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Inside the Battlegrounds Mobile India ban, and the impact on India’s mobile games market

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The Indian government requested Apple and Google to remove Battlegrounds Mobile India (BGMI) from their app stores on July 28th, one year after it launched in the country. Our research shows that the popular battle royale game, published by South Korean firm Krafton, is no longer available for download. The request comes in the wake of several allegations made against the game for being a rebranded version of PUBG Mobile, which was banned in September 2020 due to national security concerns. These concerns were recently raised in the Indian Parliament, with the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) stating that BGMI was a different app to PUBG Mobile, suggesting it was not a national security concern. It’s unclear what changed to cause MeitY to pull the app.

While the government has not issued a statement to confirm the game is permanently banned, Reuters reported that the title was pulled by MeitY using Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, the same act that was used to justify the ban of 321 mobile apps since June 2020. BGMI is the 57th game pulled due to this regulation. The bans have primarily targeted mobile apps from China, primarily citing national security risks. BGMI’s takedown comes just 5 months after the ban of Garena Free Fire, the most popular battle royale game in India until then.

Krafton launched BGMI after PUBG Mobile was banned

MeitY originally banned PUBG Mobile in September 2020 due to national security and data privacy issues following, though not necessarily as a result of border tensions with China. While the PUBG IP is owned by Krafton, PUBG Mobile was developed and published in India by Chinese gaming giant Tencent. At the time of its ban, PUBG Mobile was the #1 game in India by both revenue and downloads and had been a key driver of mobile gaming growth in the country. The ban had a profound impact on the battle royale segment and broader gaming ecosystem, with the unserved demand satiated by Garena Free Fire over time.

Krafton announced in November 2020 that it would bring its core battle royale experience back to India, with BGMI launching in July 2021. Krafton fully committed to the Indian market by self-publishing the title, introducing local servers to store user data securely and in country, and by announcing it would invest over US$100 million in the Indian gaming, esports, entertainment and IT industries, which it has done. The game saw significantly high uptake at launch given the popularity of battle royale games in the country, with 40 million registrations prior to launch and 16 million daily active users in its first 10 days.

BGMI had over 100 million downloads in its first year

BGMI has been a huge success for Krafton and the title was on track to reach the 200 million download mark that PUBG Mobile had achieved prior to its September 2020 ban. The title had quickly become the #2 highest grossing mobile game in India and its 2022 revenue was set to exceed that of PUBG Mobile’s peak year. BGMI has also become the leading esports title in India with Krafton investing heavily in the space to set up the Battlegrounds Mobile India Pro Series, an official league for Indian teams with a prize pool of US$260,000.

According to Niko’s Asia Esports Tracker, BGMI is the #1 title by prize pool in India, with its total 2022 prize pool accounting for 35% of total prize pool revenue for all local and regional esports tournaments. The game also saw massive endorsement from streamers, esports organizations, and teams with high participation across key events. The BGMI Masters Series LAN event was also the first tournament to be televised live on Indian TV, reaching 12.3 million viewers.

How this impacts India’s mobile game market

If BGMI does not return to app stores, we believe it may have a material impact on the short-term growth rate of India’s mobile game market and the esports ecosystem. Battle royale is the most popular mobile game genre by player spending in India according to data from Sensor Tower, accounting for over 1/3 of total mobile game spending in 2021. BGMI and Free Fire accounted for over 95% of total spend on mobile battle royale games in 2021 and H1 2022, but both titles have been removed from app stores this year. However, Niko’s research shows that Free Fire MAX, a high-end version of Free Fire from Garena, remains available on Google Play. It’s unclear how MAX is still operating on Google Play, but the MAX version was not specifically included in the ban list where Free Fire was banned.

There will also be a negative impact on the broader BGMI ecosystem, especially within esports and live streaming. Everyday players will now be looking for a new title to play, and we expect most to shift over to Free Fire MAX assuming the title continues to operate. Call of Duty: Mobile (Activision Blizzard) may also benefit given its strong position in the market as an established shooter game with a battle royale mode that consistently ranks in the top ten game revenue chart. Apex Legends Mobile (Electronic Arts), New State (Krafton – Title was formerly PUBG New State) and Farlight 84 (Lilith Games) are core battle royale games that may also benefit, but we note that these titles are not as established as Call of Duty Mobile and Free Fire MAX.

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Fan Engagement Startup STAN Enters Digital Collectibles Partnerships with Esports Superstars

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  • Fan Engagement Startup STAN Enters Digital Collectibles Partnerships with Esports Superstars and S8UL Co-Founders Mortal, Thug and Goldy
  • STAN has now become India’s first platform to partner with elite gaming creators, S8UL Mortal and Godlike Jonathan.

Bengaluru-headquartered blockchain-based esports fan engagement startup STAN has announced that it has entered into strategic partnerships with three of the leading esports creators in India – Naman Mathur aka Mortal, Animesh Agarwal aka Thug, and Lokesh Jain aka Goldy. These 3 creators, who collectively have a follower base of more than 15 million on social platforms like Instagram and Youtube, are extremely well-known and popular amongst the gaming and esports enthusiasts’ community in India. Also, Thug, Goldy and Mortal are the co-founders of S8UL, one of the largest esports orgs in India. With this development, STAN has now become India’s first platform to partner with elite gaming creators, S8UL Mortal and Godlike Jonathan.

The key objective of the partnership between STAN and these creators is to build an ecosystem for Motal’s, Goldy’s and Thug’s fans in order to connect with them as well as to unlock new-age exciting and engaging experiences for the burgeoning fan base. It enables STAN to have the exclusive rights to create non-NFT digital collectibles of these legendary creators.

Furthermore, this is a step forward by STAN in offering other types of services and rewards with and for these creators and their fans, including but not limited to Instagram Shoutouts, Play-A-Match, and Talkshow with the Creator. Besides, vis-à-vis the collaborations with Thug and Goldy, STAN users would have access to these two creators’ respective Voice Rooms (a newly-launched feature on the STAN app where a creator joins a space where he/she can interact with their fans via voice messages).

Speaking on the recent partnerships, Nauman Mulla, Co-Founder & COO, STAN says, “We are delighted and proud to announce the collaborations with reputable creators like Mortal, Thug and Goldy, for creating their official digital collectibles and ushering in innovative fan engagement strategies and outcomes for their fans. As a web3 fan engagement startup that is deeply focused on bolstering the gaming and esports ecosystem of the nation, it was a no-brainer to partner with these leading creators, each of whose fan base runs in millions. With this, STAN has now joined hands with almost all the leading esports creators in India; it allows us to cover the entire ecosystem of the Indian gaming community and helps us move closer to realize our vision of empowering each fan to achieve all of their fan dreams.”

Speaking about the partnerships, Naman Mathur Aka S8ul Mortal said, “Partnering up with STAN has given me an opportunity to feel my fan’s love for me in a more innovative way! I have always wanted to connect with my fans on a personal level and STAN has made this possible. This sublime partnership with STAN is the first step towards making sure my fans get the best experience out there.”

Animesh Agarwal Aka Thug said, “I’m really happy to be a part of this invigorating experience that STAN is providing to their fans, as this gives me a chance for my fans to interact with them directly. I am very excited to see this partnership open new avenues of growth in fan engagement.”

Besides being a part of S8UL, both Thug and Goldy individually are massive creators as well. Whereas, Mortal is one of the most-celebrated BGMI content creators in India currently who has represented India on many international platforms and tournaments and won many awards, titles and accolades throughout his professional esports career. On the other hand, STAN has built a uniquely-crafted one-stop platform for the constantly growing pool of esports fans in India and the world to optimally engage, play and grow closer to their idols. The startup has already inked both NFT and non-NFT digital collectible partnerships with several leading FreeFire and BGMI athletes and creators in our country.

 

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Wynn Marjan Confirmed As First Casino Resort In UAE

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Wynn Resorts, one of the world’s largest high-end hotel developers and operators, has issued an official statement confirming that their upcoming resort in Ras Al Khaimah, located in the United Arab Emirates, will contain a gambling establishment.

Wynn Resorts’ CEO Spoke About The Project

The Chief Executive Officer of Wynn Resorts, Craig Billings, stated that the casino at the new integrated resort that will be called Wynn Marjan would have a much larger scope than that of Wynn Las Vegas, the operator’s crown jewel in the United States.

Details about the Wynn Marjan resort were made public for the first time in 2022, and all 1000 rooms are expected to be ready to accommodate guests in Ras Al Khaimah in 2026. Only now, however, do we have unequivocal proof that the resort will be the first in the United Arab Emirates Gulf Cooperation Council region to offer gambling establishments like casinos.

The CEO even stated that the Marjan and the United Emirates Project are the main focus of Wynn Resorts’ complete design and development power, working tirelessly to ensure they get this highly lucrative opportunity right from the get-go. However, while acknowledging that the region is a significant luxury and leisure market, Billings also admitted that the casino aspect of the resort is one of many focus points.

The Wynn is currently in the final stages of construction planning and will release more details in 2023. Supposedly the location should be flexible for whatever Wynn is planning since the site will be on an artificial island without any pre-existing structures.

 

The Nation’s Laws Make This A Success For Wynn

The resort’s planning has piqued the interest of many investors and people in the gambling industry because it will be built in the UAE and operated under strict Islamic laws. 

These laws give gambling and any activities related to it adverse treatment, and the GCC has been hesitant to allow any loopholes up to this point. Because of this, there was some uncertainty regarding whether or not Wynn Marjan would have a gambling area. However, the CEO of Wynn has stated that the group appreciates the importance and opportunity of the Marjan being the only resort of its kind in the region to offer casino services and confirmed they intend to build the resort large enough for the activities and attractions not to become stale.

 

Gambling In The UAE Today

Due to the strict anti-gambling laws, many people living in the Arab Gulf countries gamble online at offshore operators. However, this is a legal grey area, and there are frequent attempts by government authorities to block local citizens from accessing these overseas sites. 

With the help of VPNs and anonymous banking options, many UAE citizens register at operators licensed in Malta or the UK. Moreover, websites catering to Arab gambling, such as 7alalcasino.com, list the operators with customer support, payment options, and promotions in Arabic. There is no shortage of bookmakers or online casinos in Arabic on the internet, but it still needs to be determined whether local citizens can gamble at the new Wynn resort. 

 

An Opportunity For The Country And Other Investors

It will also be interesting to see if Caesar’s Palace, which has a resort in the region without a casino, will try to build a gambling venue adjacent to the resort. MGM is also building a nearby resort, reportedly without a casino. One thing for sure is that there will be many eyes on these two giants to see what their next step will be once Wynn opens their casino venue. More than this, it’s inevitable that other investors and developers will be looking to get the necessary green light to open other casino venues.

Ras Al Khaimah’s Tourism Authority representative Raki Phillips has also presented positive feelings towards Wynn Resorts’ plans and believes that it will significantly boost the tourism and hospitality sectors and create new jobs for locals. The fact that Wynn is even planning the casino featured at the Marjan to be even bigger than their flagship venue in Las Vegas shows just how high the hopes are from both sides that this may be a door-opening event for many future other developments in the region, and perhaps it will result in a shift in attitude towards gambling in the area.

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MPL bans over a million accounts in 2022 to reinforce transparency and fairplay on the platform

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MPL bans over a million accounts in 2022 to reinforce transparency and fairplay on the platform
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MPL, one of the world’s largest mobile and skill gaming platforms has banned over a million user accounts to continue to provide a secure and fair gaming experience to the users. The step has been taken by the company to remove players who did not comply with the rules and resorted to unfair means to manipulate gameplay results in their favor. Some of the key reasons that led to the user accounts getting blocked include using multiple accounts by the same user to access the platform, uploading fake or doctored KYC documents, using unauthorized payment means like stolen cards and cheating during the gameplay by using any hacks or collusion techniques. It is important to note that these are not temporary suspensions and MPL has permanently banned these users from the system.

MPL has robust security measures in place that enables them to effectively identify and ban the fake accounts within a short span of them being created. The company also uses best in class technology practices that enables detection of fraud accounts at a granular level which includes identification of the devices used to create the accounts. Once a user is blocked, typically they tend to create a new account using  different email ids. However, with the help of advanced technology, MPL identifies these unauthorized login attempts made using the same device and permanently revokes their access. This ensures fraudulent gamers to be suspended and removed from the platform, allowing genuine players to join tournaments with confidence.

MPL’s security initiatives have recently been recognized by the SHIELD Trust Certification, which attests that the platform has more than 96.57% genuine users and a user to device ratio of 1 : 0.9568 which is an exceptional trust standard in the industry. SHIELD is a global risk intelligence company and the certificate considers a company’s trust profile and assesses key risk metrics such as the number of genuine users, user-to-device ratio, and the prevalence of malicious tools used on a given platform. With a trust score of 95.95%, MPL has become the world’s first multi-gaming company to acquire this certification after fulfilling the vital requirements of SHIELD’s Trust Check, which renders it the most credible and a safe platform for gaming enthusiasts.

Commenting on this, Ruchir Patwa, VP Security and Compliance, MPL, said,“At MPL, providing the highest degree of protection against fraud is our topmost priority and we are committed to offer the users a secure and unhindered gaming experience. This move is aligned to our player-first approach and also highlights MPL’s zero tolerance towards users who resort to illegal practices in order to alter gameplay results and gain an unfair advantage.With initiatives like this, MPL is poised to continue being a safe and user friendly platform that is trusted by the users.”

MPL has also announced multiple initiatives to further the player-first approach and foster a safe and risk free gameplay experience for the users. As a part of this, the company launched a bug bounty program that has been designed to reward security researchers up to INR 10 lakhs for successfully identifying a valid vulnerability on the platform. The bug bounty program also allows researchers to report any possibility that can give a player an unfair advantage.

To provide a risk free gaming experience, MPL had recently launched India’s first ever multi-game Loss Protection policy through which gamers can claim a refund of up to 100% of the net loss that they may have incurred after playing 10 gameplay sessions with specified thresholds. Available on some of the top titles, this initiative empowered users to enjoy their favorite games without worrying about losing money.

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