They believe that it is time for Indian Gaming Companies to capitalise and use this opportunity to win the game.
- India has banned 118 Chinese apps including Tencent's PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG) as border tensions with China continue to flare up.
- We speak to Indian gaming apps and digital experts to understand what it means for the industry.
- They believe that it is time for Indian Gaming Companies to capitalise and use this opportunity to win the game.
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 engage in activities which are prejudicial to the sovereignty and integrity of India, defense of India, the security of the state and public order.
As of May, Tencent’s PUBG had been downloaded 34.2 million times of which India accounted for 35.8% — 12.24 million installs, according to data provided by Sensor Tower. It has seen a global revenue gain of $1.3 billion, which is nearly Rs 22,457 crore with the highest number of downloads in India.
The gaming industry in India is also at its peak right now. As per ‘The Power of Mobile Gaming in India,’a report released by the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) and Kantar IMRB in association with POKKT, the mobile gaming industry in India is projected to reach $934 million in 2022 and the number of gamers is expected to swell up to 368 million by 2022.
While gamers took to social media to mourn the loss of the game, experts are rejoicing at the government’s decision. They said that there are plenty of fish in the sea to fill PUBG’s void and the move will only bring India-made games to the forefront.
They also said that it may be a setback for gamers who made a living from that platform but they will eventually find another home like former TikTokers have.
Here is what experts had to say about PUBG’s ban:
Roland Landers, CEO, 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. The move would safeguard the interests of Indian mobile and internet users while presenting a great opportunity for indigenous homegrown game development studios to showcase their talent and create exciting game formats as part of the #Vocalforlocal and #Aatmanirbhar initiatives. We are confident that games like Rogue Heist, a multi-player online shooter game, designed and developed entirely in India and many others similar to this will fill the gap.
Anirudh Pandita, Founder, Pocket Aces (Owner of Loco):
The Indian gaming industry has been seeing rapid growth with users from across the country taking to esports and mobile gaming in a big way. We are seeing talented gamers showcase their skills through games such as PUBG, Call of Duty, Freefire and more. We’re confident that the recent ban on PUBG has been made by Government after much deliberation and with good reason. That means streamers and gamers now have to develop their skills on other games. We are confident that our gaming community will rise to the challenge and that our great nation will produce even better and bigger talent.
Loco is more determined than ever to serve the Indian gaming community. We stand by our streamers and are working hand in hand with them at this moment to chart out a new course for Indian gaming. Our platform empowers users to stream games and showcase their talent to India. 100% Made in India, Loco will amplify its efforts towards making India a gaming superpower.
Yash Pariani, CEO, Indian Gaming League (IGL):
This may seem like a loss to the Esports community, however, in the interest of national security, the country must take whatever precautions they deem necessary. There are plenty of other games to fill the void for PUBG and IGL have started capitalising on the recent surge of demand for these other games as soon as the ban was announced. Games such as Call of Duty (COD) Mobile, Free Fire and Fortnite may see a surge in users in India. While we may see some players move to other platforms such as PUBG PC, the majority who prefer the mobile version will be sticking to similar games on the same platform which would be COD Mobile. This will affect millions of gamers, it will have the same effect as it did when TikTok was banned for the influencers that had made a living from that platform, however, for the time being, we will see PUBG influencers and players switching to other games to make a living, it may be a set back for them but eventually, their audiences will also respond to the change. With this ban in effect, we may even see a version of the game that the audiences have grown to know and love, be developed here itself from India.
Piyush, CEO & Founder, Rooter:
We welcome this move by our government to safeguard Indian users' data and protect the country against the potential threat these apps pose to our national security. This ban opens up tremendous opportunities for the Indian gaming ecosystem to align their businesses with the government’s Atmanirbhar Bharat strategy and also enable gaming and eSports platforms to grow faster." Stating that the company anticipated the ban and kept investing in other games, he said, "Most of the users and content creators on our platform engage in games other than PUBG. Rooter had less than 10% PUBG streamers and it was a conscious effort on our part to ensure that we focus more on other games like Free Fire and Call of Duty. Both the games have strong engagement on Rooter and most of their top streamers are part of our user base. That said, in the last two and a half months, Rooter has witnessed unprecedented growth by adding nearly 3 million users. This ban will further fuel the growth, which will help us become a dominant player in the market.
Sowmya Iyer, Founder & CEO, DViO Digital:
Online gaming in India is at a very interesting threshold where it’s gaining a strong foothold as a subset of the Entertainment Industry. With a combination of deep mobile phone penetration, an increase in active internet users & the youngest population at hand, we are seeing that the interest in gaming & the number of gamers is on an exponential rise.
Perhaps as a testament to this growing gaming fever in India, the digital ad spends of such games have also grown exponentially, sometimes even surpassing the actual cost of making the game. And as for marketing on these platforms, gaming has revolutionized the way we consume content & has brought forth a whole new world of engaged & engrossed users which is a gold mine for brands and marketers.
Leading the computing & online gaming movement in India, we had PUBG but with the ban, we can see the potential for the Indian Gaming Companies to fill in very well. Players like Games 24X7, Nazara Technologies are pushing the boundaries in terms of providing Indian gamers with fantastic gaming options and content. As we see a huge surge in people adopting games and engaging with games as an entertainment medium, the big shot OTT platforms like Disney, Flipkart, Amazon, etc are also taking gamification as a focus area.
Statistics show India went from having just 25 gaming companies in 2010 to grow more than 250+ companies in a decade’s time which means we have the potential to create engaging content & conquer the gaming industry. Now that PUBG successfully hooked a whole generation to the gaming scene in India, it’s time for the Indian Gaming Companies to capitalize & use this opportunity to win the game!
GD Prasad, Associate Vice President, Dentsu Webchutney:
PUBG has permeated the digital media ecosystem in a way that no other game being played in India has. This is a game that has as many people watching gameplay footage on YouTube and Instagram as it does actual players. It has helped catapult a fresh set of influencers with millions of followers and subscribers and a streaming community with as many viewers. Money and politics aside, it will be interesting to see how this community adapts to the situation. I believe, we will see many changes to mobile gaming in India as a result of this move. PubJio in the making? Well, you never know!
Shradha Agarwal Co-founder & COO, Grapes Digital:
The banning of more than 100 additional apps by the indian Government with any linkages to China, is certainly going to create unrest and affect the livelihoods of many. These apps, including PubG was not only a gaming platform but a subsistence. For PubG, India was its largest market with content creators in the universe of gaming. PUBG has helped the hardcore mobile gaming market in India to grow exponentially in all 3 metrics — users, usage and monetisation. For the first time in India, we were seeing sizable in-app purchase revenues from a single game and the ban of PUBG amongst all the other apps, will directly impact the business model for many, thereby affecting their livelihood. The ripple effect will also be felt by event organizers, marketing agencies and influencers who were using PUBG and game streaming to optimize and monetize their livelihood, surely had become a way of life and existence. With a quarter of lifetime PUBG installed in India and more than 40 million monthly active users in the month of July, according to one of the top mobile insight firms, will lead to immense uncertainty with the overnight ban of these apps. However, this move by the government was expected to come anytime soon, following the ban of TikTok.
Karan Gupta, Managing Director, Zirca Digital Solutions:
The Ministry's move to ban the 118 China-backed apps, while keeping in mind India's national security, will no doubt come as a shock to gamers, especially those on the PUBG platform. PUPG has been extremely successful in the country because of its mobile-first strategy, captivating the youth and attracting huge advertising revenue opportunities over the past year. The gaming market will undoubtedly see the rise of various alternative gaming apps (including some homegrown ones) which will fill the void that the ban has brought about. Though it may bring about further fragmentation in the mobile gaming industry in the short term, Indian gamers will definitely find alternate gaming apps and advertising money will follow them.
Every such development can be an opportunity for our ecosystem. We have a very strong game developer ecosystem here in India. We have partnered with close to 30 already and the number is only growing. Rogue Heist, India's first home-made Battle Royale game, has already been called a "PUBG rival" and has been doing well on our platform for over three months now.