Google has removed popular battle royale game Battlegrounds Mobile India, better known as BGMI, from its Play Store in India following a government order, a year after developer Krafton launched the app following a ban on its other similar title PUBG in the South Asian market. The BGMI game was also removed from Apple’s app store in the country.
The Android manufacturer confirmed the development shortly after the story was published. “Upon receipt of the order, following the established procedure, we have notified the affected developer and blocked access to the app, which remains available on the Play Store in India,” a Google spokesperson told TechCrunch.
The app was pulled from the Play Store by Google Thursday night, and Krafton itself pulled the app from the Apple App Store shortly after, a person with direct knowledge of the matter told TechCrunch. The iPhone maker did not respond to a request for comment.
A Krafton spokesman confirmed the delisting and said the company was seeking clarification. Shares of Krafton plummeted over 9% on Friday before partially recovering.
The development follows growing tension between India and China, two nuclear-armed neighbors that have been particularly at odds since deadly skirmishes along the Himalayan border in 2020. India has since responded to the move by banning over 300 China-linked apps, including PUBG and TikTok, both of which counted India as their largest overseas market by user.
Of the hundreds of apps New Delhi has banned in the country, Krafton’s PUBG was the only title to come back – albeit with a completely revamped avatar.
Krafton said it had severed ties with its publishing partner Tencent, also a key investor in the firm, and pledged to invest $100 million in India’s gaming ecosystem. Krafton — which has backed a number of Indian startups over the past year and a half, including Nodwin Gaming, Loco, Pratilipi and Kuku FM — told TechCrunch earlier this week that it estimates its investment in India will reach about $140 million by next month will reach .
The South Korean-headquartered company announced earlier this week that over 100 million users have signed up for the game in India over the last year since launch. According to Sensor Tower, Battlegrounds Mobile India had amassed over 16.5 million monthly active users in the country.
It was unclear why the Indian government ordered Battlegrounds Mobile India to be blocked. New Delhi has cited national security concerns in banning other apps. (Reuters reported on Friday that India has banned BGMI under Section 69A of the local IT law.)
Last month, a local media report – the authenticity of which has been questioned by many – claimed that a child killed his mother while under the influence of the game. The report gained widespread popularity on social media and reached the nation’s Parliament this month. India’s junior IT minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar said last week law enforcement agencies are investigating the issue.
Indian authorities have raided the local offices of Chinese phone makers Xiaomi, Vivo and Oppo over the past few months and have filed tax fraud charges against them. China’s embassy in India earlier this month criticized Indian authorities for “frequent investigations” into phone makers’ local units, warning that such moves are “hindering the improvement of phone providers.” [the] Business Environment” in India and “suppresses the confidence and willingness” of companies of other foreign nations to invest and operate in the South Asian nation.
Krafton has repeatedly stated that BGMI and PUBG are different games and said the company has safeguards in place – like enforcing a time limit on usage of its games, login authentication – to combat any misuse of its titles.
“The game is extremely popular and these problems come with territory. We don’t know the details of the fraud and how it was committed, but these are extreme cases. We are constantly working to provide users with a safe gaming experience,” Krafton India CEO Sean Hyunil Sohn told TechCrunch earlier this week.
He added: “The government doesn’t intervene as to which apps can work and which can’t. They intervene in digital security and privacy concerns, and BGMI adheres to all policies. MeitY (Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology) also noted that PUBG and BGMI are different games,” he added.
Hyunil Sohn said the company is poised to invest another $100 million or more into the Indian gaming ecosystem this year.