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Jamie | 10. September 2020

India Bans PUBG Mobile!

Mobile game behemoth PUBG has been banned in India, along with over 100 other apps. PUBG has been hugely successful both in India and globally since its release in 2017. The game has accumulated 734 million downloads worldwide, with India ranking at number 1 with 175 million installs as of July 2020[1]. This sweeping ban has caused widespread frustration among Indian players and essentially stopped India’s mobile esports scene in its tracks.

Why Has India Banned PUBG?

While PUBG is the most high profile ban to come from India’s IT Ministry, it’s certainly not the first. This ban comes as part of a long list of bans that have been happening for months now as the Indian government attempts to crack down on Chinese influence within the country.

On Wednesday 2, September, the Indian government banned 118 apps that they considered to be “prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order.”[2] Put simply, this is political.

Back in July, India banned 59 Chinese apps and then banned a further 47 only a few days later. After this, many people in the mobile gaming scene predicted that PUBG would eventually be hit with a ban hammer. The July ban wave caused rife speculation about what apps would be hit next, with 275 apps predicted to be next in line. Since PUBG was one of these apps, many felt that the writing was on the wall for the beloved first-person shooter game.

Is PUBG a Chinese App?

These initial ban waves resulted in a bunch of memes from Indian players worried about the fate of PUBG. However, many players remained hopeful that PUBG would survive future crackdowns because of its fairly tenuous link to China. Most of the apps targeted by the Indian government have been Chinese made apps. They were developed in China and initially made for Chinese audiences. PUBG doesn’t fall into this category.

PUBG was developed by South Korean gaming company Bluehole. Back in 2017, it was released on the Steam store and available on Microsoft Windows. It later on that the Korean developer decided to partner with Tencent Games to develop the mobile app, and this is where the problem lies. Tencent Games, part of Chinese multinational conglomerate Tencent Holdings, has been accused of working closely with the Chinese government. It’s alleged that Tencent is overly zealous with censorship in an attempt to appease Chinese censorship practices. They have also been accused of sharing data with the Chinese government.

What’s Next For the Indian Mobile Esports Scene?

The banning of PUBG has been a huge blow to the Indian mobile esports scene. India was one of the largest, if not the largest market for PUBG, and as such, it was a major hub of PUBG esports. So, with PUBG gone, what’s next? Can the Indian esports scene recover from such a massive blow?

We’re likely to see a lull in Indian mobile esports for some time now due to the uncertainty of the situation. While other games have the potential to fill this gap, they could suffer the same fate as PUBG. For example, Call of Duty: Mobile is also popular in India, but this game also has links to Tencent.

[1] https://sensortower.com/blog/pubg-mobile-revenue-three-billion

[2] https://inc42.com/buzz/breaking-india-bans-118-more-mobile-applications-including-pubg-baidu/