PUBG Mobile to relaunch as Battlegrounds Mobile in India

Krafton, the South Korean developer of PUBG Mobile, said on Thursday that it is bringing back the popular gaming title to India under the brand name Battlegrounds Mobile India. The new title, which uses the color scheme of the Indian flag and is largely a replica of PUBG Mobile, will offer “a world class AAA multiplayer” and free-to-play gaming experience on mobile devices, it said.

The developer said it will open pre-registration for Battlegrounds Mobile India “soon” ahead of its launch in the country, but didn’t share a specific date. The rebranded PUBG Mobile has been exclusively developed for the world’s second-largest internet market, Krafton said.

“Krafton will collaborate with partners to build an esports ecosystem while bringing in-game content regularly, starting with a series of India specific in-game events at launch, to be announced later,” it said.

Thursday’s announcement comes months after India banned PUBG Mobile — alongside 200 other apps with links to China — citing national security concerns. In the months since, Krafton has taken several steps — including cutting ties with its publishing partner Tencent, inking a global cloud deal with Microsoft and pledging a $100 million investment in India’s mobile gaming ecosystem.

“With privacy and data security being a top priority, Krafton will be working with partners to ensure data protection and security at each stage. This will ensure privacy rights are respected, and all data collection and storage will be in full compliance with all applicable laws and regulations in India and for players here,” it said in a statement.

The firm didn’t say whether it had any conversation with New Delhi and if it had received the approval to launch the new title. Earlier this year, the Indian government said it was retaining its ban on Chinese apps. This isn’t the first time Krafton has teased PUBG Mobile’s return to India.

Prior to being banned in India, PUBG Mobile was the most popular mobile game in the country. The app had amassed over 50 million monthly active users in the country. PUBG Mobile still had over 19 million users in India last month, according to a popular mobile insight firm. (Many have been using VPN tools and other workarounds to bypass the geo-restriction.)

The game helped establish an entire ecosystem of esports organisations and even a cottage industry of streamers that made the most of its spectator-sport-friendly gameplay, Rishi Alwani, a long-time analyst of Indian gaming market and editor of IGN India, told TechCrunch in an earlier interview.

Krafton said Battlegrounds Mobile India will launch with a number of restrictions aimed at protecting the well-being of minors. Such users will have to provide the phone number of their parent or guardian to play the game, and the daily time and money spend will be limited to three hours and about $95, respectively.