September 11, 2020

Economics of PUBG ban in India

Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) the one of the most played online multiplayer battle royale game developed and published by PUBG Corporation which is a subsidiary of South Korean video game company Blue hole and created by Brendan Greene (Player Unknown), released back in 2017 was banned by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) under section 69A of the Information Technology Act on September 2nd along with additional 117 Chinese apps. The ban came after geopolitical tensions escalated at the two neighbouring nations’ disputed border on grounds that “players are engaged in activities which are prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order”.
PUBG’s Chinese connection: Blue hole made a settlement with Chinese multinational technology conglomerate holding company Tencent. They went introduced the mobile version of the game. It got a massive response in the Chinese gaming market but the game didn’t got the consent of the government of China to monetize it. PUBG PC and the console versions of the game are not Chinese at all. Tencet holds just a 1.5% (financial express) stake in PUBG’s parent company Bluehole. Ironically, the game is played more in India than in China as studies by Quartz in 2018 showed that 62% of the 1000 respondents who are hooked to this game are from India. In fact, during the lockdown period in India, PUBG emerged as the ‘most played game’ in the country as about 22 lakh people played the game in May 2020. Spread of PUBG in India: There were almost 50 million gamers and 30 million daily active users playing PUBG Mobile launched in 2018 in India making revenue of $7-8 million every month, reported Tencent. To target more consumers in India using low end devices Tencent also launched the Lite version as PUBG Lite. India was forming 50 percent of the 32 million user base of PUBG Lite worldwide, as reported by App Annie.
The launch of made in India alternative FAU-G by n-core games is also good option to be chosen to support the Atma-nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan recently launched in India.
PUBG as profession in India: In India there were hundreds of PUBG streamers ranging from having millions to few thousand of Youtube subscribers who had chosen this as their professions. Aaditya Deepak Sawant aka Dynamo with 8.5 million, Ajay Nagar aka Carry Minati with 7.4 million, Naman Mathur aka Mortal with 6.13 million, Tanmay Singh aka Scout with 2.92 million Youtube subscribers getting lakhs of live viewership were among the famous Youtube streamers. There were also female streamers with nearly million subscribers (one among them was Pooja Khatri). “The ban severely hurt India’s small but fledgling game streaming and this professional gaming community. India’s top game streamers and professional players earn up to 30 to 40 lakhs per month while mid-level ones earn 2 to 20 lakhs a month. As per reports, Mortal’s expected monthly earnings are about $9.4K – $150.8K, and his expected earnings are $113.1K – $1.8M on a yearly basis. And Carry Minati is running fast in this race as according to a report his net worth holds at a whopping US$3.8 Million that is approximately 27 Crores in Indian money. PUBG commands almost half of the gaming streaming market” as reported by Economic times. Kashmiri players had also started streaming with obvious hindrance of internet ban and restrictions. The only Kashmiri PUBG streamer I know was Mumbai based Rowdy Gaming with588k subscribers. Along with the youtube monetization the viewers were giving them plentiful amounts of money through superchats, G-Pay, Paytm etc. The highest amount through G-Pay to Pooja Khatri (I mentioned earlier) by Saumay Sharma I witnessed live was one lakh rupees in a time span of only two days. These earnings will get hugely impacted although there are other alternatives available also, obviously with less hype than PUBG. According to CyberMedia Research, gaming smartphones could possibly reach 6.5 percent of the total smartphone market by 2021. The demand for better hardware to cater to advanced mobile gaming is attracting PC gaming manufacturers such as Razer and ASUS. That also might be hit by this ban.
Way ahead: The company officially responded and revoked Tencent’s license in the India. PUBG Corporation also assured to work with the Indian government to lift the PUBG ban so that gamers can continue playing the battle royale. The company also announced that the data of all Indian users will be stored locally. The launch of made in India alternative FAU-G by n-core games is also good option to be chosen to support the Atma-nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan recently launched in India.
( The author is presently pursuing Masters in Financial Economics at Madras School of Economics, Chennai, Tamil Nadu. Views are his own)[email protected]

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