From PubG To BGMI: Why Battle Royale Game Maker Krafton Is In Hot Waters In India

From PubG To BGMI: Why Battle Royale Game Maker Krafton Is In Hot Waters In India


Much like PubG, BGMI’s popularity also skyrocketed in India as it touched 100 Mn registered users in India in July 2022

The ban on the game has affected the Indian esports ecosystem, with many tournament organisers postponing scheduled matches

The ban on BGMI will also put a big question mark on its developer Krafton’s plan to invest $100 Mn in the Indian tech startup ecosystem

In the latest setback for South Korean game developer Krafton in India, its battle royale game  Battlegrounds Mobile India (BGMI) has been pulled down from Google Play Store and Apple Store. The move has added one more issue to the list of troubles the game developer has faced in India over the years. 

Although India has been a large market for BGMI or the Indian version of  PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PubG), the regulatory uncertainty has been a concern for the South Korean developer. 

Krafton’s troubles began in 2020 following violent clashes between Chinese and Indian soldiers at the border. Following the incident, the Indian government banned PubG Mobile, along with other apps with Chinese connections, under Section 69A of the Information Technology (IT) Act.

At that time, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) said that the apps were “engaged in activities prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order”.

For Krafton, India was one of the most significant markets for PubG Mobile as it accounted for the highest number of its 734 Mn global downloads as of July 2020, according to a Sensor Tower report

Following the ban, Krafton cut ties with Chinese giant Tencent Games, which published and distributed PUBG Mobile games in India before the ban, to re-enter India and allay the concerns of the government. 

Following this, it launched BGMI in July 2021 in India, much to the relief of gamers and the esports industry. 

Reasons Behind The Latest Ban 

Much like PubG, BGMI’s popularity also skyrocketed in India, with the game touching 100 Mn registered users in India in July 2022. However, the latest ban on the game came as a shock for Krafton. BGMI was pulled down from Google and Apple stores following a government order, although the reasoning for it is not clear yet, as per reports.

Following this, shares of Krafton tumbled on the Korean exchange on Friday, while the ban also came as a rude shock to Indian gamers and esports stakeholders. As BGMI has been leading most of the esports titles in India, tournament organisers, esports teams, coaches, esport athletes have been affected by the move.

It must be noted that BGMI had come under government scrutiny even before it was officially relaunched in India. While the game went live for pre-registrations on Google Play on May 18, 2021, reports surfaced that it was sending Android data of players to a server in China. 

Krafton also admitted that it was aware of the ongoing data concerns in regards to BGMI launch, as per an IGN report. It also said that it was working to fully comply with the Indian laws and regulations before the official launch of BGMI.

Now, coming back to the latest ban on BGMI, a report by a central intelligence agency and a letter from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to MeitY seem to have triggered the latest development, as per a News18 report.

The app was communicating with servers directly or indirectly located in China, a senior government official was quoted as saying in the report, while the decision to remove it from app stores was taken after multiple rounds of analysis by Indian agencies.

Moreover, the analysis also revealed that BGMI app had malicious code and also acquired a host of critical permissions, which could be misused for compromising user data for surveillance through camera/microphone, location tracking, and malicious network activities, the official added.

In a statement after the ban, Krafton India CEO Sean Hyunil Sohn said, “…we are committed to the Indian market and are positive about the opportunities in the country. At KRAFTON Inc., the security and privacy of our user data is of utmost importance to us. We have always been compliant with all laws and regulations in India, including data protection laws and regulations, and will continue abiding by them.” 

He also added that Krafton has been working hard to communicate its sincerity with the concerned authorities and resolve the issues. 

As per Inc42 sources, the South Korean game developer has been given a time of 15 days to reply to the government.

Effect Of The Ban

The ban has already started impacting the Indian esports ecosystem. Franchise based Esports Premier League’s (ESPL’s) second season has already been put on hold following the ban. Many other tournament organisers have also been compelled to postpone scheduled matches for now.

“With this ban, the options for players and gamers reduce drastically. If the ban decision holds, we will probably see a decline in the number of gamers and its communities across India. Meanwhile, this decision has come when India is going to debut in the Commonwealth Games at Birmingham, UK,” Shivam Rao, cofounder, Trinity Gaming India, said.

The 2022 Commonwealth Esports Championships will be conducted at the International Convention Centre in Birmingham.

While there is no official statement yet from the government on the removal of the game from the app stores, the ban will impact the esports ecosystem if it prevails for sometime, Sagar Nair, cofounder and CEO of Qlan, The Gamer’s Social Network, said.

According to Nair, BGMI is the biggest esports title in the country with the kind of popularity, player base and viewership it has. 

Recently, esports and live game streaming platform Loco claimed to have registered 100 Mn viewership during its ‘BGMI Master Series 2022’ that concluded on July 17.

Beyond the gaming ecosystem, Krafton has also announced its plans to invest over $100 Mn in the Indian tech startup ecosystem. Other than gaming startups such as Nodwin Gaming, Loco, Nautilus Mobile, it has invested in Indian storytelling platform Pratilipi, audio content platform Kuku FM, among others.

While the esports ecosystem in India is only left with the option to wait-and-watch until a government clarification comes in, it also remains to be seen how Krafton’s $100 Mn investment plan will fare if the ban on BGMI is not revoked.

You have reached your limit of free stories
Become An Inc42 Plus Member

Become a Startup Insider in 2024 with Inc42 Plus. Join our exclusive community of 10,000+ founders, investors & operators and stay ahead in India’s startup & business economy.

Unlock 60% OFF
Cancel Anytime
Unlock 50% OFF
Cancel Anytime
Already A Member?
Discover Startups & Business Models

Unleash your potential by exploring unlimited articles, trackers, and playbooks. Identify the hottest startup deals, supercharge your innovation projects, and stay updated with expert curation.

From PubG To BGMI: Why Battle Royale Game Maker Krafton Is In Hot Waters In India-Inc42 Media
How-To’s on Starting & Scaling Up

Empower yourself with comprehensive playbooks, expert analysis, and invaluable insights. Learn to validate ideas, acquire customers, secure funding, and navigate the journey to startup success.

From PubG To BGMI: Why Battle Royale Game Maker Krafton Is In Hot Waters In India-Inc42 Media
Identify Trends & New Markets

Access 75+ in-depth reports on frontier industries. Gain exclusive market intelligence, understand market landscapes, and decode emerging trends to make informed decisions.

From PubG To BGMI: Why Battle Royale Game Maker Krafton Is In Hot Waters In India-Inc42 Media
Track & Decode the Investment Landscape

Stay ahead with startup and funding trackers. Analyse investment strategies, profile successful investors, and keep track of upcoming funds, accelerators, and more.

From PubG To BGMI: Why Battle Royale Game Maker Krafton Is In Hot Waters In India-Inc42 Media
From PubG To BGMI: Why Battle Royale Game Maker Krafton Is In Hot Waters In India-Inc42 Media
You’re in Good company