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Need regulation not overnight ban: Industry reacts to Govt ban on BGMI

Following the ban on PUBG Mobile in India, the South Korean game developer Krafton returned to the Indian market a year later with a relaunch of the same title under the title Battlegrounds Mobile India or BGMI. Now, it appears that BGMI has also been banned by the Indian government.

On July 28, 2022, Google and Apple, both owned by Alphabet Inc., removed the Krafton game under Indian government’s orders. Till date, the Government of India has banned more than 270 Chinese apps, suspecting the stealing of Indian users’ data and hence, posing a threat to national security.

However, BGMI itself continues to be playable, this means that if you already have BGMI installed on a phone or tablet, it will continue to function without any issues for now. There would, however, be no official way to reinstall the game if you have uninstalled it. The same is true for other mobile devices, as even the game’s APK link on the official BGMI website has since been removed. Although a third-party website may have an APK file, this workaround is not recommended because third-party websites have the potential to tamper with APK files and include malware.

The development has come a month after a 16-year-old boy allegedly shot his mother because she stopped him from playing online games.

Adgully reached out to some industry experts to know their reaction to the ban on BGMI.

Shivam Rao, Co-Founder, Trinity Gaming India who are also marketing partners to BGMI said, "The ban of BGMI is very unfortunate for the gaming community. It will impact the livelihoods and income of gamers and the esports talent in the industry. Many skilled gamers have left their families, homes and traditional jobs to build and pursue their careers as professionals. Such a ban will make their future and careers uncertain. As the marketing partners for BGMI we were pleased to notice the positive outcome in the industry with the birth of BGMI last year. But now, with this ban the options for players and gamers reduce drastically. If the ban decision holds, we will probably see a decline in the number of gamers and its communities across India. Meanwhile, this decision has come when India is going to debut in the Commonwealth Games at Birmingham, UK. It will certainly impact discussions and participation of gamers and the overall Indian esports ecosystem. While we appreciate policy and regulation and accepts the govt’s decision, we hope that the sentiments of the youth, gamers and the esports industry overall is managed."

Lokesh Suji, Director, Esports Federation of India & Vice President of the Asian Esports Federation (AESF), remarked that it was too early to comment and preferred to wait for an official statement from the Government or the publisher to know more about this matter. He added, “India is paving its path to becoming a multi-sport nation where every sport is getting the right visibility, audience and investment to grow. We have to reflect the same in Esports where we need to start giving exposure to multi Esports titles and not limited to one. With so much attention on every front, including the government, It’s also high time our Indian Video game developers speed up the process to launch world-class esports video game titles.”

Vishwalok Nath, Director, Esports Premier League, too, mentioned that an official statement was yet to be received 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,” he added.

Rohit Jagasia, Founder & CEO, Revenant Esports, felt that the BGMI ban will definitely be a setback for all major stakeholders like Tournament Organizations, Esports Teams, Coaches, Support Staff and most importantly the Athletes. “However, at Revenant Esports, 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 still have rosters competing in Pokémon Unite which will be representing India at the World Championship in London, Call of Duty Mobile which will be playing the regional playoffs for the World Championship, Apex Legends that previously represented the SEA region in the ALGS Playoffs in Stockholm, Valorant that is currently playing a couple of regional tournaments. We have been the youngest team to represent our region over 3 times in 8 months. We have always believed in diversification and will continue to do so, we are optimistic of supporting our BGMI Athletes during these trying times,” Jagasia added.

Even as an official statement was awaited, Sagar Nair, Co-Founder & CEO, Qlan, The Gamer's Social Network, remarked that if this game removal stays for some time, then it will be damaging to the ever-growing Indian esports ecosystem. According to him, it’s not just about one game, but with the kind of popularity, player base and viewership BGMI has. “It is leading the biggest esports title in India,” he pointed out, and added, “Looking at it from a sports lens, although we are a multi-sport nation, cricket enjoys the biggest chunk of revenue and viewership source in our country. This potential stay will hamper the whole esports ecosystem – consumers, businesses, stakeholders, jobs and much more. There is a large investment riding on start-ups, tournaments and game streaming, it's a trickle effect waiting to happen.”

At the same time, Nair is optimistic as he stated, “All being said, the esports revolution in India is huge and the community is tightly bound. Indian esports will continue to grow and thrive.”

Rohit Agarwal, Founder & Director, Alpha Zegus, the next-gen marketing agency specialising in the domains of gaming & lifestyle, added here, “All we know is that such occurrences are becoming more common by the year, and are happening without any foresight. Not very long ago, we saw a wave of China-based apps getting banned overnight, and also saw the likes of Free Fire getting the red flag – all happening without any prior warnings. Also, with the recent incident of a boy killing his mother over a BGMI argument, the game had yet again come under the radar of the government and marked it as ‘unsafe for young adults’. Similar incidents of arguments and damages due to the game have arisen in the past.”

He further said, “The Government is yet to release an official statement in terms of the reasoning behind the ban (considering Krafton had taken almost all possible precautions to launch the game within set guidelines), but what we have realised by now is mobile games are becoming more unpredictable by the day. I hope a regulatory body comes into play which monitors the games over time, instead of banning them overnight.

Jay Sayta, Technology & Gaming Lawyer noted, "The govt has not clarified it's stand but such kind of knee jerk bans dampen investor sentiments & take India behind in its goal to become an esports hub."

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