In a country that has over a billion people, and a potentially massive market, there was some bad news for 40-million Indian-based Player Unknown Battle Grounds (PUBG) players this past week with the news that the PUBG Mobile and PUBG Lite were two of 118 mobile apps that have been banned by the government.
The decision was taken by the Indian Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology and follows a standoff between India and China at political level and following the death of 20 Indian soldiers in a clash in the Himalayas in June. It also follows the banning of 59 Chinese-based apps, including the popular social media service TikTok, which had counted India as its biggest global market.
“Ensure Safety, Security and Sovereignty”
In their announcement regarding the ban of all the apps, the Ministry stated that the apps on the list were “prejudicial to [the] sovereignty and [the] integrity of India, [the] defence of India, security of state and public order.”
The ministry also explained that the decision to ban the apps would help “safeguard the interests of…Indian mobile and internet users” and that the move was a “targeted move to ensure safety, security and sovereignty of Indian cyberspace.”
The ministry also stated that they had received numerous complaints from a variety of different sources within India of “misuse of apps that have been allegedly stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in an unauthorized manner to servers which have locations outside of India”, which principally means China or Chinese-controlled interests.
The news is also not great for PUBG mobile provider Tencent, who have seen a market that accounts for more than a quarter of all the installations of the game on mobile devices, denied access to the game with immediate effect.
Similarly, a number of professional PUBG mobile esports teams have had their main source of income cut off in an instant, including teams like TSM Entity and Orange Rock.
Is There an Alternative?
The only good news for PUBG players in India is that the ban does not extend to PC versions of the game. Due to the fact that the server for this version of the game is based in South Korea and the PC version does not have any links to China, the Indian government has omitted the PC version from its list of banned items.
This means that while you can’t play PUBG on mobile from India, you can still access the game on the PC platform. However, this is not ideal in a country that has radically embraced mobile esports gaming in particular and were access via mobile is much more commonplace, and considerably easier, than on a PC.
There is also the fact that while the mobile versions of the game were free, to play on a PC Indian players have to pay for the full game, although there is a PUBG Lite version for PC which offers aa similar gaming experience but without the fee, or the need for a powerful gaming PC.
Similarly, Lokesh Suji, the vice president of the Asian Esports Federation felt that the Indian Gaming Industry would be able to cope with the ban.
“There is no need to panic, the Indian gaming industry has enough wherewithal and can’t be termed dependent on one game,” he argued.
“This is a great opportunity for Indian Video Game developers to build innovative online multiplayer games.”
“PUBG isn’t the only Battle Royale style game. When it came to India, it was the most popular but there are many such options now.”
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