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Business News/ Companies / News/  PUBG ban cheers its global gaming rivals

The ban on PlayerUnknown’s Battleground (PUBG) Mobile, one of the most popular virtual gaming platforms across the world, has sparked off a frantic search for alternatives among Indian gamers.

Downloads for rival games Garena Free Fire and Call of Duty (COD) Mobile have risen steadily since PUBG was taken out of app stores over security concerns on 2 September.

Data from app analytics firm Sensor Tower showed Free Fire and COD Mobile were downloaded 3.7 million and 1.4 million times, respectively, between 3 and 9 September. The number of downloads grew 147% and 267%, respectively, from the previous week.

The virtual gaming industry, which for many decades has been dominated by a select few names, is fast giving way to newer challengers. As per industry data, online gaming platforms dominate nearly three-fourths of the domestic gaming market, thanks to the rapid rise of smartphone users. Online gaming, as a segment, is estimated to be a $1.1 billion opportunity in India by 2021, according to a Google-KPMG report.

India is expected to have more than 628 million gamers. Experts attribute the shift in market share to revenue from mobile gaming surpassing those of gaming consoles, prompting major game developers to switch to mobile platforms.

While some still expect PUBG to make a return, at the moment, gamers seem to be shifting to its rivals—much as people did when TikTok was banned. However, unlike the short-video app, PUBG doesn’t have an Indian alternative and therefore, its absence is expected to benefit foreign, non-Chinese game publishers.

According to Harsh Kothari, who runs e-sports firm Neon Gaming, users who had bought in-app items in PUBG Mobile are going to incur losses and may still use virtual private networks to access the game.

Sensor Tower’s data suggests that of the $3.5 billion PUBG earned worldwide during its lifetime, $41.2 million came from India. While this is only 1.2% of the game’s global revenue (a major part comes from China), PUBG Mobile was the top grossing app in India between 1 January and 31 August this year.

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Prasid Banerjee
An engineering dropout, Prasid Banerjee has reported on technology in India for various publications. He reports on technology through text and audio, focusing on its core aspects, like consumer impact, policy and the future.
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Updated: 14 Sep 2020, 06:49 AM IST
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