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Is Krafton Giving Racism a Free Pass?

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In the run up to a supposed Battlegrounds Mobile India release date for the third week of June, former Union Minister and current Arunachal Pradesh MLA Ninong Ering made headlines when he tweeted that he requested Prime Minister Modi to ban the game. Ering contended that Battlegrounds Mobile India is “the relaunch of PUBG Mobile”. PUBG Mobile was banned in India last year due by the Ministry of Electronics and Information and Technology to “ensure safety, security and sovereignty of Indian cyberspace” in the face of mounting geopolitical tensions with China.

Ering’s letter to the Prime Minister claims that Krafton’s India employees were working on the game while China’s Tencent operated it in the country, Battlegrounds Mobile India’s Google Play Store package name contains the term ‘PUBG Mobile’, believes that its $22.4 million investment in esports company Nodwin is a security threat, and that with a 15.5 percent stake, Tencent is Krafton’s second-largest shareholder. He’s not entirely wrong either — there’s enough proof to back up most of his claims as you can tell.

 
As you can tell, BGMI has a lot in common with PUBG Mobile.

Nonetheless, his comments were enough to enrage several PUBG Mobile streamers that ended up resorting to racist comments to in response. First was Paras Singh, who took to his YouTube channel to proclaim Ering as Chinese and Arunachal Pradesh to be a part of China. He was promptly arrested. This was followed by Inder Preet Singh and Shivamm Raghav—who also plays PUBG Mobile professionally—making similar comments.

For decades those hailing from the northeastern states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura are targeted by ‘mainland’ Indians for having a physical appearance different from theirs. They have been called ‘chinkis’, ‘momos’ and ‘Chinese’ for decades. By letting comments like these slide they serve to divide the nation. And the arrest of Paras Singh serves as a warning that these acts have consequences.

Now, considering the seriousness of the issue, you’d expect Krafton to issue a statement of sorts. The PUBG maker was quick to condemn this behaviour in US, Latin American, and European markets, making the silence of its Indian team perplexing. In a week that’s seen three instances of racial abuse from those associated with its game, you’d think it would warrant an official condemnation of sorts. Instead we get the company peddling registrations for Battlegrounds Mobile India.

It is quite possible that the company is operating under the assumption that it has nothing to do with PUBG Mobile in India and therefore doesn’t have to say a word. But its own employees intimidate content creators to not refer to Battlegrounds Mobile India as PUBG Mobile for the fear of being banned, which in itself is an admission that both games are more similar than the company would like you to believe if the use of PUBG Mobile’s mascot, pan, and maps in Battlegrounds Mobile India’s marketing didn’t give it away already.

Besides, with games being as large and widespread as they are, it’s even more crucial for companies to condemn and address such toxicity that arises. If a company with all of two employees for India can issue a statement that condemned the actions of its professional players and conducted an internal investigation, what’s stopping Krafton with its grand $100 million dollar plan for the nation?

And it’s not for lack of trying. Krafton has remained silent despite multiple requests for comments from IGN India directed at India boss Aneesh Aravind as well as the office of the CEO Kim Chang-Han.

 
Marketing material put out by Krafton starring Bollywood celebrity Arshad Warsi.

Then again this should come as no surprise. Only when PUBG Mobile came under the scanner due to arrests, a reported suicide, and lawsuits as well as being banned in some parts of the country did Tencent India finally issue a statement. It seems that Krafton is borrowing from the same playbook—which is indicative of Battlegrounds Mobile India’s launch and operation being no different to what we saw with PUBG Mobile.

All of this makes it look like Krafton has no interest in treating its Indian audience with any respect, preferring to talk about how you can pre-register for Battlegrounds Mobile India instead of condemning racist behaviour from its own player base. We deserve better from the company, and it has proven it can provide the necessary transparency in other markets. By staying silent it appears to undermine the diversity and unity of the nation. Ultimately suggesting that Krafton puts profits above all else.


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