Korean game publisher Krafton’s Battlegrounds Mobile India (BGMI), an online game that crossed 100 million registered users in July 2022, was removed from Apple App store and Google Play Store on Thursday. The rebranded version of PUBG Mobile came into limelight last month after a 16-year-old boy in Lucknow allegedly shot his mother for stopping him from playing the game. Shortly after the incident, the issue was raised in the parliament. Rajya Sabha MP V Vijayasai Reddy had asked if the IT Ministry was taking action against apps like PUBG. referring to the Lucknow incident, he had said “some children have also committed crimes when they were restrained from playing the game”.
Last week, the Minister of State for Electronics & IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar said that his ministry had received complaints that blocked apps such as PUBG were reappearing in new avatar. “All such reports and grievances have been forwarded to Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), the requesting agency, for examination. MeitY follows the due process as defined in the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking for Access of Information by Public) Rules, 2009,” he had said.
In the last year, Krafton invested nearly $100 million to improve India’s local video game, e-sports, and entertainment startups. The e-sports industry calls the removal of BGMI a setback. “We are yet to receive an official statement from the Government on the reason behind the removal of the game from the Play Store and App Store. This is between the publisher and the government and we hope this issue will be resolved soon. For ESPL, it's a wait-and-watch time to take further decisions,” Vishwalok Nath, Director, Esports Premier League said.
According to Rohit Jagasia, founder & CEO, Revenant Esports, one of the largest e-sports companies in India, the ban will definitely be a blow for all major stakeholders, including tournament organizers, e-sports teams, coaches, support staff, and most importantly the players. “We will still be supporting our BGMI Athletes and make sure they use our training facility to create content and try their hand at different games. With that being said, the entire industry will take a hit but Revenant was built during the first stint of the ban and we have always believed in diversification. We are optimistic of supporting our BGMI Athletes during these trying times,” he said.
Players too confess it is a setback for the nascent e-sports industry in India. “If the removal of BGMI stays, it will be damaging to the Indian esports ecosystem. It's not just about one game. The kind of popularity, player base and viewership BGMI has; it is leading the biggest esports title in India,” Sagar Nair, Co-Founder & CEO, Qlan, The Gamer's Social Network said.
This is the second time that the game has been delisted from app stores in India. Chinese internet company Tencent Games-owned PUBG Mobile was banned in 2020, along with 117 other applications for allegedly being engaged in activities “prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order”.
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