The ban on PUBG Mobile has left esports firms in a quandary and sparked off a hurried search for alternatives to the popular esports game.
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds Mobile, or PUBG Mobile, was an integral part of many esports tournaments scheduled for this year, and some of them have already begun. Now, companies are rushing to replace it with games such as Call of Duty: Mobile (COD Mobile) and Garena Free Fire to avoid having to cancel these tournaments.
“For tournament organizers, it’s more about being put on hold for the coming months,” said Abhay Sharma, founder of Gaming Monk, an Indian esports community platform.
PUBG Corp. of South Korea recently announced that it will be taking over responsibility for publishing the game in India and severed its ties with Chinese Tencent Games, saying PUBG Corp will handle all publishing responsibilities for India going forward
Sharma said this would mean all engagement around the game will be driven by PUBG Corp. and not Tencent Games, which had the rights to publish and distribute PUBG Mobile in India.
“We didn’t do any big events around PUBG, but I think most of them will have to be cancelled because legal entities will have to be changed,” Sharma said. “In the meanwhile, COD Mobile and Free Fire are still there, and they’re going to be riding on this (ban) for now,” he added.
Harsh Kothari, co-founder of Neon Gaming Studio, another Indian esports firm, said he has already shifted one event to COD Mobile. “That is one solution that the community is opting for,” he added. While some gamers are still using VPNs to play PUBG, professional tournaments aren’t opting for such solutions, multiple stakeholders said.
The ban on PUBG Mobile in India may also affect the livelihoods of many. “For the professional PUBG gamers and others who derive their livelihoods from this game, it is a great loss as of now. Casual gamers might move to other similar games and explore other genres in gaming, and this will provide a boost to games developed by other industry players. The initial drop in revenue due to the PUBG ban in the gaming industry could be up to 2%,” said Rajan Navani, vice-chairman and managing director of JetSynthesys, a digital entertainment and technology firm.
While the mobile version of PUBG doesn’t fit the description of professional esports, the way its console and PC counterparts do, the game is still important for India’s esports community. Rushindra Sinha, CEO and founder of Global Esports, said there were at least 100,000 people who were “looking at PUBG as a full-time career” and over a thousand who were already playing the game as a full-time job.
“The ban will have a ripple effect on the entire ecosystem, which includes players, coaches, streamers, tournament organizers, content creators and brands.” He said tournament prize money in India grew by 180% year-over-year last year.
“PUBG Mobile gamers were making anything from ₹30,000 to ₹1.5 lakh per month. The ban will hit them financially. There were five or six organizations who got a chance in this year’s PUBG Mobile Club Open and were just starting with new investments and players, and the game was banned. Some teams have already stopped paying salaries to members,” said Devdeep Dhar, a well-known PUBG player who goes by the screen name Zeref.