sessions” with “leading Indian startups” to “understand their concerns”, and also extended the time developers have to integrate the Play Billing system into their apps till 31 March, 2022.

“Google’s policies are arbitrary, and the deployment of those policies is even more arbitrary. Hence, the definition of these policies which govern India’s technology ecosystem continues to be ‘arbitrary’, and there is not even a court we can go to. Google is a ruler of India’s technology businesses, as 95% of customers use Google’s Play Store in India,” said Paytm founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma in an earlier interaction with Mint.

On Saturday, heads of close to two dozen startups, spoke to ministry of electronics and information technology (MeitY) secretary Ajay Prakash Sawhney, conveying their apprehensions over Google’s increasing dominance and control over internet firms.

The founders cited various Google policies, including the ban of fantasy sports from its app store, pre-installation of Google apps on Android phones, and heavy billing commissions on Play Store.

“The government is looking at the issue holistically. It is not just about what the few big startups have to say. The government will have to see and assess what will help the startup ecosystem. While the issues pointed out by the companies could be a point of concern, the situation is not alarming,” said a senior government official about the meeting, requesting anonymity.

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