Chinese gaming and social media group Tencent said on Thursday it takes the protection of user privacy and data seriously, in response to India’s banning of Chinese apps. The company said it would engage with Indian authorities to ensure the continued availability of its apps in India. India has banned another 118 mostly Chinese mobile apps including Tencent’s popular videogame PUBG Mobile, the government said on Wednesday, citing data security concerns. For tens of millions of Indian gamers, Tencent’s PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) Mobile videogame was a welcome distraction from the coronavirus pandemic.
Then the Indian government said it was pulling the plug. “When everything was under lockdown, PUBG’s interactive features gave me a semblance of real-world social interaction. It was a stress-buster for me,” said Mustafa Scentwala, 26, who lives in India’s financial hub, Mumbai, and played PUBG Mobile with nine friends for hours each day. PUBG Mobile, part of the “battle royale” genre in which a group of players fight one another until only a single combatant is left alive, became a casualty of geopolitics this week when the Indian government said it was banning it, along with over a hundred other Chinese apps, as tensions with Beijing escalated.
India’s technology ministry said the apps were a threat to India’s sovereignty and security. The ban is the latest move against Chinese companies in India amid a months-long standoff over a disputed border but the timing and the target were particularly tough for young people. They have been using the game to stay in touch with friends while schools and colleges are shut to stop the spread of the coronavirus.