With the government reportedly taking a look at more than 250 Chinese apps for a potential ban, after a ban on over 100 apps has already been ordered, rumours are that PUBG Mobile could finally be banned in India. Many in the country seem set to welcome the new move, though Gadgets 360 is yet to receive a clarity on the matter. However, many fans of the game have been requesting the authorities to not include PUBG Mobile in any fresh list of banned apps.
The latest development comes just after the government reportedly banned 47 Chinese apps on Monday. That move was a follow-up of the earlier ban under which 59 Chinese apps were banned in favour of protecting “national interest and security” under the provisions of Section 69A of the Information Technology Act.
Although the government didn’t provide the list of apps it had banned under the new decision, it is said to be considering prohibiting PUBG Mobile among some other China-backed apps and games. It could be a part of the list of over 250 apps that will reportedly be examined for any user privacy and national security violations. However, ahead of any official announcement, the arrival of PUBG Mobile’s name in the news reports has taken social media by storm.
PUBG Mobile is a renowned name when it comes to mobile games in India. Developed by China’s Tencent Games-owned LightSpeed and Quantum Studio, the battle royale game has received 17.5 crore installs from India that is 24 percent of the total installs worldwide, according to a report by Sensor Tower. It even garnered more installs than what it received from China, which has 16.7 percent share in its total installs.
Apart from installs, there are many Indian gamers who actively stream PUBG Mobile through their channels on Twitch and YouTube. Niko Partners Senior Analyst Daniel Ahmad tweeted that while the game has a large base in India, it doesn’t generate revenue at the same scale, making around $2-3 million (roughly Rs. 15-22 crores) on a monthly basis.
Craig Chapple, Mobile Insights Strategist, EMEA at Sensor Tower, told Gadgets 360, citing the data from Sensor Tower Store Intelligence estimates, that despite receiving close to 450 crore new installs from Apple App Store and Google Play in the first half of 2020, India ranks low for player spending, generating approximately $94 million (roughly Rs. 704 crores). “For comparison, the United States’ mobile games market generated close to $10.1 billion from player spending during the same period,” he said.
The disparity in installs and revenues reflects in case of PUBG Mobile as well. However, Chapple said that it is still a leading example that this type of games can monetise in India.
“In India, the game has generated 180.3 million downloads to date, and generated $38.6 million [roughly Rs. 289 crores] in lifetime revenue. In the first half of 2020, it was India’s top grossing mobile game,” he noted.
Prachir Singh, a Senior Research Analyst at Counterpoint Research, told Gadgets 360 that PUBG Mobile’s popularity in India could be judged by the fact that many companies have used the game to promote their smartphones. Oppo and Vivo — themselves of Chinese origin — are amongst the key vendors who hosted PUBG Mobile matches in the past.
Is PUBG Mobile really a Chinese game?
With the reports suggesting the potential ban of PUBG Mobile, some people have started raising comments that it’s a Korean game and not a Chinese one. This is indeed true for PUBG that is meant for online gamers and is developed and published by PUBG Corporation, which is a subsidiary of South Korean video game company Bluehole. However, PUBG Mobile was created in a collaboration between PUBG Corporation and Shenzhen-headquartered Tencent Games. It, thus, has some relation with China.
Nevertheless, some industry watchers feel PUBG Mobile’s China connection is weak, and Chapple of Sensor Tower says, “I would note that the PUBG IP is owned by PUBG Corp, which is part of Krafton Game Union, a South Korea-based holding company.”
Mobile gaming market increased significantly, but still full of casual gamers
Singh, from Counterpoint, highlighted that the mobile gaming market in India has grown rapidly in the last few years as smartphone penetration has increased and data rates have reduced. It is also believed to be one of the top five mobile gaming markets in terms of the number of users. However, there is still the domination of casual gamers over their professional counterparts.
“I believe that the high level of engagement will increase the number of professional gamers in the near future,” said Singh. “I believe the expansion of e-sports will certainly help in the growth of professional gamers.”
The majority of casual gamers is one of the reasons behind the growing popularity of PUBG Mobile as it gained fame mainly through word-of-mouth. It became so well known that different local administrations have banned it in the past, seeing it as detrimental to education. Back in January last year, the Gujarat government issued a circular to impose a ban on PUBG. That circular was supposedly for PUBG Mobile and not its PC version. It came just after a student’s body in Jammu and Kashmir had sought a ban of PUBG Mobile, blaming it for resulting in their poor examination performance.
Would India get any impact from the PUBG Mobile ban?
One of the popular alternatives to PUBG Mobile is Fortnite. But since the latter requires more powerful hardware and doesn’t perform well on entry-level Android devices, India is chiefly a PUBG-country so far. This is a major reason why many people are demanding the government to exclude PUBG Mobile from its banning plans. Many gamers are upset about its potential ban and expressing their views on social media.
Singh, of Counterpoint, told Gadgets 360 that banning PUBG Mobile would lead to a greater outage than what emerged when 59 apps were banned previously. “This is because of the large number of active PUBG Mobile players in India,” he said.
Having said that, there are plenty of alternatives to PUBG Mobile on both Apple App Store and Google Play. Call of Duty: Mobile, Butter Royale, Garena Free Fire, and Fortnite are among the games that could be played in the absence of PUBG Mobile to get a similar experience. Singh said that all these would stand to benefit the most if the game is banned in the country. Sensor Tower’s Chapple said that particularly Garena Free Fire from Garena Games is already a popular shooter game in India, with an estimated lifetime revenue of $15.3 million (roughly Rs. 114 crores) and accumulated 13.02 crore downloads.