The government of India blocked access to Battlegrounds Mobile India (BGMI), a popular battle-royale format game from South Korean game development firm Krafton, as it was concerned about its data sharing and mining in China, an Indian government source told Reuters on Friday. The block comes nearly two years after PUBG Mobile was banned in the country. Section 69A of India’s IT Act allows the government to block public access to content in the interest of national security, among other reasons. Orders issued under the section are generally confidential in nature.
New Delhi used powers it has under India’s IT law to block Battlegrounds Mobile India, a game from South Korean company Krafton, which is backed by China’s Tencent, relying on a provision it has invoked since 2020 to ban several other Chinese apps on national security concerns, the government official and another source with direct knowledge told Reuters.
Section 69A of the IT Act allows the government to block public access to content in the interest of national security, among other reasons. Orders issued under the section are generally confidential in nature.
The Indian government has not publicly announced the blocking. But the app was removed from Alphabet’s Google Play store and Apple’s App Store as of Thursday evening in India.
Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM) and non-profit Prahar had repeatedly asked the government to investigate “China influence” of BGMI, Prahar president Abhay Mishra told Reuters. SJM is the economic wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
“In the so-called new avatar, the BGMI was no different from erstwhile PUBG with Tencent still controlling it in the background,” Mishra added.
The ban elicited strong online reactions from popular gamers in India on Twitter and YouTube.
“I hope our government understands that thousands of esports athletes and content creators and their life is dependent on BGMI,” tweeted Abhijeet Andhare, a Twitter user with more than 92,000 followers.
“We are clarifying how BGMI was removed from Google Play store and the App store and will let you know once we get specific informationm,” Krafton told Gadgets 360 earlier today.
A Google spokesperson has confirmed that the Battlegrounds Mobile India removal was a result of a government order. “On receipt of the order, following established process, we have notified the affected developer and have blocked access to the app that remained available on the Play Store in India,” the spokesperson told Gadgets 360. Details of the order are awaited.
Here’s how the Indian esports industry responded to the blocking of BGMI from Apple and Google’s app stores.
“We are yet to receive an official statement 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,” said Vishwalok Nath, Director of Esports Premier League.
“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,” said Rohit Jagasia, founder and CEO, Revenant Esports.
“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,” said Rohit Agarwal, founder and Director of marketing firm Alpha Zegus.
[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,” Agarwal added.