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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.

Asia

Singapore Gambling Regulatory Authority Officially Inaugurated

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Singapore officially inaugurated its new gambling regulator – the Gambling Regulatory Authority (GRA) – on August 16.

GRA aims to stay ahead of new and global trends in the gambling industry and aims to respond more effectively to emerging gambling culture and products, particularly the lines between gambling and gaming are blurring.

“The gambling landscape within the next five years will be very different from what it is today and we have to get ready for that future,” Minister for Communications and Information and Second Minister for Home Affairs, Josephine Teo, stated in her keynote address during the inauguration ceremony of the GRA.

GRA will regulate a wide spectrum of gaming activities, including casinos and online or offline lotteries, as well as sports betting and several operations offered through an online or interactive games segment.

In his opening remarks, Chairman GRA, Mr Tan Tee How, expressed appreciation and encouraged his officers to continue to sustain the transformation efforts across GRA’s processes to uphold GRA’s effectiveness and credibility as a gambling regulator.

Minister for Communications and Information and Second Minister for Home Affairs, Josephine Teo, lauded CRA’s positive achievements over the years, noting that, “Casino-related crime remains very low, well under 1% of overall crime.”

The formation of GRA is an important next step for gambling regulation in Singapore, Mrs Teo highlighted the need of such a regulatory agency was a need of time with a major paradigm shift due to technological advancement.

“First, technology has significantly altered the gambling landscape, it has changed how people gamble. It is now easier to gamble anytime, anywhere, with people around the world, anyone. Demand for remote gambling has risen. Technology will continue to further enlarge the scale and scope of online gambling.” Minister for Communications Josephine Teo stated.

The minister emphasised the fact that changing consumer preferences have given rise to new gambling products. It’s increasingly challenging to keep up with all of the innovations while the boundaries between gambling and gaming have blurred.

There are more and more variants of gaming, gambling, and games of chance, such as those involving cryptocurrencies or using crypto technology.

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Asia

Endorphina to Attend G2E Asia Singapore

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Endorphina games, the leading B2B online slots game provider, will be attending this year’s G2E Asia in Marina Bay Sands, Singapore, this month from August 24 to 26.

G2E Asia is a prominent event that brings together key gaming experts from around the globe and within the industry. Endorphina will be amongst the participants this year and have their own stand at B1113.

Growing steadily each year, Endorphina has a portfolio packed with over 100+ catchy and thrilling games. The event will be the perfect excuse to learn about the latest news from the leading B2B online slots game provider which has recently been shortlisted at the SBC Awards in the category of Employer of the Year. The leading B2B online slots game provider has achieved industry recognition at the highest level.

This year, SBC Awards will take place on the final day of the SBC Summit Barcelona on Thursday, September 22, 2022, at The Palau Nacional in Barcelona.

The company stated: “This year is our 10th anniversary as a company, a remarkable opportunity to celebrate together in person. We’re looking forward to spreading and sharing endorphins with you all.”

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Casino Secret Becomes AS Monaco’s Official Online Gaming Partner in Japan

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Casino Secret, one of the fastest growing and innovative online casinos in Japan, has become the Official Online Gaming Partner of AS Monaco in Japan for the next two seasons.

By entering into a partnership with a company primarily focused on the Japanese market, AS Monaco is taking another step forward which will enable the Club to get closer to the football fans in the region.

Casino Secret and AS Monaco will jointly launch an exclusive digital campaign, featuring a series of high-impact content targeting the Japanese audience to celebrate the new partnership.

Jean-Emmanuel de Witt, CEO of AS Monaco, said: “We are delighted to welcome Casino Secret as our online gaming partner in Japan. AS Monaco is an iconic Ligue 1 club with a strong international dimension, and is enjoying growing interest in Japan notably due to the arrival of Takumi. We look forward to starting this new partnership with Casino Secret to grow our presence in Japan and to provide Japanese football fans with some unique jointly created content.”

Nadir Ounissi, Founder and CEO of Casino Secret, said: “Since our launch in 2018, Casino Secret brand has been growing exponentially in Japan and that has led us to win several awards voted by the community of players. In the past we worked with other partners in the football industry, now as one of the leading online gaming companies in Japan, it is logical to take a next step to associate with AS Monaco, a world-renowned club, with a strong digital audience of over 22 million supporters and a constant growth of this resonance. With Takumi Minamino’s presence in the AS Monaco team, we have a great opportunity to grow our respective Japanese communities in the next two seasons. We look forward to this collaboration.”

Gary Aurivel, COO of Casino Secret, said: “We’re excited to partner with AS Monaco. Emotion, surprise, and fun are the main keywords defining this partnership. This collaboration between the club where one of Japan’s top football players’ plays, and online casino will bring endless fun and excitement to our audience in Japan. We look forward to work with them to create exclusive content to our Japanese audience.”

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