In early September of this year, after months of uncertainty, PUBG Mobile was finally banned in India. Rising tensions with China have been called to blame, following clashes along the border between the two nations. Since then, South Korean licensor PUBG Corporation has stepped in to remove any involvement of the previous China-based publisher Tencent in the hopes of re-releasing the title by quelling the fears over the game’s privacy and data protection practices. Though progress has been notably quiet since the initial statement of intent was issued, according to The Esports Observer, things are moving forward — we just don’t if there’s a favorable end in sight yet.
According to reports, PUBG Corporation has entered into talks with Indian telecoms firm Airtel to distribute the once-popular title in the country. The website’s source wished to remain anonymous, however, making this very much rumor and speculation right now. It’s not the first time PUBG Corporation has attempted to find a new distributor for the game. Reliance was previously said to be in talks with the company to distribute PUBG Mobile through its Jio platform. The two entities previously worked together to offer unique rewards for buying in-game items in PUBG Lite (the game’s condensed version designed for many low-cost smartphones found in the country).
Talks have apparently slowed between PUBG Corporation and Reliance, however. This caused the latter to explore additional avenues. In this case, that means a potential deal with Airtel. As with Reliance, PUBG Mobile has partnered with Airtel in the past. The telecoms firm was named the “preferred network” of the Pro League South Asia competition back in June. The partnership offered not only in-game rewards, but streaming rights to the whole show, allowing players (and technically parents of the competitors) to watch the event through their typical TV service.
There’s no way to know the outcome of these talks. Nor do we know for certain they’re even happening at all. When all this began, it seemed unlikely the Indian government would actually issue a ban on PUBG Mobile. Other Tencent apps and games were banned in the first wave, but with the battle royale title notably absent from the list, many assumed a game nestled deep in the culture of the country’s younger generation was immune. With a devoted player base and even its own web series, India has long been a major market for PUBG Mobile, with Sensor Tower data suggesting game downloads have slowed by 26 percent since the ban was issued just over a month ago.
According to the same source, the Indian government even suggested a change of hands away from Tencent wouldn’t be enough to have the title taken off the extensive list of banned Chinese apps. Previous reports suggested the reason for the ban now sits a little further afield than data protection concerns, with the game’s level of violence potentially being another point of concern. Though it’s hard to say for certain when the issue is so highly politicized.
Since the ban, downloads of the closest available competitor Garena Free Fire have rapidly increased, demonstrating how the desperate and displaced battle royale players are happy to get their fix anywhere they can find it. Bollywood superstar Akshay Kumar even went so far as to announce FAU-G — a clear PUBG Mobile knockoff centered around the country’s own armed forces. Going by Twitter reactions, though, the people just want their baby back…
Disclaimer: Fanbyte is owned by Tencent, which also runs Tencent Games, developer and publisher of PUBG Mobile. Tencent also subsidizes much of Fanbyte’s PUBG Mobile coverage by covering freelancer budget costs. Those covering PUBG Mobile for the site have no contact with Tencent, however, and are given complete creative control to write whatever they wish.