Abid Hussain Barlaskar

PUBG’s return from exile; will it be the same?

This buzz around Battlegrounds Mobile India has triggered new interest in various pockets of the gaming industry, which had flourished alongside PUBG’s.

PUBG Mobile is relaunching in the country as Battlegrounds Mobile India (BGMI). If leaks are to be believed, the unveiling is happening tomorrow (Friday, June 18). But there is no official update as of now.

KRAFTON, the South Korean video game developer and owner of PUBG, made the announcement about BGMI on May 6. This was followed by pre-registrations.

Earlier this month, the company announced that the game received 7.6 million pre-registrations on its opening day, and crossed the 20 million mark in two weeks.

This buzz has triggered new interest in various sections of the gaming industry, which had previously flourished alongside PUBG’s growing popularity in the country.

PUBG Mobile was banned by the Indian government, citing data security issues. The ban had a severe impact on one part of the industry, while proving to be a boon for the other.

While areas like PUBG gaming, streaming, content creation and e-sports saw sudden death, it brought about an opportunity for alternatives like Garena Free Fire and Call of Duty: Mobile.

A Sensor Tower report suggests that the ban caused a significant spike in the download of (PUBG Mobile’s) alternatives.

According to Sensor Tower, pre-ban, India contributed 24 per cent to PUBG Mobile’s total downloads.

Besides the gaming industry, PUBG Mobile has also occupied a fair of chunk of smartphone marketing conversations. Brands like OnePlus went ahead and forged official partnerships with PUBG Mobile, putting ‘a great gaming experience’ on offer.

We asked industry experts about the possible revival of the PUBG craze, and if things will go back to normal.

Piyush Kumar, founder and CEO of Rooter (a sports content and social streaming platform), says that while the ban immediately impacted PUBG players and the industry associated with it, streaming didn’t see a major setback.

“Streaming was pretty nascent back then, and got built in the last one year. On Rooter, Free Fire became the parent game. Had the industry grown with PUBG, it would have been much bigger. Even without PUBG, close to 175 million Indians play any of these battle royale games.”

Piyush Kumar
Piyush Kumar

Rooter is already upgrading its tech infrastructure and readying itself for the new PUBG streamers. “It (PUBG’s return) will add another 100 million games to the ecosystem. And the best thing about gaming is that it’s never either-or. One can play all the games. It will lead to overall industry growth.”

He expects the number of streams to double, along with a significant spike in the number of battle royale gamers, post BGMI’s launch.

“Currently, 70-75 per cent streams are happening through Free Fire, which is almost an equivalent of PUBG. The industry is on the verge of a breakout with PUBG’s return and a lot of PC games coming to mobile,” Kumar adds.

Revenant Esports recently unveiled its player roster for BGMI. The lineup includes players like Parichay ‘Paradox’ Bansal, Rishabh ‘Encore’ Katoch, Sujoy ‘AustinX’ Das and Ankit ‘TopDawg’ Mehra.

Rohit N Jagasia, founder and CEO of Revenant, says with a lot of unofficial tournaments happening across the country, the e-sports scene was doing pretty well prior to the ban.

“There were a lot of titles and publisher-based tournaments in the country too, and the developers were pretty happy with the response. We haven’t seen Krafton’s e-sports plan for PUBG yet, but expect it to be great, considering what it (Krafton) has done with PUBG in the past.”

Jagasia says that there are unofficial tournaments going on, even now. “The views that these tournaments get are unreal. The quantum of games, like COD, etc., isn’t even close to PUBG. The hype is really high. I think it is still going to be the biggest mobile multiplayer game in India.”

Speaking on the possible impact on the smartphone biz, Ershad Kaleebullah, a tech blogger and editor-in-chief, MySmartPrice.com, says the game is so popular that many people have figured out ways to play it, despite the ban.

He, however, maintains that the impact of gaming on the phone business is inevitable, with or without PUBG.

Ershad Kaleebullah
Ershad Kaleebullah

“Gaming, in general, has become an integral part of many purchase decisions. It’s not just because of PUBG, but also because of the kind of games that are coming in. The ecosystem is not limited to one game. Once the ecosystem changes, the gaming phones will also change,” Kaleebullah says.

From a creator’s perspective, he says, the ancillary content industry that bloomed because of PUBG, will surely return. “A lot of creators who quit the scene, or were looking for other avenues, will definitely come back,” he signs off.

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