Can Battlegrounds Mobile India offer a sustainable revenue model to stakeholders?
To regain a foothold in the mobile gaming industry, KRAFTON announced its title exclusive in India Battlegrounds Mobile India earlier this year.
The publisher suffered heavy losses after the government banned PUBG Mobile along with several Chinese apps after escalating political tensions with the country. In less than a year after the ban, KRAFTON managed to bring out a new mobile eSports title.
However, tournament organizers, team owners, and players were all affected by the absence of the game. It remains to be seen whether BGMI’s arrival can restore KRAFTON’s presence in the Indian mobile esports industry.
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AFK Gaming reached out to various stakeholders in the Indian esports ecosystem on behalf of Esports Insider to discuss the ban on PUBG Mobile, the introduction of BGMI and whether the new KRAFTON title could provide reliable revenue generation.
Ban on PUBG Mobile in India
On September 2, 2020, the Indian government announced that it would ban 118 apps and games, including PUBG Mobile and PUBG Mobile Lite. The games were classified as “detrimental to the sovereignty and integrity of India”.
All PUBG Mobile services and access to the game itself were cut off in October 2020, putting the game’s community and Indian esports stakeholders in a state of panic.
The Indian mobile eSports ecosystem was built around PUBG Mobile and had a significant share of the total prize pool awarded in India. The country’s exclusion from the PUBG Mobile Pro League (PMPL) meant the event was a The number of viewers slumped by 85 percent. The second season of PMPL South Asia had a peak compared to just 42,146 viewers 285,499 in the preseason. This was mainly a direct result of Indian teams being denied entry to the competition.
How KRAFTON established itself in India
In November 2020, PUBG Mobile announced a $ 100 million investment, and the company announced it would hire more than 100 people to strengthen its presence in India.
This led to the establishment of PUBG Mobile India Ltd. KRAFTON has also appointed Aneesh Aravind as Country Manager for India. Other major new hires were made in February 2021, including former CEO of YOOZOO Games, Anuj Tandon, who has been hired as the new head of PUBG Corp for India, the Middle East and North Africa.
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The ongoing absence of the game in the Indian esports ecosystem has led teams like Fnatic to publish rosters and rethink business strategies. PUBG Mobile has been instrumental in growing the Indian esports ecosystem. Despite the ban on the game in India, the country’s viewership still accounted for 29.2 percent of the hours watched on PUBG Mobile in 2020, according to Esports Charts.
May 2021, more than 8 months after the game was banned, KRAFTON officially announced Battlegrounds Mobile India. The game is an India exclusive that the studio has been working on since the PUBG Mobile ban.
Can BGMI offer a sustainable platform for mobile esports?
Shiva Nandy, that Skyesports CEO, a tournament organizer in the South Asian region, announced that PUBG Mobile had fewer viewers due to the ban. However, VALORANT and other esports titles helped prevent a drop in sales.
The tournament organizer trusts BGMI and has already set up an eSports calendar until March 2022. Skyesports intends to host additional regional and mass tournaments and currently offers a prize pool of INR 2,500,000 (£ 24,000) for the BGMI event in Skyesports Championship 3.0.
Nandy commented: “It’s hard to predict the long-term numbers for the game. That’s why we’re also focusing on other gaming titles. This diversification of our title portfolio also helps the entire eSports ecosystem to grow and not just one game. “
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Ishaan Arya is the Co-Founder and Head of Business Development at The Esports Club, another tournament organizer in the South Asian region. Arya believes that it is very important for KRAFTON to play an active role in India.
He revealed: “It is reassuring to see how KRAFTON is taking this up and how they want to approach the ecosystem in a more controlled manner without hindering investments and activities of third parties. “
In addition, Arya is confident about the future of BGMI in India. “I think there is little doubt that BGMI will really revitalize the eSports ecosystem in the region. We already got a glimpse of this as content creators have grown exponentially since launch.
“With KRAFTON’s long-term vision backed by third-party TOs, sponsors, and community-driven initiatives like scrims, I believe BGMI definitely has the potential to create a huge and thriving esports ecosystem that has room for everyone is.”
Kuldeep Lather, founder of Villager Esports, an India-based esports talent management firm and tournament organizer spoke about how the organization quickly moved from mobile esports to PC esports following the ban on PUBG Mobile. Lather described the ban as a hidden blessing. He got the chance to catch up on the business side of esports and announced that his organization had managed to do more business than PUBG Mobile’s entire 2020 esports calendar during the ban.
Foam said: “We are developing exciting and unique seasonal leagues for BGMI that we will unveil in the coming months.”
However, he was quick to point out the excessive salaries of BGMI players and how this affects the running costs of esports organizations. He claimed that in some cases the salary of a single BGMI player was comparable to that of two full rosters for other mobile esports titles in the region.
Lather added, “Third party vendors are about to break even or are profitable, but the Indian esports industry needs heavy investments to strengthen the ecosystem and as a key stakeholder, my goal is to invest more to give everyone more opportunities to open .”
During PUBG Mobile’s exit in India, other titles came to the fore, with the 2021 Garena Free Fire World Series breaking all previous viewer records and overflowing its Hindi stream 50 m views. The local Indian language contributed 22.5 percent of the event’s audience.
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Nevertheless, KRAFTON would like to consolidate BGMI’s presence as esport from the start with the announcement of the Battlegrounds Mobile India Series (BGIS) in 2021. The event will have a prize pool of INR 10 million (£ 96,870). The publisher is also open to third party tournaments and has one portal for tournament organizers to register unofficial events for approval.
BGMI’s return suggests strong growth in the Indian esports ecosystem, and it is very likely that the huge audience it has will help fuel the mobile esports scene. However, the absence of the game laid the foundation for the thriving of titles such as Free Fire, Call of Duty: Mobile, and VALORANT. BGIS will be the perfect litmus test of the title, and time will tell if BGMI can reclaim its throne as the go-to gaming title in South Asia.
This story was made in collaboration with. written AFK Gaming. It is an India-based esports media and content company dedicated to providing high quality and consistent coverage of teams, players, tournaments and competitive video games with a focus on the Asian region.
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