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India’s ban on Chinese apps eases just a little as PUBG blasts back onto Google Play, maybe Korean Stock market too

PUBG, one of the highest-profile China-linked apps India banned in 2020, has been allowed back into Google’s Indian Play store despite India’s previous insistence its bans are permanent.

While PUBG is owned by a South Korean company called Krafton, in India the game was previously operated by Chinese web giant Tencent. Indian authorities worried that some user data ended up behind The Great Firewall and therefore within view of the Chinese government.

The massively popular massively multiplayer shooting game was therefore banned along with 117 other apps that India deemed “prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order.”

That was bad news for Krafton, as India is thought to be home to around 50 million PUBG players and therefore a decent source of cash.

In November 2020 Krafton announced all its games would henceforth use Microsoft’s Azure cloud infrastructure, and to further placate Indian authorities promised that if PUBG were allowed back into the country it would spend $100m to cultivate the local video game industry and employ 100 people in a local office. Krafton also pledged to dial down some of PUBG’s racy and gory aspects, to make the game more palatable to Indian social norms.

Those promises initially produced almost no response from Indian authorities. Krafton, meanwhile, made occasional announcements that advised the game would be back real soon now.

Soon turned out to be June 17th, when Krafton announced that PUBG – now re-named “Battlegrounds Mobile India”, has returned to Google Play in an early access program with limited access.

In-game characters now always wear shirts, and when characters bleed it’s in an otherworldly green hue instead of a realistic red.

Accompanying the new game is a Code of Conduct and Community Policy that bar discrimination, anti-social behaviour, and sharing illegal software. Players have also been told not to share spoilers about the game.

The game’s return to India came a day after Krafton filed for an initial public offering and set US$5bn uppermost limit of its fundraising expectations. The timing of the two events could be a coincidence but would-be investors would surely have been impressed that Krafton had found its way back into an enormous market. The Register is unaware of any other app that has beaten India’s bans. ®


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