Barely a week after PlayerUnknown’s BattleGrounds (PUBG), an online multiplayer gaming application (app) developed and published by PUBG Corporation, a subsidiary of South Korean video game company Bluehole, used to be banned by the Union Ministry of Information and Technology, the firm has pulled its India franchise from Chinese conglomerate Tencent.
“In light of recent developments, PUBG Corporation has made the decision to no longer authorise the PUBG Mobile franchise to Tencent Games in India. Moving forward, PUBG Corporation will take on all publishing responsibilities inside the country,” PUBG said in a observation.
HT on September 2 had reported that PUBG, at the side of 118 mobile apps that have links with China, used to be banned because there were reports that these apps were “stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in an unauthorised manner”.
The government said these apps promoted activities “prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order”.
“This move will safeguard the interests of crores of Indian mobile and internet users. This decision is a targeted move to verify safety, security and sovereignty of Indian cyberspace,” the ministry of electronics and information technology (Meity) had said. The used to be viewed as targeting some of China’s technology giants such as Tencent Holdings Ltd; the country’s search engine leader Baidu Inc; Xiaomi’s ShareSave; and online payments giant Ant Group Co’’s platform Alipay.
PUBG used to be banned in the third round of blocks done by the government in the wake of the increased tensions between India and China along the disputed Line of Actual Keep watch over (LAC).
Union Minister for communications, electronics and information technology Ravi Shankar Prasad had called the decision a “digital strike on China”.
“This can be a commerce call,” said an official, who did not need to be named.
Alternatively, the official added that there used to be no question of revoking the ban until the government used to be content that each one its concerns have been addressed.
“The reasons and grounds on which the ban has been imposed go beyond ownership,” said the official. “Unless those concerns are addressed, there is not any reason to revoke the ban. The larger issues are data privacy and security and the information that the apps are collecting from users. We have sent 70-odd questions to the blocked apps and asked them to review and respond.”
The government is already going through the answers to the questions given by the 59 apps banned earlier and the 47 reflect apps banned in the second one round. It’s going to also be analysing the response of 119 apps banned in the third round.
All applicants may also be provided a chance to make their case in front of a panel, which is yet to start hearing their representations.
PUBG’s observation said that the “corporation fully understands and respects the measures taken by the government as the privacy and security of player data is a top precedence for the company”.
“It hopes to work hand-in-hand with the Indian government to find a solution that will allow gamers to once again drop into the battlegrounds while being fully compliant with Indian laws and regulations,” said the observation. “As the company explores ways to supply its own PUBG experience for India in the close future, it is dedicated to doing so by sustaining a localised and healthy game play surroundings for its fans.”
India accounts for over a quarter of PUBG Mobile’s lifetime installs though revenues from the country are still minuscule, a Bloomberg outline said citing data from research firm Sensor Tower.
PUBG had seen its user numbers sky rocket in India following the coronavirus disease (Covid-19)-induced lockdown restrictions.
The banned versions of PUBG included PUBG Mobile Lite, a leaner version of the app suited to inexpensive smartphones, in addition to PUBG Mobile Nordic Map: Livik, a newer game played on a Nordic terrain.
Raman Jit Singh Chima, a lawyer and the policy director at Asia-Pacific at Access Now, believes that the government is citing law and order and data protection as grounds for an economic decision.
“Normally, countries prosecute a firm civilly or use crook law whether it violates data protection standards, and not block their products and services,” said Chima.
“PUBG’s actions seem to represent that they’re hopeful that the government may reinstate the app. Whether we look at the US (US), they’re lucid approximately the truth that their move against Tencent is an economic one and aims to confine its activities. The United States has not banned PUBG,” he added.
Chima said it sounds as if to be a political move and the government will have to also provide an explanation for why it has used these provisions. “The order will have to be made public, as will have to the reports that led to the action. There could also be other apps in India doing the same object but the government won’t take action against them. That shows that this can be a response to counter Chinese interests and not to give protection to the privacy of citizens or for national security,” he added.