Gamers left reeling as India pulls plug on Tencent's PUBG in China spat

NEW DELHI/ CHENNAI, Sept 3- For tens of millions of Indian gamers, Tencent’s PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds videogame was a welcome distraction from the coronavirus pandemic. India’s technology ministry said the apps were a threat to India’s sovereignty and security. In a statement on Thursday, Tencent said its apps complied with India’s data protection laws…

By Sankalp Phartiyal and Sudarshan Varadhan

NEW DELHI/CHENNAI, Sept 3 (Reuters) – For tens of millionsof Indian gamers, Tencent’s PlayerUnknown’sBattlegrounds (PUBG) videogame was a welcome distraction fromthe coronavirus pandemic.

Then the Indian government said it was pulling the plug.

“When everything was under lockdown, PUBG’s interactivefeatures gave me a semblance of real-world social interaction.It was a stress-buster for me,” said Mustafa Scentwala, 26, wholives in India’s financial hub, Mumbai, and played PUBG withnine friends for hours each day.

PUBG, part of the “battle royale” genre in which a group ofplayers fight one another until only a single combatant is leftalive, became a casualty of geopolitics on Wednesday when theIndian government said it was banning it, along with over ahundred other Chinese apps, as tensions with Beijingescalated.

India’s technology ministry said the apps were a threat toIndia’s sovereignty and security.

In a statement on Thursday, Tencent said its apps compliedwith India’s data protection laws and that it would engage withlocal authorities to clarify its policies.

The ban is the latest move against Chinese companies inIndia amid a months-long standoff over a disputed border but thetiming and the target were particularly tough for young people.They have been using the game to stay in touch with friendswhile schools and colleges are shut to stop the spread of thecoronavirus.

PUBG’s interactive features allow gamers to communicate withone another using text and voice, and users say these make it aunique mobile game in a country where millions of gamers cannotafford expensive gaming consoles and broadband connections.

“The only thing that couldn’t be locked down by corona wasPUBG,” said Veera Raghavan, a gamer hailing from the southerncity of Chennai.

Tencent had launched a lighter version of the game, whichconsumes less mobile data and runs smoothly on cheaper phones,in a bid to woo even more Indian players who would potentiallyspend on the app in the future.

Some PUBG players in India have spent thousands of rupees tobuy so-called Royal Passes, a way to earn quick rewards and haveaccess to special missions in the game. Some took to Twitter toappeal the ban making #PUBG a top trend across India this week.

India is PUBG’s biggest market by users, and according toanalytics firm SensorTower, accounts for 29% of the apps totaldownloads.

The ban is another blow for Tencent whose WeChat app wasalso outlawed by New Delhi in June, following a border skirmishthat left 20 Indian soldiers dead. Tencent’s other flagship game- Arena of Valor – is now also banned in India.

Still, SensorTower says PUBG’s revenue hit will be marginalas India only contributed about 2.5% of its lifetime revenue.(Reporting by Sankalp Phartiyal and Sudarshan Varadhan;Additional reporing by Pei Li in Hong Kong, and Sachin Ravikumarand Nivedita Bhattacharjee in Bengaluru;Editing by Euan Rocha and Carmel Crimmins)

ANA NEWS WIRE Disclaimer:
The African News Agency (ANA) is a news wire service and therefore subscribes to the highest standards of journalism as it relates to accuracy, fairness and impartiality.
ANA strives to provide accurate, well sourced and reliable information across Text, Images and Video. Where errors do appear, ANA will seek to correct these timeously and transparently.
The ANA platform also contains news and information from third party sources. ANA has sought to procure reliable content from trusted news sources but cannot be held responsible for the accuracy and opinions provided by such sources on the ANA platform or linked sites.
The content provided for on the ANA News Wire platform, both through the ANA news operation and via its third party sources, are for the sole use of authorised subscribers and partners. Unauthorised access to and usage of ANA content will be subject to legal steps. ANA reserves its rights in this regard.
ANA makes every effort to ensure that the website is up and running smoothly at all times, however ANA does not take responsibility for, and will not be held liable for times when the website is temporarily unavailable due to technical issues that are beyond our control.