How PUBG Mobile Ban Impacts Esports & Gaming Phone-Makers in India

PUBG Mobile had more than 33 million daily active users in India.

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Tech News
4 min read
PUBG Mobile was banned in India on 4 September. 
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The ban on PUBG Mobile may have come as a shock to the gaming community in India but there are far bigger things happening behind the scenes. PUBG Mobile is not only a mobile game but is a big brand in the country.

There are major PUBG Mobile gaming tournaments in Esports being sponsored by some of the biggest smartphone manufacturers. Some of these brands manufacture gaming-centric smartphones. Players can win up to Rs 15 lakh as prize money in these tournaments.

With PUBG Mobile now out of the picture, how does it affect the Esports industry and would gaming phone-makers take a hit with such a decision? We hear from the experts.

How Does PUBG Mobile Ban Affect Esports In India?

Speaking to the Esports Federation of India (ESFI) which is a self-funded organisation, we learned that the ban will have minimal effect on the Esports industry.

“From a holistic viewpoint, there will be no impact on the Indian Esports industry; for the simple reason that there are lot of games (and even better ones) available to which the existing the user base of PUBG Mobile will shift, let’s not forget that PUBG PC is still out there (for the people who have PCs).”
Lokesh Suji, Director, ESFI and Vice President, Asian Esports Federation

It’s also important to know that most of these professional gamers interact with their fans online by streaming their gameplay. This is another way to garner a larger userbase.

More followers/subscribers translate to more opportunities to get brands and sponsors on board. However, the ban has changed that.

“Impact on the overall gaming industry should not be over 2% if one were to include in app and advertising revenue combined, in the immediate short term. However, the professional PUBG Esport players and other content creators around PUBG streaming will be severely impacted since they derive their livelihood from the game.”
Mr. Rajan Navani, Vice Chairman & Managing Director, JetSynthesys

PUBG Mobile has played a pivotal role in the Indian Esports sector but the ban is also a window of opportunity for other games on the mobile platform, especially the ones made in India.

“Talking of other games, we have Call of Duty Mobile (CODM), Free Fire, and Fortnite which are also battle royale games. There is no doubt that PUBG Mobile did accelerate the Indian ecosystem, but now is the chance for other video games to grab the void (if any) created by PUBG Mobile and a massive opportunity for homegrown games and video game developers to ride on the wave.”
Lokesh Suji, Director, ESFI and Vice President, Asian Esports Federation

As per ESFI, the Indian Esports community is very smart, they had expected this to happen post the Tiktok ban and were already preparing for the same, be it the players, team owners, content creators, Esports platforms etc.

Impact on Gaming Phone Manufacturers?

One of the most sought after features when buying a phone today is “Isme PUBG chalti hai?”

Responding to the demand, a handful of smartphone brands in India offer gaming-dedicated phones like ASUS ROG Phone, Nubia Red Magic series and even the Black Shark.

Most of their audience is hardcore PUBG gamers and with the ban imposed on one of the most-played games in India, it’s sure to have an impact of the sales of this category.

Speaking to The Indian Express (IE), Navkendar Singh, Research Director, Devices, India & South Asia, IDC said,“The ban will certainly have an impact on sales of gaming-focused smartphones.”

This also in a way impacts chipset manufacturers. Qualcomm Snapdragon and MediaTek had recently released gaming-dedicated chipsets for smartphones — Snapdragon 732G and Helio G95.

With the absence of PUBG Mobile in the Indian market, smartphone-makers will have to adopt new marketing strategies in order to sell these gaming-dedicated devices.

“I don’t think the ban will have an impact on the smartphone market but it will have an impact on the marketing messaging of all the brands so they will have to find something else now.”
Navkendar Singh, Research Director, Devices, India & South Asia, IDC to IE.

The fact that other games like COD: Mobile or Free Fire don’t have a cult following as PUBG Mobile seemingly puts more pressure on smartphone-makers to engage this audience.

PUBG Mobile Planning a Comeback

PUBG Mobile has announced that it’s looking to come back to the Indian market by severing ties with Chinese company Tencent.

The company is in the hunt for Indian publishers to join hands with but there is ambiguity around how much time that process will take.

If the company is successful in doing so, it would be a sigh of relief for the community of PUBG gamers in India. Not to mention that all this hullabaloo would be rendered moot if the game makes a comeback within a few weeks.

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