Battlegrounds Mobile India’s announcement and pre-registrations in India may have garnered a lot of attention from casual fans who have officially not had access to Krafton’s Battle Royale for almost 8 months, but esports fans of the game were a little disappointed. Battlegrounds Mobile India's esports plans were largely kept under wraps except for the fact that there would be India-specific events at launch. However, there may be some good news for the BR game’s esports fans just around the corner. An IGN India report states that Krafton will reveal its Battleground Mobile India tournaments and its esports plans around the time of the game’s launch. The report also noted that Krafton has been reaching out to the country's teams to coordinate details, preparing for the rumored launch of Battlegrounds Mobile India next month.
When Battlegrounds Mobile India was announced, Krafton stated that it would develop a dedicated Indian esports ecosystem consisting of tournaments and leagues for the country. The developers might have picked up the pace now to be ready with their plans, to reveal them along with the game’s upcoming release.
PUBG Mobile before its ban in September last year was the most popular esports title in India. The battle royale did well on a global level, garnering a total watch time of 28.9 million and 21.3 million in July and August, respectively. However, these numbers dipped sharply from September 2020 to November 2020.
Indian viewers were a large portion of PUBG Mobile’s viewership. Before the game was banned, the Hindi viewership for PMWL 2020: East peaked at 449K viewers. While the PUBG Mobile ban did affect the viewership metrics by a lot, a significant chunk of Indian viewers still tuned in to watch PUBG Mobile tournaments.
PMGC 2020 shattered PUBG Mobile viewership records earlier last year by registering a peak viewership of 3.8 million viewers. This impressive milestone was achieved despite teams from India not competing in it, the Hindi broadcast of PMGC 2020 peaked at 100.6K viewers which is an astounding number for a region where the game itself had been banned.
Multiple PUBG Mobile tournaments after the ban have kept running streams in Hindi and have attracted a healthy viewership, which may have encouraged Krafton to come forward and set up a proper Indian esports ecosystem for Battlegrounds Mobile India right from the get-go.
It is certainly going to be interesting to see how the esports scene of BMI is going to be received once its launches. The Indian organizers and teams are already excited about the arrival of the mobile BR title and what it will be bringing along with it. Many PUBG Mobile teams since the ban have been dissolved and players have either turned into content creators, streamers or simply turned towards alternative esports titles like Valorant or Free Fire.
Currently, Indian teams’ participation in events such as the PUBG Mobile Global Championship remains uncertain. On the one hand, Battlegrounds Mobile India and PUBG Mobile may benefit from clear boundaries between their esports scenes, allowing them to operate free of government interference. On the other hand, two separate eSports scenes that do not cross-pollinate could significantly reduce viewer interest. This would affect viewership numbers of either title, which would lead to less money in the scene.
The best way to satisfy both parties would be to make India the destination for Battlegrounds Mobile tournaments, rather than feed into PUBG Mobile tournaments abroad. There is precedent for it since a similar model was adopted for the Peacekeeper Elite Championships held in China.