Business Gaming

Paytm First Games Stats for 2019: 45 Ml. Users, 485.16 Cr of Winnings and More

Paytm First Games (earlier known as Gamepind) recently released a report called Gamestats 2019, which reported various stats about their gaming app’s performance in the previous year.

As per the report, 45 million users registered on Paytm First Games app in 2019. The platform hosts around 200 games. The biggest amount won by a single Paytm First Games Winner in the year 2019 is Rs. 12.59 crores.

In 2019, the total time spent by gamers on Paytm First Games app was 7700 years, and over 72.5 crore Paytm games were played online.

The three most engaging games on Paytm First Games were Rummy, First Captains and Battle Center. Rummy and First Captains were launched on the platform in February 2019.

Rummy is one of the most popular card games in India. On Paytm First Games, Rummy was played for above 2.3 million hours last year. About 26.25 crore cards were dealt in Rummy on the platform, where Rs. 76.66 Lakhs is the biggest amount won by a single winner in the game in the year 2019. The maximum percentage shares of rummy players on the website hail from Uttar Pradesh, West bengal and Rajasthan.

The app also hosts a fantasy sports game called First Captains. The game’s most preferred captains were Virat Kohli, R. Sharma and M. Dhoni among men, and Deepti B. Sharma, Harmanpreet K. Bhullar and Smriti S. Mandhana among women. The game was played for above 2.8 million hours on the platform. IPL, WC and Kabaddi Championship were the most popular leagues. About Rs. 115 crores were won by players of First Captains in 2019. They created over 1.1 crore teams on First Captains. Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Delhi have the highest percentage of players playing this game on Paytm First Games app.

Another popular Paytm game is Battle Center, which recorded above 43.4 million hours of play last year. An average of 23.47 hours per user were spent on the game.

Paytm quiz called Trivia recorded above 1.5 million hours of play in 2019. Last year, the quiz served 45.5 crore questions, to which 65% were answered correctly. Cricket, GK and Bollywood are popular themes on the Paytm quiz game. Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra topped the list with the maximum percentage of Trivia players on Paytm First Games app.

Other casual Paytm games like Ludo, Wheel of Fortune, Tom & Jerry Maze, and Paytm pass the bomb, were played on the platform for over 18.7 million hours.

Paytm First Games is a casual and skill-based gaming platform that was first launched as Gamepind in February 2018. Alibaba-backed Chinese technology company AGTech Holdings Limited and Paytm entered a joint venture and initially invested USD 16 million in the gaming venture.

The gaming website was rebranded, in June 2019, after Paytm’s brand name.

The gaming platform recently raised another USD 20 million from Alibaba’s AGTech and Paytm’s parent company One97 Communications.

Legal & Regulatory

Insolvency petition against Play Games24x7 dismissed

Exclusive An insolvency petition filed by online affiliate marketing company Living Consumer Products Private Limited against RummyCircle and My11Circle parent company Play Games24x7 Private Limited was dismissed by the Mumbai bench of the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT).

The NCLT proceedings filed by Living Consumer against the online rummy and fantasy gaming company was first reported by Glaws in August this year.

The two-member bench of NCLT while dismissing the petition, noted that since Play Games24x7 had replied to the demand notice sent by Living Consumer and also raised a dispute against the company, even before insolvency proceedings were threatened to be initiated, a petition for initiating Corporate Insolvency Resolution Process (CIRP) cannot be entertained.

The bench noted that corporate insolvency proceedings can be initiated in terms of Section 9(1) of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 only if the corporate debtor does not respond with a notice of dispute within 10 days of receiving a demand notice from an operational creditor.

The NCLT bench observed that Living Consumer was required to provide marketing leads and drive traffic to Play Games24x7’s online gaming portal and a fee was to paid for the same based on the geographical location of the user.

Living Consumer raised an invoice of Rs. 6.35 crores for the services provided between 1st-15th December, 2018 which was not paid by the RummyCircle parent company.

Play Games24x7 while declining to make the payment served a legal notice to Living Consumer citing fraud in delivering the services.

According to the NCLT order, RummyCircle, during the course of its internal investigation is believed to have found out that its former Chief Marketing Officer, Sachin Uppal, and his immediate kin received Rs. 6.04 lakhs from Living Consumer as well as gift hamper from Living Consumer CEO Amit Vora as a bribe.

Play Games24x7 had further alleged that Living Consumer has made unauthorised use of its brand name and over-stated its fees by fraudulently passing off users from one state as being users of another state, as per a forensic investigation report by Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu India LLP.

Based on these facts, NCLT while rejecting the insolvency petition, noted that the tribunal has not decided on the merits of the claims made by Living Consumer, which can be agitated before an appropriate court of law.

In August 2018, Bhavin Pandya, CEO and co-founder of Play Games24x7 had in his comments on the insolvency case, had alluded to the prevalence of affiliate marketing fraud while declining to comment on the merits of the case.

Reacting to the current order passed by NCLT, Pandya said, “From the NCLT order, it is clear that the case wasn’t decided on merit but because of a pre-existing dispute. The NCLT’s view was to not entertain the matter and therefore dismissed it.”


Winzo Games launches 10 new games on its platform

Ahead of Diwali, real money skill gaming platform Winzo Games has announced the addition of 10 new arcade games like metro surfer, stupid birds, car racing, space hunter, bear run, howzzat, fly balloon and rummy on its platform, taking the total number of games available on the app to over 40.

The company also launched a special feature; WinZO Social- an initiative that helps connect nearby players, top players by their performance and creating gaming challenges amongst random players.

WinZO Social also has its indigenous chat with audio video capability. The company noted that this AI enabled initiative will help WinZO to curate personalized gaming experience for each user.

Commenting on the development, Paavan Nanda, co-founder of WinZO Games, said: “It is really exciting times for Mobile gaming industry in India. The industry is evolving everyday working to build a more conducive mobile gaming ecosystem and changing the entertainment landscape, it is no surprise that the gaming space is getting increased attention and investment, not just from within the industry, but more recently from traditional financial markets and even governments.

WinZO’s social multi-player skill gaming platform clocked 50 million gaming minutes every day and has been able to successfully monetize this engagement. The company is growing 50% month on month. On one hand, large OTTs platforms are struggling to monetize in India, but WinZO is facilitating the first-ever M&E transactions from the T2/T3 audiences.”

Winzo Games claims that their app has seen over 10 million installations till date and an average user makes 20-25 micro transactions per month on the platform. The app is currently available in over 10 Indian languages and the company plans to introduce 6 more languages this year.

Founded as a trivia quiz app two years ago by Zo Rooms and Zostel co-founder Paavan Nanda and Saumya Singh Rathore two years ago, the company recently received $5 million in a Series A funding round led-by venture capital fund Kalaari Capital (which has also funded fantasy sports website Dream11) and Hike Messenger.

The company has set an ambitious target of reaching the 100 million registered users mark in the near future.


Feature: MPL CEO Sai Srinivas Kiran G talks about his vision of creating India’s leading esports platform

Last year, serial entrepreneur and IIT Kanpur graduate Sai Srinivas Kiran G, along with his friend Shubham Malhotra, started an esports platform called Mobile Premier League (MPL) that hosted several games developed by third party developers on a single app.

Backed by marquee investors such as Sequoia Capital, Go Ventures and Times of India, MPL has, in a short span of one year garnered over 30 million registered users on its platforms and offers a wide variety of games such as chess, quiz, carrom, fantasy sports and rummy on a single mobile app.

In this exclusive interview, Srinivas, the company’s CEO and co-founder discusses how he and his team created an all-encompassing content-driven esports platform.

Full interview:

Q. In a short span of one year, MPL has become the leading gaming and esports platform in the country. Can you tell us a little bit about how the idea of MPL originated and the reasons for the phenomenal growth and success? 

Sai Srinivas Kiran G (Sai): My co-founder Shubh Malhotra and I would regularly discuss ideas for our next venture after our first startup got acquired. Mobile gaming presented itself as a great opportunity. There was no platform that could host games and connect game creators to gamers. And thanks to cheap data and smartphones becoming economical, gaming leapfrogged straight to people’s handsets. So you could say the idea behind MPL was to have a dedicated mobile-first gaming platform. 

You’re very kind to compliment us on our growth and success (laughs). I think the big reason why users and developers love our app is because of the ease of use. If you’re a game creator, it can take you less than 7 days to publish your game on our platform. And you start generating revenue from day 1. Similarly for users, it’s a simple yet secure process to sign up, and you can start competing and winning immediately.

Ultimately, a platform’s success is about the value it creates for its developers and users and I’m glad to say we are consistently doing that. 

Q. MPL is perhaps the only platform in the globe that has a diverse set of games ranging from chess and quiz to rummy and fantasy sports. Can you share some details on the most popular games on the MPL platform and some stats about the same?

Sai: First of all, big shoutout and kudos to our game developer community. They have been making some amazing games for our platform and we are looking forward to getting more games from them and partnering with more game creators. We have managed to get close to 40 games in total on MPL since our launch merely a year back, which is great, given the magnitude and scale of our user base.

We have a very talented tech team that works with our developers to get these games out and make the experience great for our users. We are constantly looking out for more such talented folks to join us so we can keep adding great games to our platform. 

That being said, we have had quite a few popular titles on MPL. Quiz, launched recently, saw two million games being played within the first three weeks of its launch! Our users have won close to Rs 80 lakh in total prize money too.

With these numbers, our developer partner can stand to make Rs 1 crore in revenue per year, just from this one stream. You may already know about the speed chess tournament we hosted in July, where 1.2 million games were played in 12 hours. So all kinds of games are doing well on MPL. 

Q. Apart from gaming, MPL has started other interesting initiatives like audio shows. Can you tell us more about the non-gaming initiatives that MPL is focusing on?

Sai: We are a platform driven by content. Gaming, audio, video, we are progressing towards becoming an all-encompassing platform. And going by the phenomenal response to our audio shows, this resonates with our audience. Our users have earned Rs 25 lakh hosting audio shows on MPL in the first two months of it going live. 

Q. What do you see are the challenges on the legal and regulatory for esports and online gaming and what is the best way to combat them?

Sai: I am no regulatory expert but what I can tell you is that fairness and therefore, recognition of skill is a central tenet of what we do here at MPL. We have a data driven approach to ensuring that only such games that test skills to the fullest are available on MPL.

We also have a very robust system in place now for weeding out fraudsters and making sure that the most skilled players play and win on MPL. Esports players, our ‘digital athletes’, deserve recognition at par with any other sport. They practice as hard and play to win. 

I think it’s about time the industry comes together and adopts a common standard for fairness, skill and the like, and we are working through various industry bodies on those aspects. 

Q. Finally, your parting thoughts on MPL’s plan and vision for the near future and the direction in which esports and gaming is headed in the country?

Sai: Esports in India and across the globe is on the cusp of a mainstream revolution. It looks like it could well be a medal event at the Olympics even before cricket! Given the global opportunities that are mushrooming, we at MPL believe India is poised to grab the chance. We need the right support system for esports players and developers alike. And MPL provides the platform for the entire system to grow on.

We want to keep adding to our games, making the platform a mini-app store where game creators can publish their games and users can compete and win, playing these games. Overall, we want to play our part in developing gaming and esports as a viable career option for developers and gamers alike.

Legal & Regulatory

Kerala HC says online rummy for stakes legality has to be reviewed on case to case basis

A division bench of the Kerala High Court comprising of Justices AM Shaffique and N Anil Kumar on 11th October delivered their order on a bunch of review petitions filed by online rummy website Ace2Three, RummyCircle and Junglee Rummy, challenging the court’s January 2019 order holding rummy for stakes to be an offence of gambling.

The court in its order on the review petitions at the outset admitted that a 1976 notification under Section 14A of the Kerala Gaming Act, 1960, that exempted rummy from the ambit of gambling, subject to the condition that side-betting is not permitted on such games, was not brought to its attention by the counsels arguing the earlier matter.

The existence of the notification and the court’s lapse in ignoring the said notification was first reported by Glaws in June 2016 and reiterated in February 2019, after which the counsels for the online rummy companies brought it up before the court.

The court in its order also alluded to the Supreme Court’s order in State of Andhra Pradesh v. K. Satyanarayana held that it cannot be said that rummy is a game of chance and there is no skill involved in it.

The court however, also noted the observation of the apex court in the order, that if there is evidence of gambling in some other way or that the owners of the house is making a profit or gain from the game of rummy or any other game played for stakes, the offence may be brought home.

KK Ravindranath, Additional Advocate General of the state of Kerala in his submissions noted that although playing the game of rummy is exempted from the Kerala Gaming Act by the 1976 notification, the issue of online gaming/rummy was not under consideration before the court in the original petition.

He further stated that only playing rummy is exempted under the notification and rummy, if played for stakes would amount to ‘side betting’ and offences under the Kerala Gaming Act would be attracted.

The High Court in its order, did not provide any clear answer to the applicability of the Kerala Gaming Act and 1976 notification on online rummy played for stakes. While disposing of the petitions, it noted that the applicability of the notification to online rummy and meaning of the term side betting has to be decided on a case to case basis depending on the manner in which the games are conducted and stakes involved.

The court in its final observations noted: “There is no dispute about the fact that in view of the notification, playing rummy is excluded from the provisions of the Act and in the impugned judgment the Division Bench has also held that the element of skill is predominant than the element of chance. But the question is whether if rummy is played for stakes, will it amount to violation of the provisions of the Gaming Act or not.

We are of the view that this aspect of the matter has to be decided on a case to case basis. What is the manner in which the games are conducted and how it is being conducted through online methods and what are the stakes involved in the matter are all issues which may arise for consideration. If it is just playing rummy without any side betting, the notification protects the parties involved in it. But, in a case where rummy is played for stakes, the issue might be different which has to be dealt with on a case to case basis. Therefore, the application of notification SRO No.1045/1976 will have to be adjudged depending on a case to case basis.

In the result, we do not find any ground to review the judgment. Review petitions are dismissed.”

The Kerala High Court with its order in the review petition has skirted the issue of whether online rummy for stakes can be legally conducted within the state and has consequently created more confusion rather than providing much needed clarity.

Legal & Regulatory

HC reserves order in Kerala rummy for stakes matter

A division bench of the Kerala High Court comprising of Justices AM Shaffique and N. Anil Kumar concluded hearing all arguments of the state government and online rummy companies on 24th and 26th September, in a clutch of review petitions filed by online rummy websites, RummyCircle, Ace2Three and Junglee Rummy.

The three leading online rummy websites had, through a review petition, challenged a January 2019 order of a division bench of the High Court which ruled that playing rummy for stakes amounted to the offence of gambling under the Kerala Gaming Act, 1960.

It is understood that the online rummy companies argued primarily on the basis of a 1976 notification issued under Section 14A of the Kerala Gaming Act, 1960 that exempts the game of rummy from the ambit of gambling and allows it to be played, subject to the condition that there is no side-betting.

The existence of the notification was first uncovered by Glaws in 2016. However, the Kerala High Court in its January 2019 order, perhaps in error or due to incorrect submission by the counsels of the parties stated that no such notification under Section 14A of the Gaming Act was issued by the state government.

Apart from Supreme Court and High Court precedents ruling rummy to be a game of skill and allowing it to be played for stakes, the online rummy companies’ stand was primarily based on this seeming error of ignoring the specific notification of the state government that was brought to their notice by Glaws.

After several adjournments, the High Court heard these submissions by the online rummy companies on 24th September and heard the contentions of the state government on 26th September, post which it reserved the order.

A written order on the issue is now expected to be given by the court within the next few weeks.

Legal & Regulatory

Gujarat, Kerala skill gaming matters marred by adjournments

Crucial matters pertaining to the legality of the skill gaming industry: a review petition on whether rummy for stakes can be permitted pending before the Kerala High Court and the letters patent appeal on whether poker is a game of skill in the Gujarat High Court were adjourned without being heard in the past few weeks.

A fresh division bench of the court comprising of newly appointed Chief Justice Vikram Nath and Justice A.J. Shashtri was supposed to hear the appeal against a 2017 single judge bench order ruling poker to be a game of chance on 16th September.

The clutch of petitions filed by Indian Poker Association Secretary KN Suresh, Dominance Games Private Limited, Aman Chhabra and Hotel Ramada, Ahmedabad, however could not be heard on 16th September and are now scheduled to be heard on 4th October, 2019.

Meanwhile, the review petitions filed by filed by online rummy websites Ace2Three, RummyCircle and Junglee Rummy against a January 2019 order of the division bench of the Kerala High Court saw three successive adjournments without much progress.

The matter, last posted on 4th September before a division bench comprising of Justices AM Shaffique and N. Anil Kumar has now been posted for hearing on 24th September, 2019.

It remains to be seen whether the matters on poker and rummy, critical to the skill gaming industry will gain momentum in the next few weeks or see further adjournments.

Business Gaming

Living Consumer files insolvency petition against RummyCircle

Exclusive Digital and affiliate marketing company Living Consumer Products Private Limited has filed an insolvency petition against online rummy website RummyCircle’s parent company Play Games24x7 Private Limited for alleged non-payment of pending dues.

Living Consumer Products, as an operational creditor, has filed the petition in the Mumbai bench of the National Company Law Tribunal initiating corporate insolvency process against Play Games24x7 for non-payment of dues for goods/services under Section 9 of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016.

The matter came up for hearing on 5th August, 2019 and the NCLT Bench asked Play Games24x7 to file its reply to Living Consumer’s claim by the next day, i.e. 6th August post which a rejoinder could be filed by Living Consumer Products.

The matter has now been listed for further hearing on 11th September, 2019 after all the replies have been filed.

Amit Vora, Director of Living Consumer Products declined to comment on the matter and stated, “As the matter is subjudice, I reserve my comments on this topic.”

Bhavin Pandya, CEO and co-founder of Play Games24x7 while declining to comment on the litigation alluded to the need to curb affiliate marketing fraud.

In an emailed statement he noted, “The affiliate marketing industry in India is rapidly evolving. With the increasing migration of services to the online medium, it is imperative that the online affiliate marketing industry also follows high standards and responsible business practices. One of the challenges faced by advertisers is affiliate fraud at all scales by some small or big online marketing affiliates.

This is not a new problem however in the more mature affiliate marketing industry in the West, both parties, the advertisers and the affiliates have understood the value of working with their interests aligned and therefore are naturally moving towards revenue sharing arrangements. This industry being new in India, these models are yet to evolve on the backdrop or more transparency and willingness to share data between stakeholders.

At RummyCircle and My11Circle, we are constantly improving our systems by running real time data science models to detect affiliate marketing fraud. The Company has also faced issues of misreported acquisition data and is able to now substantiate, with its own data, and take quick corrective action to mitigate losses and clean up the practices at the end of the affiliates. It is not surprising that some operators who look at short term gains, resist the idea of transparency for short term business objectives, however, this is not good for the health of the online marketing industry and eventually will destroy creativity and competition.

Given where the industry is right now, accountability of reporting relevant user information to detect fraud is a challenge due to lack of proper information sharing by the affiliates. The Company however is committed to use technology and data science to improve this industry and hopes that these steps help every stakeholder in the long run. The Company cannot comment on the specifics of a dispute with any vendor that is pending adjudication and it is appropriate to await the outcome of the adjudication process.”


Paytm First Games to receive $25 million funding: Report

Alibaba Group and One97 Communications Limited backed Paytm First Games (earlier known as Gamepind) is reportedly in talks to raise US$25 million in a fresh funding round that will be led by venture capital firm SAIF partners and an unknown Hong Kong based entity.

In May this year, the company had announced that it had surpassed 30 million registered users on its platform and planned to raise $30 million in a funding round. Last year, Paytm and Alibaba had jointly infused $16 million in the gaming company.

When Sudhanshu Gupta, Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Paytm First Games was contacted by Times of India for a confirmation of the above news, he declined to confirm the development.

Gupta however noted that Paytm First Games has grown manifold in the last one year and has garnered over 30 million registered users. He noted that on an average users spend around Rs. 4,000 per month on the game of rummy and Rs. 400 per month on fantasy sports.

He also stated that the company is clocking around US$ 50 million in revenue, with the focus in the near future being on investing in its technology and hosting e-sports events.Gupta stated that Gamepind is looking to double its team size from the current number of 150.

Paytm First Games offers casual games such as ludo, snake wars, badlands, 8 ball pool as well as skill games such as rummy, fantasy sports, trivia and live quiz on its platform as well as on the Paytm app.

Gaming Legal & Regulatory

Andhra Pradesh MLA calls for banning online rummy

After Chief Minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy’s assertion last month about banning online rummy in Andhra Pradesh, an MLA belonging to the ruling YSR Congress Party raised the issue of online rummy and its perils in the ongoing session of the legislative assembly of the state.

Malladi Vishnu, a YSR Congress Party MLA while speaking in the house mentioned that many families are being disturbed due to online rummy and that he was receiving requests from various people to bring a strict law against online gambling and rummy.

He further urged the government to seriously consider strict action against online rummy websites.

The speaker presiding over the legislative assembly called upon the concerned minister to reply to Vishnu’s suggestion. Since the minister concerned, i.e. the Home Minister was not present in the House, the Deputy Chief Minister responded saying he had noted down the request made by Vishnu.

Last month, it was reported that the state’s Minister for Tourism, Culture and Youth Advancement, Muttamsetti Srinivasa Rao alias Avanthi Srinivas had raised the issue of online rummy and gaming spoiling the lives of many educated as well as unemployed youth and demanded a ban on online rummy, at a conference of District Collectors and Superintendents of Police in the presence of Chief Minister Reddy.

On being told by the state’s Director General of Police (DGP) that, at present, Andhra Pradesh does not have any specific legislation against online rummy, Reddy reportedly stated that the state government will soon introduce a new law to ban online rummy.