Saturday, May 28, 2022

PUBG Mobile Ban In India: 'Plenty Of Options Available', Esports Industry Sees Opportunity For Indian Products

PUBG Mobile, published by Chinese behemoth Tencent, was a rage among Indian youths, but India's security more important, says online gaming industry

PUBG Mobile Ban In India: 'Plenty Of Options Available', Esports Industry Sees Opportunity For Indian Products
A man opens the PUBG app on his mobile phone. India government blocked 118 more mobile applications, including popular gaming app PUBG, on September, 2020 PTI Photo/Arun Sharma

The Indian government's ban on the popular Chinese online gaming mobile application PlayerUnknown's Battleground (PUBG) may have come as a shock to millions of users but industry stalwarts say players will easily find other games that are equally popular. (More Sports News)

As part of the Indian government's security plans to neutralise hostile neighbours like China, PUBG Mobile was one among 118 Chinese mobile apps that was banned on Wednesday. According to market estimates, the PUBG Mobile has over 50 million downloads and a user base of 33 million in India.

READ: PUBG Banned In India

Published by Chinese company Tencent, it is one of the two unicorn mobile games in India. The other is Ludo King. Unicorn is a business term used to identify a privately help startup company that has a valuation of over a billion US Dollars.

Tencent is a very popular investor in the Indian online gaming market. Fantasy sports operator Dream11, the title sponsors of Indian Premier League 2020, and popular food ordering app Swiggy and ed-tech company Byju's, are some of the companies that get Tencent funding.

Tencent, extremely reticent in its communication with the Indian media, did not comment on the ban on PUBG Mobile.

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"There is no need to panic, the Indian gaming industry has enough wherewithal and can't be termed dependent on one game. This is a great opportunity for Indian video game developers to build innovative online multiplayer games," said Lokesh Suji of Esports Federation of India.

"Games like HitWicket, WCC (World Cricket Championship) or mythology-based games like Razi, which are all homegrown products, now have a great opportunity to make their presence felt," said Suji.

Playing nationalism in online gaming too! PTI photo

The ban on PUBG and other Chinese apps wasn't unexpected. In the wake of the India-China standoff in the Galwan Valley in Ladakh on June 15, the Indian government's stress to boycott Chinese products has been growing. Popular app Tiktok had already been banned earlier.

Although this 'boycott' has been selectively done -- the BCCI, for example has parted ways with Chinese mobile phone makers Vivo, but continues to be sponsored by a Dream11 or a Paytm (funded by Alibaba) -- the latest ban on Chinese apps is to guard national security.

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According to the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, PUBG has been banned along with the other apps under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, on grounds that they are engaged in activities which are prejudicial to the sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, the security of the state and public order, explained Roland Landers, the CEO of the All India Gaming Federation.

"Any decision taken by the government in order to protect the safety, security and sovereignty of the Indian cyberspace is welcome," said Landers.

"It's is not our place to make a comment as this is between the publisher and the government. We support the Esports and the gaming community at large and are dependent on the publisher and the nation to make it work. We look forward to an amicable and expeditious resolution," said Akshat Rathee of Nodwin Gaming.

This ban on PUBG Mobile presents a great opportunity for indigenous home grown game development studios to showcase their talent and create exciting game formats as part of the #Vocalforlocal and #Aatmanirbhar initiatives, said Landers.

"We are confident that games like Rogue Heist, a multi-player online shooter game, designed and developed entirely in India will fill the need gap," he added.

Suji saw this as a big chance for the government to embrace Esports and bring all the operators under one roof.

"This is a great opportunity for the government and the Ministry of Sports to also recognise Esports as a medal-winning and professional sporting opportunity. The gaming community which is very fragmented can benefit in much more constructive ways if government recognition to the sport is given," said Suji.

"The ban (on PUBG Mobile) would affect the Esports scene massively, but I am sure this will open other doors for the gaming community and talent will continue shining in other games," said Tirth mehta, who won a bronze medal in Hearthstone, a popular digital collectible card game, at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta. Esports was a demonstration event.

Ashwin Haryani, who runs Gaming Monk, a popular online gaming destination, said: "This will be a great time for games like Garena Free Fire, Call of Duty Mobile and Fortnite to really grow in India. Even if PUBG Mobile has been banned, gamers shall continue to play other mobile games and keep them engaged and entertained.

"We have as it is seen a great surge in players from Free Fire and COD Mobile in the last three-four months even before the ban. This also gives a great opportunity for Indian game developers to build Esports games and build a community around them."

Ishaan Arya, whose Esports Club has been trying to streamline competition and competitions in India, feels the ban on PUBG Mobile definitely disrupts the industry as large investments in Esports were around PUBG Mobile

"However at the same time it gives a tremendous opportunity for PC Esports to catch up," said Arya.


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