PUBG Mobile ban in India has caused plenty of furore on all fronts. While gamers have largely faced a momentary halt, game broadcasters and streaming platforms in India remain largely optimistic about the road ahead for the gaming industry in India. While they acknowledge the impact that PUBG Mobile has had in bringing up gaming as a profession and an organised industry in India, they are also looking forward to gamers in India adapting to the changing times. In turn, they believe that the game itself is just a vehicle, and as a result, alternate options such as Call of Duty Mobile and Garena Free Fire would see considerable growth in the immediate future. At the same time, they believe that the ban on PUBG Mobile may be momentary, until the security concerns with regards to its links with China are alleviated.
Speaking to News18, Akshat Rathee, co-founder and managing director of Nodwin Gaming, says that while he firmly believes that the dispute linked to PUBG Mobile can be resolved and the game will make a return in the near future, India’s gaming industry is bigger than just one game, no matter how influential or popular it has been. He says, “A great PUBG Mobile player will always make a great gamer for shooter games, it doesn’t matter what title he’s playing. Even if PUBG Mobile does not come back, gamers and content creators will find alternatives to create content on. They still have their followers on social media platforms, and the skill set required for gaming is ubiquitous – be it PUBG or Call of Duty. If they don’t adapt, they’ll be left behind.”
Similar thoughts are echoed by Anirudh Pandita, founder of Pocket Aces. Pandita backs Loco, one of India’s significant game streaming platforms. Affirming that they do not expect to see a drop in game streams as a result of the ban in PUBG Mobile, Pandita tells News18, “As streamers experiment and grind in new games, we will see more streams in number and diversity of games. Different audiences, too, are migrating to different game streams.”
Rathee and Pandita’s thoughts are in line with the market trends being observed, about a week into the PUBG Mobile ban in India. Sensor Tower data has seemingly revealed that the top three game downloads over the past one week have been Call of Duty Mobile, Ludo King and Garena Free Fire. A report by Entrackr cites this data and claims that between September 2 and 5, the top downloaded game across iOS and Android app stores in India was Garena Free Fire with 2.1 million downloads. At second spot was Ludo King with 1.52 million downloads during this period, while Call of Duty Mobile registered 1.15 million downloads in these four days. Notably, in the 30-day period until September 5, Call of Duty Mobile registered 1.56 million total downloads, or 410,000 downloads in 26 days prior to the PUBG Mobile ban in India. Its surge in average downloads after the ban is close to 72x.
Rathee’s Nodwin Gaming is one of the biggest promoters of mobile gaming in India. Nodwin Gaming is a partner of ESL One, which is one of the biggest e-sports organisations in the world. Through this partnership, Rathee has been involved in bringing e-sports in India to the broadcast stage, with its latest e-sports broadcast partner being popular streaming platform, Hotstar.
Having seen the professional gaming industry up close for a while, Rathee says that following the PUBG Mobile ban, professional gamers are actively migrating to alternate games in order to continue with their careers. “It is possible that the tournaments may not be as big, and professional PUBG Mobile players would not have as big or wide an earning avenue as they did with PUBG around. But, everything else is still there – the games, the backers, the tournaments, the players, the skills, everything,” he says.
Rathee also affirms that while India does not have any alternatives to PUBG Mobile at the moment, this may be a good time for prospective Indian developers to start building shooter games that can one day take on globally famous titles such as Call of Duty, Free Fire or PUBG itself. As of now, PUBG Mobile’s holding company, PUBG Corp, has issued a statement saying that it has chosen to part with its publisher Tencent Gaming, based in China, in India. Tencent also has a 10 percent stake in Bluehole, the developers of the PUBG title.
While it is not clear if this will be enough for PUBG to clear its name and security concerns with the Indian government, Indian entrepreneur Vishal Gondal in partnership with actor Akshay Kumar has announced the development of FAU:G, which will seemingly rival all battle royale games in India. However, the game is nothing more than a modified stock image poster at the moment, which affirms that a playable version of the game is still far away.