Journalist Faye D’Souza conducted a live stream discussing the ban on PUBG Mobile with Animesh ‘Thug’ Agarwal, co-owner of 8bit Gaming along with Mohan Guruswamy, an economist and former advisor to the Ministry of Finance. The panel also featured Rishi Alwani, Founder of The Mako Reactor and former writer for NDTV Gadgets 360 and Dr Pavan Duggal, an advocate who specializes in the fields of Cyberlaw and E-Commerce law.
According to Business Insider, a year ago, professional PUBG players in India earned anywhere from Rs. 5000-45000. 8bit Thug estimates that these numbers are even higher today. In the last couple of years, PUBG Mobile prize pools have significantly shot up to as high as $8 Million (Rs. 58.5 crores) with the highest-paid players making as much as $4000-5000 (Rs. 3 lakh to 3.6 lakh) on a monthly basis. Tier 1 teams draw salaries as high as Rs. 40,000 per month, per player. Several sponsors and tournament organisers who come together to host different tiers of PUBG Mobile tournaments have spent lakhs of rupees and really made the ecosystem thrive.
This new era in international affairs now has countries trade economic blows rather than physical ones. The banning of 118 apps right now and 59 other apps in June sends a clear message to the Chinese administration: If you continue your aggression at the border, you will have to pay the price on the economic front. While India may not be as lucrative as other markets, such moves affect company valuations. Reports suggest that Tencent has lost $34 Billion in market value since the PUBG Mobile ban in India and in an emailed statement to the Business Insider, the company said that they were looking forward to engaging with the Indian authorities to clarify their long-established policy and action in protecting user data and hoped to ensure the continued availability of their products in India.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had recently stated that India should make games based on its culture and folk tales, asking young entrepreneurs to develop games in and about India, and the Indian Union Education Ministry planning to support students with jobs in gaming. Just days after this announcement, and 24 hours after the ban of PUBG Mobile, Akshay Kumar announced his endeavour with nCore, a developer based out of Bangalore to basically create a desi version of PUBG Mobile called FAU-G. Due to the timing of the announcement, many have raised doubts behind the true intention of the PUBG Mobile ban. However, 8bit Thug remains optimistic about Indian developers finally stepping up to the plate and has the backing of a Bollywood star like Akshay Kumar. Rishi Alwani chimed in saying that game development is a long term process. FAU-G would have been in development for at least 6 months before the announcement and the team developing it has had international experience.
Despite the Prime Minister’s comments, the focus for the gaming market in India has largely been limited to gambling like Octro Rummy and Teen Patti which are equivalent to online casinos. Meanwhile, those looking to make actual video games are not doing so well. Developers like Nodding Heads Games and Ogrehead which make Indian mythology centric games are left scrambling for investors and a platform to develop their titles like Raji: An Ancient Epic, Asura and Yodha (a PC game based on Kargil). Hopefully, the slate of government announcements serves as a wake-up call.
Another part of the problem is the lack of content on platforms with the right audiences like Reliance’s Jio Phone. With 144 million users playing 22 minutes a day, the potential is huge, it just needs to be tapped into. Game developers still haven’t taken advantage of this potential. Thug said there is a void in the Indian gaming space which can be filled by local developers.
Catch the complete, hour-long discussion above.