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Apps ban to cost Chinese firms $200 million a year - and a future; PUBG to lose $100 million

Nidhi Singal     September 3, 2020

With the raging concerns about data security and to safeguard the privacy of 130 crore Indians, the government of India has banned 224 Chinese apps including TikTok, PUBG Mobile, UC Browser, WeChat, and ShareIt, among others. The revenue generation of the banned apps from the Indian users is estimated at $200 million per year. For PUBG Mobile alone, the estimated revenue loss is estimated at $100 million a year.

"In an integrated manner, all the apps combined (the previous 59 apps followed by 47 more and 118 yesterday) are estimated to have been earning a direct revenue of over $200 million per year from India. While PUBG [Mobile] does not share any country-wise numbers, as per our estimate the revenue could be $80 million to $100 million a year from Indian gamers. This revenue could vary based on the number of active users," says Pavel Naiya, Senior Analyst, Counterpoint Research.

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As per industry sources, India's contribution to PUBG Mobile's revenue is less than 5 per cent. While India is not one of the biggest contributors in terms of revenue for PUBG Mobile, it has the highest number of users posing for a big opportunity loss. The primary source of revenue for PUBG Mobile in India has been in-app purchases. "However, brands have begun to spend a lot on the digital world in many different ways, sponsorship, etc and all of those current and future revenues would be lost. India definitely scored very high on downloads and engagement on most of the apps, contributing several million dollars each month," says Rajan Navani, Vice Chairman & Managing Director, JetSynthesys.

Gaming revenues in India are minuscule compared to the US, China, Japan or South Korea. India does not figure in the top 10, while Canada, Italy and Spain with 30-50 million users generate upwards of $2.6 billion. According to Newzoo's 2020 Global Games market report, of the total revenues of $147.5 billion in 2019, 73 per cent came from in-game purchases. Globally, in-app purchases account for nearly 80 per cent of revenues. However, India's gaming industry is around $930 million in revenue. And the in-app purchases are at less than 10 per cent. Of the 300 million online gamers in India, an estimated 85 per cent are mobile gamers.

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The gaming market in India today is largely dominated by western and Chinese developers.

"When we talk about digital goods, it is very easy for gaming companies which are settled abroad to add India to their market, there is not much additional infrastructure that they need to invest in. However, if the gaming industry in India were to be dominated by homegrown apps, you can imagine the kind of ecosystem and the employment opportunities that it could generate," says  Keerti Singh, VP-Growth & Co-founder of Hitwicket.

India is currently the number one country in terms of game downloads and a significant portion of this revenue is going outside the country. But how much of that is from Chinese games is yet to be ascertained.  "There are so many other games on the Real Money Gaming side which are from China and are dominating the Indian gaming industry. If at all there will be any vacuum created, we are sure that will be quickly filled up by our Indian game developers and entrepreneurs," adds Lokesh Suji, Director, Esports Federation of India.

There is an immense potential for homegrown apps. Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Aatmanirbhar App Innovation Challenge, along with the ban on the popular Chinese app has opened a world of opportunities for Indian app developers to not just think big but also go global.

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