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PUBG has been banned by India, but what made the game such a hit in the first place? And are there any real substitutes out there? We answer all the questions.

What is pubg?

PUBG (PlayerUnknown’s Battle Grounds) is a game in the battle royale genre — an online multiplayer game in which players look to eliminate all opponents while attempting to survive. In PUBG, up to 100 players compete simultaneously, either individually or in teams of up to four. They parachute onto an island, scavenge for weapons and look to eliminate other players while avoiding getting eliminated. The safe area of the map shrinks over time, forcing players into encounters. Eventually, the last player or team standing wins the game.

What makes it unique?

PUBG isn’t the first battle royale game. However, the popularity of its mobile version (PUBG mobile) got a tremendous boost because it entered the Indian market in 2018, at a time of dramatically falling mobile internet costs and widespread adoption of smartphones in the country. Without the advent of cheap internet in India, it is unlikely that the PUBG mobile app, with its large file size of 2GB, would have found many takers.

Why was it so heavy? To ensure it was one of the few mobile games that had quality graphics. It combined these graphics with reliable streaming and affordability — all a game needed was a decent smartphone, rather than a gaming PC, which would cost several times as much.

How popular was it?

PUBG was one of the most successful mobile games launched in India. Almost a quarter (175 million) of all PUBG mobile downloads (748 million) were from India. The popularity of the game could be gauged from the fact that several YouTube channels cropped up, specializing in only streaming PUBG mobile gameplay and content. Some of these streamers drew viewers in the millions. Naman “Soul Mortal” Mathur, who streamed PUBG games on his YouTube channel for instance, became the first Indian to be nominated at the Esport Awards in the Best Streamer category.

Was it solo or teams?

While players could play the solo version of PUBG, what was key to the game’s success was that a group of friends could play as a team. The fact that players were able to voice chat with each other while playing also change the profile of the game from a purely gaming one to a more socially interactive experience.

How big was it as a professional sport?

Owing to PUBG’s popularity in India, it was also the biggest sport from a professional gamer’s perspective. “I’d have to say PUBG tournaments comprised about 60 percent of high end professional esports tournaments in India. This doesn’t include the unsanctioned ones that people would organize on their own,” says Akshat Rathee, founder and Managing Director of Nodwin Gaming, the largest esports company in India. The strongest teams in India made hundreds of thousands of dollars in prize money even as international esport teams had also set up partnerships with Indian outfits. TSM Entity, a partnership between esport giants TSM and Indian team Entity Gaming, earned $182,067 in prize money while Orange Rock, which was acquired by multinational video game service company Pole, earned over $120,000.

Why was it banned?

PUBG was banned in the country after being classified as “prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India” by the country’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, in light of the recent conflict on the Indo-Chinese border. In the statement accompanying the ban, the Ministry said it had received many complaints about “misuse of some mobile apps available on Android and iOS platforms for stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in an unauthorised manner to servers which have locations outside India“. This is after PUBG Mobile issued a revised privacy policy in late July, stating that all collected data from India players would be stored on local servers within the country.

Are there any substitutes for it?

PUBG mobile’s success coincided with the rise of mobile-based battle royale games. The two games expected to fight to fill in the void left behind are Call of Duty Mobile and Garena Free Fire. Both games have points in their favour. Call of Duty Mobile has better quality graphics and the legacy elements of the Call of Duty PC and console versions. The graphics in Free Fire are considered more ‘cartoony’, but it has the advantage of being able to function on lower-end smartphones.

What is FAU-G, and what does Akshay Kumar have to do with this?

Within a couple of days of the PUBG ban, several Indian companies said they would launch Indian variants of the game. Fearless and United-Guards (FAU-G) is one such game announced via a tweet by Vishal Gondal, who is the Advisor/Investor at nCore games, a mobile games and interactive entertainment company based out of Bangalore. Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar also posted a poster of the game on his social media accounts. In an interview with Indian Express, Gondal said FAU-G is the brainchild of Kumar.

Gondal, who earlier founded the gaming website, said FAU-G would be launched in October although he did not specify the date.

At this point, it is unknown whether FAU-G will be a multiplayer battle royale style game like PUBG. Creating a game of that genre is a technically challenging task, requiring solutions to problems in hit detection, packet loss, people having different devices, internet lag etc. Tencent needed nearly two years to create PUBG’s mobile version, even though they had a PC game to work with. While Gondal says his team has been working on the FAU-G game since May, it would be a remarkable achievement if they manage to release a non-rebranded game reasonably comparable in quality to PUBG by October.

Courtesy of ESPN – Esports

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