UPDATE: Story updated on June 8, 2021 with new developments regarding Battlegrounds Mobile India/PUBG Mobile from May 10, 2021 onwards.
Now that Krafton has officially announced Battlegrounds Mobile India as the replacement for PUBG Mobile in the country, it’s time to look at all the events that led to the announcement. Here’s a timeline of notable things that happened since PUBG Mobile’s ban in India last year.
PUBG Mobile Banned in India – September 2, 2020
It all starts here. In the Indian government’s attempts at safeguarding the country, the Ministry of Electronics and Information and Technology announced that PUBG Mobile would be banned in India. According to the MeitY, PUBG Mobile was banned as, “they are engaged in activities prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order.”
“This decision is a targeted move to ensure safety, security and sovereignty of Indian cyberspace,” said the statement by MeitY. PUBG Mobile was banned alongside other popular apps like TikTok.
Tencent’s Publishing Rights for PUBG Mobile in India Revoked – September 8, 2020
Around a week after PUBG Mobile’s ban in India, PUBG Corp decided to deauthorise Tencent’s publishing rights for the game. “As the company explores ways to provide its own PUBG experience for India in the near future, it is committed to doing so by sustaining a localized and healthy gameplay environment for its fans,” said PUBG Corp in a statement.
PUBG Mobile Earns $3.5 Billion Through Microtransactions – September 10, 2020
A report by Sensor Tower revealed that PUBG Mobile had crossed the $3 billion mark in revenue from microtransactions shortly after the PUBG Mobile India ban. Details revealed that while India was the leader in number of downloads, sitting at 185.5 million downloads, the country only accounted for 1.2% of PUBG Mobile’s microtransaction revenue.
Krafton in Talks With Airtel to Bring Back PUBG Mobile in India – October 5, 2020
PUBG Corp was in talks with Airtel following the PUBG Mobile ban in India to take over the publishing rights for the game. According to Entrackr, the conversations indicated that PUBG Corp was trying hard to bring the game back to the country. PUBG Corp also reportedly spoke with Reliance’s Jio, but that didn’t really go anywhere.
Krafton Reveals Work on PUBG Projects for PC, Console, and Mobile – January 19, 2021
PUBG Corp owner Krafton announced that it was working on multiple projects based on the PUBG franchise. A profile of Krafton CEO Kim Chang-han on Bloomberg revealed that two PUBG projects were in the works, with one designed for PC and consoles, and the other for mobile.
PUBG Mobile Fans Review Bomb FAU-G on Google Play – January 19, 2021
With the looming release of the made-in-India game FAU-G, Indian fans of PUBG Mobile took to reviewing bombing the mobile game on Google Play. While review bombing as a practice tends to revolve around bringing attention to specific issues related to the game or its development, FAU-G’s review bombs were more about bringing PUBG Mobile back to India.
It likely didn’t help that FAU-G’s initial announcement took place on September 4, 2020, just two days after PUBG Mobile India’s ban in the country. Many gamers saw the move as opportunistic; taking advantage of a ban on one of the most popular games in the country to push what appeared to be a competing product. To them, FAU-G’s military aesthetic and name which well, rhymes with PUBG suggested that this would be a made-in-India replacement for it
FAU-G developer Ncore Games, however, has stated right from the outset that FAU-G isn’t meant to be a replacement for PUBG Mobile. “We are not trying to copy PUBG, true to the story of Galwan there are no [conventional] weapons in this but there are unique weapons, which were used by actual soldiers,” said Ncore Chairman Vishal Gondal in an interview with IGN India
PUBG Mobile Reportedly Accounted for 50 Percent of India’s Esports Prize Pools in 2020 – February 12, 2021
A detailed report from AFK Gaming revealed that over half of the esports prize pools in India were from PUBG Mobile. Tencent’s two major Indian tournaments in 2019 and contributed a total of $350,000 to the prize pool, and if it weren’t for the ban in 2020, the total prize pool would have reached $691,651, according to the report.
PUBG: New State Revealed, Not Developed by Tencent – February 25, 2021
Krafton unveiled its sequel to PUBG Mobile. Dubbed PUBG: New State, the game was developed by the studio behind the original PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. Pre-registrations for PUBG: New State have been open since the game was unveiled. There has still been no word from Krafton about a release date for PUBG: New State.
To distinguish itself from PUBG Mobile, PUBG: New State seems to have a futuristic setting, complete with weapons and vehicles you wouldn’t see in a game set during modern times.
PUBG: New State’s Website Has Hidden Hindi Language Option – March 2, 2021
A Hindi language option was discovered hidden in PUBG: New State’s website’s source code. This would imply that, while there isn’t any official word on when, or even if, PUBG: New State is coming to India, a launch for the country has at least been planned to some extent. The Hindi version of the website includes a fully-translated version of the announcement.
PUBG: New State Pre-Registrations Hit 5 Million – March 8, 2021
Krafton revealed that pre-registrations for PUBG: New State have crossed the 5 million mark on Google Play. Pre-registering gets players access to an exclusive vehicle skin. Krafton has also mentioned that pre-registrations on iOS will be coming to the App Store at a later date.
Krafton Invests in Nodwin – March 9, 2021
Krafton invested Rs. 164 crore in Indian esports firm Nodwin. Krafton has been making key investments in India, likely to curry-favour the local establishment by having a presence during the Indian Gaming Show and Conference 2021.
PUBG Mobile Viewership Numbers Detailed – March 11, 2021
Analysis by Esports Charts revealed that, despite PUBG Mobile’s ban in India, the country still led the charts when it came to viewership of the game’s esports events. The report points out that while PUBG Mobile is watched the most by Indonesian viewers, India’s ban on the game definitely affected it. Despite the ban, India’s viewership still contributed 29.2% of the hours watched for PUBG Mobile in 2020.
Investment in Nodwin Not Related to PUBG Mobile: Krafton – March 13, 2021
Nodwin’s parent company, Nazara, revealed during its IPO press conference that its partnership with PUBG maker Krafton is not linked to PUBG.
“Our partnership with Krafton is not at all linked to the PUBG game,” said Nazara’s managing director and founder Nitish Mittersain. “It’s a far deeper, far more strategic partnership with a long term perspective in mind. Just to clarify, there has been no conversation at all during this entire period of discussing and signing this deal in terms of what this deal means for PUBG in India and what it does not.”
PUBG Mobile, Free Fire and Call of Duty Have Over 100 Million Players in India: Asus – March 23, 2021
Asus revealed that India has over 100 million players between PUBG Mobile and Call of Duty Mobile. “If you look at the number of people who are playing games, like Call of Duty Mobile, PUBG, Free Fire, they’ve reached, you know, at least an installed base of more than 100 million all three put together,” said Dinesh Sharma, Business Head, Commercial PC and Smartphone, System Business Group, Asus India in an interview with IGN India. “Now, among those 100 million, you know, this 100 million is our core customer base that prefer to buy an ROG phone. And that’s the focus, and we definitely we see the same trend in terms of usage on our product.”
Fnatic Disbands PUBG Mobile Team – March 24, 2021
One of India’s most successful PUBG Mobile esports teams, Fnatic, has been disbanded owing to PUBG Mobile’s ban in India. Fnatic has stated, however, that it won’t be exiting the country. Fnatic claims it is re-evaluating its options in India. Makes sense considering the outcome of letting go of its PUBG Mobile roster means it has no staff employed in India at the moment either. The company confirmed it was “parting ways” with India head Nimish Raut.
PUBG Mobile Lifetime Revenue Crosses $5 Billion – March 26, 2021
A report by Sensor Tower revealed that PUBG Mobile’s revenue has crossed the $5 billion mark, owing to its microtransactions. The game had accumulated $2.7 billion in 2020 alone, according to the report. Combining PUBG Mobile data with that of the Chinese release of the game, Game For Peace, brings player spending to around $704 million per quarter between Q1 and Q3 2020. PUBG Mobile was making $7.4 million on average per day.
Two Teams Consider Leaving India to Participate in PUBG Mobile Esports – April 6, 2021
Two Indian PUBG Mobile teams, TSM Entity and Galaxy Racer, are reportedly planning ot move their operations out of India so that their players can compete in PUBG Mobile esports events internationally. What this indicates is that brain drain, which has hit Indian talent in several sectors already, may be prevalent in esports as well. Perhaps an unintended consequence on the ban on PUBG Mobile.
Krafton Files for IPO, Tencent Second-Largest Shareholder – April 8, 2021
Krafton applies for an initial public offering in its home country of South Korea. The filings reveal Tencent to be the second biggest shareholder for Krafton, holding a 15.5 percent stake through an investment company. For the sake of comparison, Krafton founder Chang Byung-gyu is the largest shareholder with a stake of 16.4 percent.
PUBG: New State Release Date Set for Later in 2021 – April 9, 2021
After hitting the 10 million pre-registrations milestone, Krafton revealed that PUBG: New State would be coming to mobiles in late 2021. The announcement was made by the company on the official PUBG: New State Twitter account. However, according to a press release sent by Krafton to international media during the game’s reveal, PUBG: New State will not have an India release date. Rather, the company has marked PUBG: New State as a global release “excluding China, Vietnam, and India”.
Krafton Donates to PM CARES Fund – April 29, 2021
Krafton announced that it had donated Rs. 1.5 crore to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s PM CARES fund. According to the announcement, the contribution was made via Krafton’s Indian subsidiary.
“India is navigating a challenging time with the current wave of COVID-19,” said Krafton CEO Changhan Kim in the statement. “We remain committed to supporting the efforts of the Government in battling this unprecedented crisis. We hope our contribution to the PM CARES Fund will help the aid efforts currently operational on ground.”
Reports of Battlegrounds India as New Name for PUBG Mobile – May 3, 2021
Datamined assets discovered by Gemwire suggested that PUBG Mobile could be coming to India with a major rebranding: Battlegrounds Mobile India. These reports came up shortly after Krafton’s announcement of its donation to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s PM CARES fund.
Krafton Confirms Battlegrounds India – May 6, 2021
Krafton officially confirms that PUBG Mobile will be coming to India in the form of a special version of the game, dubbed Battlegrounds Mobile India. Interestingly, PUBG Mobile isn’t mentioned anywhere in the company’s statement to the press, which is to be expected considering that Krafton is trying to claw its way back into the nation after a series of missteps and probably isn’t interested in antagonising the government, particularly after pre-emptively announcing PUBG Mobile’s return late last year without even talking to the relevant authorities.
Krafton Tells Content Creators to “Not use PUBG Mobile” Due to Fears of Being “Banned Again” – May 10, 2021
According to WhatsApp messages allegedly sent by Krafton to content creators, the company has instructed them not to use the term ‘PUBG Mobile’ at all.
“We would also suggest to not use PUBGM in your content anymore as it was banned and we don’t want to be banned again,” reads a part of the message. “We would recommend using worlds like Battlegrounds Mobile India, Korean game, Indian version in your content.”
Fnatic Wants to Return With Battlegrounds Mobile India Team When the “Opportunity is Right” – May 11, 2021
In an interview with AFK Gaming, Fnatic’s Chief Gaming Officer Patrik Sättermon stated that the organisation would like to come back to Battlegrounds Mobile India with a pro team, but is waiting for the opportune moment.
Battlegrounds Mobile India Pre-Registrations Go Live – May 18, 2021
Krafton kicks off pre-registrations for Battlegrounds Mobile India. Currently, pre-registrations are only available for Android devices via Google Play.
Battlegrounds Mobile India Ban Called for By Politicians – May 22, 2021
Former Union Minister and current Arunachal Pradesh MLA Ninong Ering wrote to Prime Minster Narendra Modi to request a ban on what he terms as “the relaunch of PUBG Mobile”. In the letter, Ering states that Krafton’s India employees are from Tencent, that Battlegrounds Mobile India’s Google Play Store package name contains the term ‘PUBG Mobile’, and cites its $22.4 million investment in Nodwin as a security concern.
PUBG Mobile YouTuber Claims Arunachal Pradesh Is Part of China – May 24, 2021
In a video, PUBG Mobile YouTuber Paras Singh calls Arunachal Pradesh MLA Ninong Ering a non-Indian, and says that Arunachal Pradesh is a part of China because of the state’s proximity to the Chinese border. The video, now edited to remove these remarks, had him saying in Hindi: “Mujhe to nahi lagtha yeh [Ering] Indian hai (which translates to: ‘I don’t think he is an Indian’)”.
PUBG Mobile YouTuber Arrested for Racist Comments – May 25, 2021
PUBG Mobile YouTuber Paras Singh, aka Paras Official, is arrested following racist comments made in response to calls for a Battlegrounds Mobile India ban. “A case has been registered against him by Arunachal Pradesh Police and he will be punished as per law,” said Union Minister of Youth Affairs Kiren Rijju.
More PUBG Mobile Streamers Turn Out to be Racist – May 26, 2021
PUBG Mobile streamers 420 Gaming and GTX Preet refer to Ninong Ering as Chinese during their gaming streams. Both streamers have since posted apology videos in response to the backlash for their racist comments.
Indian Esports Speaks Up Against Battlegrounds Mobile India Racism – May 28, 2021
In light of racist comments from PUBG Mobile-related YouTube channels in response to calls for Battlegrounds Mobile India to be banned (as it is seen as being extremely similar to PUBG Mobile that’s been banned here), sections of the Indian esports industry, including Ankit ‘V3nom’ Panth, and the Esports Federation of India, have condemned these comments.
Krafton Silent on Racism in India’s PUBG Mobile Community – May 29, 2021
Considering the racism popping up in the community, Krafton would be expected 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. A week that’s seen three instances of racial abuse from those associated with its game would warrant an official condemnation of sorts. Instead we get the company peddling registrations for Battlegrounds Mobile India.
Esports Team Orange Rock Releases Racist Player – June 1, 2021
Battlegrounds Mobile India esports team Orange Rock has parted ways with player Shivamm ‘420op’ Raghav following racist comments made over calls for a ban of the upcoming game. While there was no official statement made from Orange Rock regarding him joining its roster, Raghav made his departure known during a livestream.
Battlegrounds Mobile India Hits 20 Million Pre-Registrations – June 3, 2021
Krafton announces 20 million pre-registrations for Battlegrounds Mobile India on Google Play. For context, Battlegrounds Mobile India became available for pre-registrations on May 18 on Google Play, and crossed the 7.5 million pre-registrations milestone in a day.
Krafton Tacitly Admits Battlegrounds Mobile India Is PUBG Mobile – June 4, 2021
In a statement by Krafton CEO CH Kim celebrating the 20 million pre-registrations milestone, the company tacitly admits that Battlegrounds Mobile India is PUBG Mobile.
Members of Parliament Demand Scrutiny of Krafton’s Deals With Tencent – June 7, 2021
A letter sent by Lok Sabha MP from Nizamabad, Telangana call for the Indian government needs to observe Krafton’s dealings with Tencent with scrutiny. According to the letter, while developer Krafton has stated that all data in the game will be stored in India and Singapore, it also allows for international data transfers. Its Terms of Service will be governed by the laws of South Korea, where Krafton is based out of.
Krafton Teases UAZ Jeep and Erangel Map for Battlegrounds Mobile India – June 8, 2021
A teaser released for Battlegrounds Mobile India shows off the UAZ Jeep, along with mentioning Erangel—the original map for PUBG and PUBG Mobile which both games launched with. With the teaser, Krafton seems to have dropped all pretense of Battlegroudns Mobile India being a different game from PUBG Mobile.