On September 2, Player Unknown Battle Grounds aka PUBG Mobile was banned in India, amid the simmering tensions between India and China. We trace and analyse what the app ban means for India

Due to the escalation of geopolitical tensions between India and China, the Indian government has recently waved red-flags to almost 118 Chinese mobile applications due to security threats. Meanwhile, others have been listed for violating data-sharing norms and privacy concerns.

On September 2, Player Unknown Battle Grounds, better known as PUBG Mobile, one of the most popular mobile games in India, was banned on the grounds of data protection and privacy matters. The Ministry of Information and technology released a statement informing that 118 Chinese apps including PUBG are banned. The statement termed these apps “prejudicial to the sovereignty and integrity of India.” The apps were also considered a threat to the defence, security, and public order of India.

PUBG: A Battle Royale Game

‘A Battle Royale’ game is an online multiplayer video game genre that blends the survival, exploration, and scavenging elements of a survival game. The key element is the last-man-standing gameplay. The most played  Battle Royale game in India is ‘PUBG’, which was launched in March 2018. Since then, the game has gained immense popularity among the Indian youth.

India is one of the biggest markets for PUBG Mobile with over 50 Million players exclusively from India in 2019. In PUBG, the players used to participate immensely in teams as well as individuals. The game was so admired that even Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of the country, was seen talking about it.

PUBG: A Popular Esport in India

PUBG was the first Battle Royale game played online which is highly popular globally. This mobile game was not only played for the purpose of entertainment but has helped players to establish a successful career as gamers in India.

The Indian ‘Esports’ industry will undoubtedly witness a blow owing to the fact that the bulk of the tournaments were for PUBG. For professional gamers and Esports enthusiasts, PUBG felt like a boon. Esports start-ups such as Nodwin Gaming, Ewar Games, Gaming Monk and others have massively capitalised on themselves and benefitted from the PUBG wave.

According to Esports Observer, PUBG Mobile contributed about 40 percent to the overall esports prize money pool in India. The PUBG mobile app was used to announce tournaments in which players could participate and have the opportunity to win huge prize money. The majority of mobile gaming tournaments organised in India were for PUBG.

The ban: An opportunity for Indian game developers

Several Indian game developers are using the PUBG ban as an opportunity to bring alternatives that are completely desi (indigenous). By doing so, they are indirectly trying to support the Prime Minister’s dream of AtmaNirbhar Bharat or self-reliance.

It is believed that the Indian gaming industry has many options and can’t be termed dependent on just one game. This wave of the banning of Chinese apps has created a great opportunity for Indian game developers to showcase their creativity and innovation. Although banning PUBG is being considered as a major setback for online gamers in India, at the same time it is going to open a window of opportunities for Indian game developers.

FAU-G: Indian alternative to PUBG announced

Within just two days of the PUBG mobile app ban in India, a chain of Indian developers has been trying to introduce several ‘Made in India’ alternatives to games such as PUBG.

While Indian youth were desperately exploring alternatives of PUBG, Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar announced the launch of a Multiplayer Action game called FAU-G (Fearless and United-Guards). n-Core Games on September 4, publicised this Indian version of the PUB-G mobile game.

(Photo credit: The Social Digital)

According to various reports, the FAU-G mobile game, as the name suggests, will be based on the Indian theme of trying to acquaint the players with the sacrifices made by Indian soldiers. In order to completely commercialise the game, the first episode of the game is believed to be based on the recent (Sino-Indian) Galwan Valley border clash. It was announced that 20 percent of FAU-G’s net revenue generation will be donated to the Bharat Ke Veer trust.

Upcoming gains with the ban

Undoubtedly, PUBG mobile game has done a wonderful job of introducing millions of Indians to Esports. There were over 35 million active PUBG players in India (before the ban) among which approximately 15 million were daily players. Many hold an optimistic view on the ban of PUBG and believe that banning the most popular Esport will not obstruct the growth of the entire Esports sector in India.