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MLA Seeks Ban on Battlegrounds Mobile India: Is There Legal Basis?

Krafton’s hopes of making a comeback may get crushed, as politicians have started calling for a ban on the game.

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MLA Seeks Ban on Battlegrounds Mobile India: Is There Legal Basis?
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Arunachal Pradesh MLA Ninong Ering has requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi to implement a blanket ban on the launch of Battlegrounds Mobile India, which he refers to as the relaunch of PUBG Mobile.

Ering wrote a three-page letter which states that Battlegrounds Mobile India launch is a way to “sidestep the laws and deceive the government and Indian citizens.”

This development has come after the Indian government banned the game along with 59 other Chinese apps citing threat to nation security of the country.

The developer of the game, Krafton, then decided to roll out a separate version of the game for India with a new avatar and a new name: Battleground Mobile India.

Krafton’s hopes of making a comeback may get crushed, as parliamentarians in India have started calling for a 'blanket ban' on the game.
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Why Is Ering Demanding A Blanket Ban?

Ering in a three-page letter writes that "unscrupulous companies connected to PUBG, including Krafton, Tencent and PUBG India are trying to sidestep our laws, deceive the government and Indian citizens and relaunch the game with a new name of Battlegrounds Mobile India (BMI)."

Here are all the reasons Ering listed in the letter to Modi, stating why the game should be banned:

  • Tencent is currently the second-largest stakeholder and has a 15.5% stake in Krafton, its stake was only 10% in 2018 and it may soon have a majority stake and control.

  • As of 20 May, the Google Play store app package itself has PUBG mobile in its url for the pre-registration of Battleground game.

  • Krafton has recently invested in Nodwin Gaming, which will host PUBG on its servers. Nodwin has extensive ongoing ties to Tencent and offers its services in Pakistan and has a team and administrators there, raising massive security concerns.

  • The gameplay features of Battleground India and other aspects of the game are similar to PUBG Mobile India.

  • Krafton has also added maps from PUBG in the re-launched game and the weapons will also be the same with just new names.

  • The privacy policy of re-launched PUBG states that while data will be stored in servers located in India and Singapore, it will be transferred to other countries and regions to operate the game service and meet legal requirements.

Speaking to The Quint Arunachal Pradesh MLA Ninong Ering said that he has written the letter considering Tencent’s major stake in the Krafton. "I have asked PM Modi to look into this matter, because Krafton developers are basically relaunching PUBG mobile and deceiving the government and Indian citizens," he added.

The MLA confirmed that he hasn't received any reply from the Prime Minister yet.

Can Battlegrounds Mobile India be Banned?

PUBG Mobile applied for an initial public offering in South Korea. The filings has revealed that China’s Tencent is Krafton’s second largest shareholder with a 15.5 percent stake through an investment company.

According to Reuters, Krafton founder Chang Byung-gyu is the largest shareholder with a 16.4 percent stake as of end-2020. Tencent’s stake may pose a threat to a potential PUBG Mobile unban.

There seems to be a number of ties between Battlegrounds Mobile India and PUBG Mobile despite Krafton consciously not mentioning the latter anywhere on its website.

Sharing his thoughts on the current situation and the way out, Manav Sethi, Chief Marketing Officer Octro Inc, a mobile gaming company said, "Indian government should wait for the game to be launched but banning even before the game launches will be a considerably wrong move."

Whether these similarities to PUBG Mobile will lead to a Battlegrounds Mobile India ban remains to be seen. However, It will be interesting to see if the Indian government replies to the MLA’s concerns.

Pune-based lawyer Satya Muley told The Quint that the Government of India has powers to ban such a game or any such virtual platform if it is found that such a game is found to be prejudicial to sovereignty, integrity, defence and security of the country.

He said, "When PUBG was banned, along with the before-said reasons it was also found to be too addictive, did not care about the users health, and also propagating violence. However PUBG India is yet to be launched. Only because Tencent is an investor in Krafton, or Nodwin which has a team tech team in Pakistan does not raise any substantial question of national security."

Muley believes that many Indian companies receive investments from Tencent and many Indian entities do business with Pakistan. Using similar features or maps of PUBG does not make the game any kind of threat either. Storing data on foreign servers is very common business practise and is mainly a business decisions.

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"The government won't ban the game only on the basis of imaginary apprehensions. Only on the basis of some reasonable apprehensions, the authorities may seek information from the game developers and evaluate the legal aspects and any action before this would be grossly premature."
Advocate and Legal Expert Satya Muley

The Quint also reached out to Krafton developers seeking for a comment. This story will be updated if and when the company responds.

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