Is PUBG a Chinese Game? The Answer is Complicated. Here’s Why

While many believe that PUBG is a ‘Chinese’ game, that might not be entirely true.

Tech and Auto
3 min read

Video Editor: Puneet Bhatia:

Is PUBG a Chinese game?

This question stormed the internet and social media as the gaming app – which is very popular with the Indian youth – was banned by the Government of India on Wednesday, 2 September.

After banning 59 apps in June, that included TikTok, ShareIt, UC Browser and Vigo video, another 118 Chinese apps including PUBG Mobile, PUBG Lite, Baidu and WeChat have been banned by the government.

Soon after the announcement, the most searched queries on the internet seemed to be questions like 'who owns PUBG' or 'which country does PUBG belong to'?

While many believe that it’s a ‘Chinese’ game, that might not be entirely true. How? Let’s trace the complex story of its origin and ownership.

Game Developed by Irish Man

The game was created and conceptualised by an Irish game developer, Brendan Greene, along with PUBG Corporation, a subsidiary of Bluehole, which is a South Korean gaming company. But, this was the desktop version of PUBG, which went on to become an instant hit with gamers.

How did China Come Into the Picture?

In 2017, China was on the verge of banning the game, claiming it was ‘too violent' and went against the culture of the country.

This is where the Chinese company Tencent stepped in. Tencent Games, which was part of a Chinese company Tencent Holdings, offered to develop a mobile version of the game after changing the format.

Subsequently, PUBG Mobile released in China on 9 February 2018 and worldwide on 19 March 2018, including in India.

But the game remained banned in China and subsequently in 2019, Tencent launched an alternate version of it under the name of Game for Peace, that met all criteria of the Chinese government.

But, Who Really Owns PUBG?

Now, South Korean company Bluehole and Chinese company Tencent both share profits from the sale of the game, as per a prerequisite licencing agreement. But, it's now held under the unified brand of Krafton Game Union.

In simpler words, while the desktop version of PUBG was launched by a South Korean company, the mobile versions PUBG Mobile and PUBG Lite were coded by a Chinese firm. So, the game is not entirely controlled by the Chinese entity.

However, the Chinese company Tencent is the second-biggest shareholder at Bluehole and has an 11.5 percent stake in the South Korean company.

Now that we've established the ownership of the game and the Chinese stake in it, let's see how China is hurting post the ban.

How is India Hurting China by Banning PUBG?

To answer this question, let's go back to how PUBG became a phenomenon, that took India by storm.

According to several reports, over 50 million gamers in India played PUBG Mobile. India formed 50 percent of the 32 million user base of PUBG Lite worldwide.

Many gamers created content on YouTube and other social media platforms like PUBG game commentaries and tutorials to earn by monetising their channels with advertisements and earned millions of subscribers.

PUBG Mobile Club Open (PMCO) Fall, which is one of PUBG Mobile’s biggest tournaments, saw a peak of 116,000 viewers last year.

After India banned 59 Chinese apps on 29 June citing data security concerns, PUBG Mobile even introduced a new change in its privacy policy for India, to avoid facing the axe.

The revised privacy policy stated that all data collected from its Indian players will be stored on local servers within the country and that the data collected will be shared with third parties like cloud services for data backup, to handle support ticketing and fraud detection.

According to Moneycontrol, PUBG Mobile became so big in India that by 2019, Tencent reportedly earned $7-8 million every month through in-app purchases.

But now, if the mobile app is banned in India, which was developed by the Chinese firm, a huge user base of the app for Tencent is lost, which is sure to severely dent profits of the Chinese firm, along with South Korea's Bluehole and PUBG Corporation.

On Thursday, shares of Tencent fell more than 2 percent after the PUBG ban in India. The stock traded 2.2 percent lower on Thursday, to snap two straight sessions of gain.

So, coming back to the question: Is PUBG a Chinese app? The answer is both yes and no!

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