an uphill battle for Battlegrounds
the sweet smell of ‘chicken dinners’ is wafting through India again. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds aka PUBG, one of the highest-grossing games, which was among 200+ apps banned in India over nine months ago, is back. this time it has a new identity — Battleground Mobile India and it is only on Android so far. but a peek under the hood suggests the rebrand might just be papering over the cracks.
before the ban, India was PUBG’s largest market, at least by number of players. it had 175 million downloads in the region, around a quarter of the global total. in fact, Chinese conglomerate Tencent, the game’s then-publisher, lost $34 billion in market value in two days following the ban. to sidestep the Chinese connection, PUBG Corporation took over the publishing rights for India from Tencent Games.
PUBG Corp. is a subsidiary of Bluehole which itself is a subsidiary of South Korean firm Krafton. as the only one among the banned apps to return to India thus far, Krafton has pulled off quite the feat. but Krafton may be in trouble again.
the official reason for PUBG and the other apps being banned was that they were storing and processing user data on China-based servers.
in order to secure a return, Krafton had publicly assured that “privacy and security of Indian player data” would be “a top priority”. it made a deal with Microsoft to store the data on Azure servers in India and also changed the depiction of in-game blood to a green coloured liquid.
but fresh reports suggest that data from Battlegrounds Mobile India is being sent to a Chinese server. not only that, the game pings a Tencent server while booting up.
Indian gamers have been ecstatic about the game’s return, as it racked up over 5 million downloads within two days of early access release. but any links to Chinese servers could see PUBG Corporation’s efforts go down the drain. Many Indian legislators have already called for a ban on the new avatar, and so has the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT).
this comes at a time when Krafton is looking to raise $5 billion via an IPO, which would be a South Korean record. given the blow Tencent suffered last time around, it would do well to plug the leak before it turns into a flood.