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PUBG, a multiplayer online shooting game, was among the most popular with close to 50 million active players in India.
PUBG, a multiplayer online shooting game, was among the most popular with close to 50 million active players in India.

Can Indian gaming apps replace PUBG Mobile?

  • Many believe the ban would protect the interests of Indian mobile and internet users while providing indigenous homegrown game development studios with an opportunity but some think replacing PUBG will not be easy

NEW DELHI: Indian gaming platforms such as Paytm First Games, Gamerji and Loco are looking to push their products following the ban of popular Chinese e-sports app PUBG Mobile and PUBG Mobile Lite by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology which dominated the India market. PUBG, a multiplayer online shooting game, was among the most popular with close to 50 million active players in India.

India on Wednesday banned Chinese mobile gaming app PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, popularly known by the acronym PUBG, and 117 others, including Alipay and Baidu, amid a fresh spell of border tensions between the two neighbours.

Roland Landers, chief executive of All India Gaming Federation said, the ban would safeguard the interests of Indian mobile and internet users while presenting a great opportunity for indigenous homegrown game development studios.

"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," he added.

Games like HitWicket, World Cricket Championship (WCC) or mythology-based games like Raji are expected to take advantage of this opportunity and there's a need for the government to recognise and promote such segments in India, said Lokesh Suji, director, Esports Federation of India (ESFI). As of 2020, India ranks 16th among the world in the eSports industry with a total revenue of 8,000 crore (approximately $1.17 billion).

However, some in the industry believe that replacing PUBG Mobile will not be easy for Indian gaming firms as it requires heavy investments and creating IPs.

Akshat Rathee, managing director and co-founder of e-sports firm NODWIN Gaming, thinks that the closest replacement for PUBG fans would be international games such as Call of Duty mobile (high-end smartphone users) and Free Fire (for low-end smartphone users).

"India has created good cricket and Ludo mobile games but we are yet to compete with global gaming companies in multiplayer online shooting game genre," he added.

The ban would also mean that PUBG players and streamers will have to reskill themselves if they are looking to shift to other games. Pocket Aces-owned homegrown e-sports app Loco, which had PUBG Mobile on its platform, said that it will help streamers and gamers on its platform to deal with the ban.

The company is focusing on regional language game streaming space with regular South India-focused programming to create more opportunities for gamers.

PUBG opened India to e-sports when it was launched in 2018. The mobile-first approach, clean user interface and ease of using the platform ensured adoption which in turn helped the company monetise through in-app purchases and pay to play model. PUBG also organised gaming league cornering sponsorship from brands such as Mountain Dew and One Plus targetting the upwardly mobile younger consumers with disposable incomes.

"Advertising spends on gaming, as a genre, will be halted as PUBG was the biggest mobile gaming app in India. However, gamers and streamers are likely to move to other gaming apps and brands will return to advertise on Indian gaming platforms in the next three to six months," Shradha Agarwal, co-founder and COO at digital marketing agency Grapes Digital.

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