PUBG Mobile: A new Boon or a Bane for India?

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With now over 100 million downloads and 35 million-plus active users in India, PUBG Mobile is classified as one of the two unicorn mobile games in India.

AppAnnie also classifies it as the only "heavy hitter" gaming app in India

It's been two years now since PUBG Mobile gained traction in India after its first soft launch. In the span of these two years, both the game and the vibrant community of both casual and professional gamers have evolved. However, the question arises: Is it a boon or a bane?

Video game culture has always been frowned upon in our country until recently. The last decade has proved that resistant communities can also embrace new cultures. The slowly increasing Indian gaming communities finally gained recognition in our society. Great CEOs like Mukesh Ambani and Varun Mayya have also given positive opinions on gaming and soon plan to combine esports with education. Diving deeper, we can't help but notice that among these, the Indian Mobile gaming community has risen to popularity. The low-cost investment, portability, and widely accessible array of mobile games have brought about this growth. PUBG Mobile is one such game that stands as a major contributor.

Top 10 countries with the highest PUBG Mobile users as of Dec 2019
Top 10 countries with the highest PUBG Mobile users as of Dec 2019

What good has it done?

  • Being a highly successful and profitable mobile gaming application on the market, it has proven to create high amounts of revenue in the Indian market. According to the Times of India, PUBGM is the highest-earning game in the world. An estimate of Rs. 600 crore is generated from just the Indian market annually. This is a win-win for both directly the game platform as well as indirectly the Indian economy. Here is WeMedia's take on how it can revitalize the staggering Indian economy.
  • The growing PUBG Mobile demand has caused tremendous growth in professional gamers and streamers. Professional gamers such as Mortal and Dynamo have brought a lot of opportunities in the Indian market by affiliating with many events. Even streamers like Carry Minati have also started to enter the PUBG Mobile scene. This has benefited India in many ways ranging from Promotional content for Bollywood movies to huge donations to the Indian government and relief funds.
  • It had widened the scope of integrating esports with education and career. As both casual and professional mobile gamers have come into the light, many such tournaments were formed and held. PUBG Mobile had officially hosted PUBG Mobile Indian Series, which will also take place in 2020. Apart from this many other huge tournaments have also taken place. The wholesome take on this is that, not only do gamers earn cash prizes and further their chances of making a career in esports, it also creates career options and opportunities for casters, commentators, hosts, and many other professions. This creates a wide array of job opportunities.

There is something bad in everything good

  • As fun and beneficial as gaming might seem, if done in excess just like any other thing, it may turn out to be harmful as well. India Times wrote an article on how several times, PUBG Players have caused harm to themselves and to others. Ranging from taking their own lives while being denied access to the game to even being distracted in real-life situations and writing wrong answers in examinations; here are '11 Times PUBG Players Behaved Crazily And Caused Tragic Deaths & Accidents In India'.
  • Apart from these basic cons of playing this game, due to its high popularity and quickly gained recognition among rural areas, many Indian players are resorting to violence in order to play. Since this is at times co-related to violence in gaming, not only does this put the Indian gaming community in a bad position but it also puts the government in a position to banning such highly addictive games. Here is Business Insider India on how the Indian government tried to ban the mobile application but failed.
  • A majority of Indians ranging from parents to students to teachers do not understand how to keep gaming in a limit. Due to this inability, most players spiral out of control thus gaining an affinity to playing games for hours. In the case of PUBG mobile, despite keeping a 6-hour a day limit, most Indians are rampantly playing for hours together without breaks. This leads to addictions and mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and trauma. Not taking corrective and preventive measures can also lead to permanent physical and mental disabilities. Here are some statistical graphs for better understanding.
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Number of hours Indian PUBG Mobile players spend weekly (Picture courtesy: Quartz India)
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When are Indian PUBG Mobile players online? (Picture courtesy: Quartz India)

Effects on the gaming community and outlook on careers opportunities.

PUBG Mobile started off as just a gaming application for both casual and professional gamers. Soon it widely gained recognition and transitioned into a competetive esport and cultural phenomenon throughout India.

PUBG Mobile already made a huge global impact by becoming a sensational Battle Royale game among all ages, genders, and communities. Its impact on India hasn't been any less. The growing Indian Mobile gaming community has embraced this game and decided to integrate it into their culture. With restaurants, cafes, events, locally held competitions, and even video and streaming platforms such as YouTube and Twitch, PUBG Mobile is predominant everywhere. The gaming application has redefined the Indian gaming ecosystem and revolutionized the meaning of Indian mobile esports - a term that was pretty much nonexistent until now. This not only empowers Indian gamers in the community but also allowed more people to embrace this new gamer lifestyle.

It definitely positively impacted our gaming communities. Yet, there will always be individuals or groups and communities that will question its purpose. "Do gamers have a productive life?", "Can one build a career based in gaming?", and "Do gamers earn enough?" are some of the frequently raised doubts by people.

As far as professional gamers are concerned, their main sources of income are from streaming, competitions, event management, promotions, and sponsors. Even though a majority of gamers play to fuel their burning passion and desire for games and esports, they still do need sources of income to lead a sustainable lifestyle. This may be possible in countries like the USA and China, but India is still working on making this environment a more feasible career option for Indian gamers.

Recently upcoming PUBG Mobile gamers have started establishing their presence as a 'professional gamer'. Studying their experiences, it is safe to say that they have taken up gaming as their primary profession or career option. It has finally turned into a reality, but it will still take India a few more years to accept this reality and embrace it. Gamers like Mortal, Kronten, Dynamo, and Carry Minati have redefined what it is like to consider a career option in gaming. Apart from gamers and streamers, PUBG Mobile related events and esports competitions have created a wide array of job opportunities for other professions too.

The list is huge, but here are some of the top professional jobs one can find in esports:

  • Professional gamer
  • Event host
  • Shoutcasters aka casters
  • Game coaches
  • Any sort of analyst
  • Team manager/owner
  • Content creators
  • Moderators and Referees
  • Marketing/PR executives
  • Community/Social Media Managers
  • Agents and scouts

The future: What happens next?

Recently the Indian Government decided to ban around 50+ Chinese applications in India, including widely used ones such as CamScanner, TikTok, and UC browser. Among these, a Tencent based gaming application - Mobile Legends: Bang Bang was also banned. Ever since this happened PUBG Mobile has been put under the spotlight. Even though it was previously difficult to ban this application, will the government overcome this hurdle? Only time can tell. Until then, PUBG Mobile will continue to release updates and new features. Gamers will continue playing and streaming while tournaments will be hosted.

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The esports market is an evergreen and evergrowing market. Sponsors will invest money in tournament prizes and teams. A lot of effort will be taken into growing Indian based esport teams. Soon PUBG Mobile will become an integral part of this. In the upcoming years, it is very likely that we will be able to see Indian based tournaments and teams taking part in International Esport gaming.

Final Verdict: Boon or Bane?

It is a very well known fact that anything that is misused, abused, or even done in excess is potentially harmful to an individual or a group of individuals. Then again, does this mean that the negative effects caused by neglect can dictate whether a particular application is good or bad for society? I think not. After giving an equal balance to weigh out the pros and cons of this gaming application, it is safe to conclude that if monitored safely and used under control then the pros definitely outweigh the cons.

Not only has the gaming application revolutionized the mobile gaming community and esports domain in India, but it has also generated a huge amount of career opportunities and has contributed to the Indian market as well. We can definitely arrive at a final verdict that, PUBG Mobile has served as a boon to the Indian gaming community and Indian esports.