Nearly two months after it was banned by the Indian government due to data security concerns, online multiplayer battle royale game and a popular esports title PUBG Mobile has announced that it will terminate all services and access for Indian users from October 30, 2020.
“To comply with the interim order of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology dated September 2, 2020, Tencent Games will terminate all service and access for users in India to PUBG MOBILE Nordic Map: Livik and PUBG MOBILE Lite (together, “PUBG Mobile”) on October 30, 2020,” PUBG Mobile wrote in a Facebook post.
On September 2, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) had issued an order banning 118 mobile apps, including PUBG Mobile, with links to China.
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) is developed and published by PUBG Corporation, a subsidiary of South Korean video game company Bluehole. PUBG Corporation counts Chinese multinational tech conglomerate Tencent as a publishing partner for the game’s mobile version. Tencent also holds a 10% stake in PUBG’s parent company.
So while the game’s intellectual property is owned and been developed by a South Korean company, the fact that its mobile version was published by a Chinese company meant that the game was caught in the crossfire of India’s sweeping crackdown on Chinese apps since June 29, when it first banned 59 Chinese apps, including popular ones such as TikTok, UC Browser and Club Factory, among several others.
The fact that the ban on Chinese apps in India was triggered by the geopolitical conflict between the two nations can’t be missed. The armies of both nations have been having skirmishes and faceoffs at the Line of Actual Control in India’s Union Territory of Ladakh since June.
In the immediate aftermath of the ban on PUBG, Shenzhen-based Tencent’s shares fell by more than 2% and the company lost more than $14 Bn in market value. The ban came as a big blow for the gaming giant as India had contributed 24% or 175 Mn of PUBG’s worldwide 734 Mn downloads till June 2020.
While most Chinese apps ceased operating in India within a week of them being banned by the government, PUBG was an outlier. The app was removed from the Google Play Store and the iOS App Store when the ban was announced. However, gaming enthusiasts soon found ways to bypass the directive through proxy links for downloading PUBG Mobile.
Days after it was banned, PUBG Mobile’s South Korea-based parent company PUBG Corporation withdrew its India association with Tencent Games, the game’s China-based publisher.
In a blog post, the company had said, “In light of recent developments, PUBG Corporation has made the decision to no longer authorise the PUBG MOBILE franchise to Tencent Games in India. Moving forward, PUBG Corporation will take on all publishing responsibilities within the country,” read PUBG Corporation’s statement. Tencent Games was PUBG Mobile’s licensed publisher in India.
The company had also claimed that it was monitoring the developments in India and respected the Indian government’s decision to give precedence to data privacy and security of Indian users. The company added that it hopes to work “hand-in-hand with the Indian government to find a solution that will allow gamers to once again drop into the battlegrounds while being fully compliant with Indian laws and regulations.”
While PUBG Mobile has ceased its India operations, the game’s PC version is still available for users in the country. Recently, PUBG Corporation posted a job vacancy for Corporate Development Divison Manager for the company in India, on LinkedIn.