If India’s ban on TikTok among other Chinese apps in late June prompted the success of a host of competing short video apps in the days and weeks following the ban, the reaction from Indian companies has been rather sedentary in the wake of the ban on PUBG Mobile.
While the likes of Chingari, Mitron, Trell, Bolo Indya, MX TakaTak, and dozens of other short video apps grew by leaps and bounds soon after the TikTok ban, in the case of PUBG Mobile, the one alternative — Fearless And United Guards (FAUG) — that did receive the most prominence has not even launched. But that doesn’t mean that nCore Games, the company behind FAUG, is not bullish about the game’s success in India.
Backed by the likes of GOQii and IndiaGames (now owned by UTV) founder Vishal Gondal,
FAUG is targetting 50 Mn downloads in the first three months after launch i.e the end of the year. The game is being developed by Bengaluru-based nCore Games, which was founded by Dayanidhi M G, Arindam Mitra, Manohar Reddy along with Thara Jacob and Ganesh Hande in 2018.
Speaking to Inc42, Gondal clarified that unlike the perception around the game, FAUG will not be a PUBG Mobile clone.
This, despite the apparent similarities between the two games based on the promotional images and descriptions going around for FAUG.
The nCore advisor claimed that unlike PUBG, nCore’s FAUG will take players through a somewhat realistic battleground — PUBG is set in a post-apocalyptic scenario with multiple maps. Expected to launch in October-end, FAUG will include a mode featuring Ladakh’s Galwan valley, where Indian and Chinese troops have had skirmishes and cross-border clashes since June.
“FAUG was always in our mind and the idea to make this game came last year. The ban on PUBG Mobile is a mere coincidence and we did not think to compete with PUBG,” the GOQii founder told Inc42, adding that the game would be available on Android and iOS. He revealed that although the idea for the game was floated last year, active development on it began in May 2020.
Gondal has also invested an undisclosed amount in nCore Games and will be a strategic advisor for the company, which bills itself as a mid-core game publisher for the Indian market.
The obvious question around such new games is the monetisation potential. Doubling down on its made-in-India credentials, nCore claimed that 20% of the revenue generated by FAUG will be donated to the central government’s Bharat Ke Veer Trust, which supports members of the armed forces. All that is great, but what is unclear is how exactly FAUG expects to earn said revenue.
Can FAUG Match PUBG’s Revenue Success?
Besides being a cultural phenomenon, PUBG Mobile was also a cash-generating machine. The micro-transactions for in-app purchases and subscriptions for monthly rewards made PUBG Mobile one of the top-grossing mobile games of all time in India. A year after the launch of PUBG Mobile in India, it started clocking average monthly revenue of $7 Mn-$8 Mn every month from May 2019 in India. At the moment, it’s not clear whether FAUG will follow the same free-to-play model with in-app purchases or whether it will be a paid game — which is the less attractive option in the Indian market.
Many of FAUG’s statements can be traced back to the Vocal for Local campaign as well as the Atmanirbhar Bharat movement currently being promoted by the government. But while India can lay claim to having class-leading products in fintech, edtech, and consumer services, the same cannot be said for online games so far. FAUG and nCore are looking to change the dialogue around Indian games too.
“There’s a wrong notion about Indian game developers that we are not capable of producing good quality games. However, at nCore we want to focus on quality content and will bring out games that can compete with international games. We have a team of best developers who are highly skilled and capable of developing games as good as PUBG or any other international games,” Gondal reiterated.
Big Names Backing FAUG
What may work for FAUG is the association with major personalities such as Akshay Kumar. Kumar, who is also brand ambassador for GOQii, has been involved in the promotions for FAUG. The name FAUG was given by the actor, we were told, and the game has been developed under his mentorship. But exactly what inputs Kumar has been giving the team was not revealed.
Given the high-profile association with Bollywood stars, FAUG has also been caught in the crossfire of the controversies surrounding the death of Sushant Singh Rajput, which has become the hottest topic for mainstream news channels. Many speculated that Rajput was instrumental in helping develop FAUG.
But Gondal was quick to dismiss these rumours, calling them “completely false and baseless”. He also said that nCore will be initiating all the necessary actions as legally advised against people spreading these rumours.
Online Gaming Battle Awaits FAUG
While that may be the end of the matter as far as that controversy is concerned, the fact is that the real test for FAUG will come once it launches. Mobile games require huge amounts of funding to grow to a level where word-of-mouth is enough. This is particularly true for India, where the gaming community is focussed primarily on global titles and games and where Indian games often slip under the radar or are criticised for not having the same quality as global titles.
To its credit, FAUG has started its marketing outreach much earlier than launch, but in the world of gaming, two months is a long time. While people may have FAUG fresh on their minds right now, the market may evolve by next month, when the game launches. Indeed, this applies to other action games too. Will these high-profile associations with big-name personalities and celebrity founders such as Vishal Gondal be the difference for FAUG, or will it fall to its demise early on in India’s online gaming arena?