For tens of thousands of Indian players, Tencent’s PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) video game was a welcome diversion from the coronavirus pandemic.
Then the Indian government said that 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, aged 26, who lives in India’s financial hub, Mumbai, also played PUBG with nine friends for hours each day.
PUBG, part of the “battle royale” genre in which a group of players fight one another until just a single combatant is left alive, became a casualty of geopolitics when the Indian government said it was banning it, and over a hundred other Chinese apps, as tensions with communist China escalated.
India’s tech ministry said the programs were a threat to India’s sovereignty and safety.
In a statement on Thursday, Tencent stated its programs complied with India’s data security laws and that it might participate with local governments to clarify its policies.
The ban is the latest move against Chinese companies in India amid a months-long standoff over a contested border but the timing and the goal were especially tough for young men and women. They’ve been using the sport to stay in contact with buddies while schools and colleges are shut to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
PUBG’s interactive features make it possible for gamers to interact with one another using text and voice, and users say that these make it a unique mobile game in a country where millions of gamers cannot afford expensive gaming consoles and broadband connections.
Tencent had established a lighter version of the sport, which absorbs less mobile data and runs easily on cheaper mobiles, in an effort to woo more Indian players who’d potentially spend on the app later on.
Some PUBG gamers in India have invested thousands of rupees to purchase so-called Royal Passes, a way to earn quick rewards and also have access to special missions in the sport. Some took to Twitter to appeal the ban making #PUBG a leading fad across India this past week.
India is currently PUBG’s largest market by users, and based on analytics company SensorTower, accounts for 29 percent of those apps complete downloads.
The ban is just another blow for Tencent whose WeChat app was also outlawed by New Delhi in June, following a border skirmish that left 20 Indian soldiers dead. Tencent’s other flagship sport – Arena of Valor – is now also banned in India.
Still, SensorTower states PUBG’s earnings hit will be marginal as India only contributed about 2.5% of its lifetime earnings.
The team at Platform Executive hope you have enjoyed this news article. Initial reporting via our official content partners at Thomson Reuters. Reporting by Sankalp Phartiyal and Sudarshan Varadhan. Additional reporing by Pei Li, Sachin Ravikumar and Nivedita Bhattacharjee. Editing by Euan Rocha and Carmel Crimmins.
To stay on top of the latest developments across the platform economy and gain access to our problem-solving tools and content sets, you can become a member for just $7 per month.