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Explained: What is Garena Free Fire, the game that got banned in India?

Among the 54 apps banned by the government on Monday was Garena Free Fire. What is this popular gaming app?

Garena Free Fire- Illuminate, a game, which had gained popularity among children, teenagers and youth in India after the ban on PUBG, has also been banned. (Image credit: screenshot from Garena website)

The Ministry of Home Affairs Monday banned 54 more Chinese apps, including popular battle royale title Garena Free Fire. The game saw some of the highest numbers in downloads last year, with a 72 percent increase in installs compared to 2020 – a while after PUBG Mobile got banned.

Interestingly enough, the developer, Garena Sea is a Singapore-based company, but has been clubbed alongside other Chinese applications.

What is Free Fire?

Free Fire is essentially a free-to-play battle royale game in the vein of Krafton’s PUBG series, though with a smaller number of players. In this game, 50 survivors are deployed onto an island to search for weapons and supplies, as they fight amongst each other to remain the last man standing.

Similar to PUBG, as time passes, the available safe play area keeps decreasing, enclosing the remaining survivors in a tight circle – thereby raising stakes. For easy traversal, one could drive around in abandoned vehicles and look for legendary loot and supplies that are airdropped twice or thrice throughout the 10-minute session. As tempting as these crates might look, they are also an open invitation for nearby players to camp and hunt you down, since your location is exposed by the coloured smoke emanating from them.

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This was a cause for controversy last month, when PUBG developer Krafton filed two lawsuits against Garena, accusing the company of copying numerous mechanics, including the copyrighted “air drop” feature.

Players have also noted the blatant similarities between the two games, except for the way the characters are dressed. PUBG and BGMI (Battlegrounds Mobile India) take a more realistic approach, adding military equipment and clothing to the game. Garena Free Fire, however, adorns its characters in bright colours, with quirky voice lines and art style reminiscent of Fortnite.

Interestingly, Krafton also had a legal dispute with Epic Games, when they called out Fortnite for copying their battle royale format and mechanics. The case was eventually dropped, though there was no word on any settlement between the two parties.

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It should be noted that the idea of ‘battle royale’ originally came from a Japanese novel of the same name by author Koushun Takami in 1999.

How does Free Fire make money?

Generally speaking, free mobile games or apps put advertisements in them, which upon clicking or viewing adds to the total ad revenue for the company. However, online multiplayer games like Free Fire and PUBG are against this system, and prefer monetising their product through in-game cosmetics and a battle pass system.

A battle pass essentially functions like a calendar, offering new skins and bonus items to players in exchange for earned XP. Free Fire adds daily and weekly challenges, which upon completion grants experience points that can be used to unlock exclusive rewards. Dubbed ‘Elite Pass,’ players can purchase it using 400 diamonds (in-game currency) via the in-game store.

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For reference, spending Rs 89 gives you 100 diamonds, while the Rs 250 package comes with 310 diamonds. So, in order to purchase a battle pass, one will have to spend Rs 339, earning them 410 diamonds – the remainder of which can be used to buy cheaper items or saved for later.

What is Free Fire Max?

Yes, there are two versions to this – both of them being free to download. Free Fire Max is not on the list of banned games so it is available to download right now. Free Fire essentially boils down to what you would consider a ‘Lite’ version of the game, taking up lesser resources while sacrificing visual fidelity. On Android, the minimum requirement for running Free Fire is 1GB of RAM, which is easily present on most modern phones.

Free Fire Max, on the other hand, requires a minimum of 4GB for what is considered a “decent performance”, adding enhanced graphical details, improved player and weapon animations, and better draw distances that help you see farther enemies clearly while sniping.

The core gameplay remains the same, with both titles receiving the same updates and seasonal events to partake in. For those switching over to a better phone and wanting to try out the Max version, Garena has added Firelink integration that lets you seamlessly log in to your existing account and carry over progress.

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First published on: 14-02-2022 at 03:15:18 pm
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