The past few weeks have been a confusing and tumultuous time for PUBG Mobile players. In India, where the game has proven popular enough to get its own web series, concerns over the game’s country of origin have put players into a bit of a moral dilemma.
A multi-decade long dispute over the India-claimed (yet China controlled) area of Aksai Chin escalated on June 15 into a small skirmish that India claims cost the lives of 20 of its soldiers and injured dozens more. Since then, Indians have been attempting to boycott Chinese exports, with many turning to Google to figure out which apps on their phones originate from the country. The game’s social media posts were, for a time, inundated with boycott hashtags and replies looking for clarification on the game’s origin.
Is pubg Chinese
— Suman Pal (@SumanPa19801661) June 26, 2020
For a while, it seemed as if PUBG Mobile was about to become a victim of the boycott. A game played by millions in the region, it’s one developed and published by Tencent, one of China’s biggest success stories, and a rising name around the world.
Yesterday, the Indian government took matters into its own hands and banned 59 apps it designated as products of China. National security issues were cited as the reason for the ban. The move caused another upsurge in users searching for whether the game was on the list of banned Chinese apps alongside popular social media app TikTok (downloaded 611 million times in India according to experts) and the messaging app WeChat. Other apps include the DU phone cleanup product stack and others that potentially collect data through methods like accessing messages or device cameras.
Of the games in the list, Mobile Legends and Clash of Kings stand out as the most popular titles now banned, with Tencent’s premier battle royale title seemingly getting a free pass. Niko Partners’ Senior analyst Daniel Ahmad, who broke the news of the ban on Twitter, weighed in on why PUBG Mobile may have been absent from the list.
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He noted that of all the apps on the list, WeChat was the most notable app handled by Tencent, the developers and publishers of the game. The hit proves Tencent wasn’t wholly immune from the blanket ban, causing speculation as to why PUBG Mobile wasn’t targeted as well.
One theory from a user reply is that Tencent merely licensing the PUBG brand from its South Korean IP holder Bluehole kept it safe. As community manager Ocho outlined in his talk about the game’s content drops, Tencent has to ask for Bluehole’s approval when it comes to developing new material (like maps and game modes). It’s this two-way partnership with the South Korean company that could be keeping PUBG Mobile from being banned in India.
It’s all speculation for now. There’s every chance the Indian government simply missed PUBG Mobile on what could be the first of many waves of bans. With the game constantly landing on Top Grossing charts around the world, there’s genuine concern amongst India’s PUBG Mobile playerbase that the time and money they’ve pumped into the game over the years could not only go to waste, but have been funding a country a problematic neighbor.