Battlegrounds Mobile India (BGMI), the rebranded version of PUBG Mobile from Korean game publisher Krafton, has been removed from both Apple and Google app stores in India following a government order, according to sources aware of the development.
A Krafton spokesperson said: “We are clarifying how BGMI was removed from Google Play Store and Apple’s App Store and will let you know once we get specific information”.
Google confirmed it has taken the game down from its Play Store in India after informing Krafton. “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,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement.
While the government is yet to officially comment on why it directed the game to be taken down, the development has come a month after a 16-year old boy allegedly shot his mother because she stopped him from playing “online games like PubG”. This issue was also raised in the ongoing session of Parliament, where the government had said that the Ministry of Home Affairs was examining some of the banned apps appearing with a new avatar but with the same functionality.
Last week, Rajya Sabha MP V Vijayasai Reddy had asked if the IT Ministry was taking action against apps like PUBG, adding that “some children have also committed crimes when they were restrained from playing the game”.
To this, Minister of State for Electronics & IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar had responded: “There are various reports and grievances received in Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), conveying that apps that were blocked are appearing with new avatar by using similar sounding names or rebranded with the same functionality. All such reports and grievances have been forwarded to Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), the requesting agency, for examination. MeitY follows the due process as defined in the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking for Access of Information by Public) Rules, 2009.
“There was a media report that a child has killed his mother based on PUBG that he has been playing. This is a matter of investigation by LEAs to find the reason. But, the PUBG gaming app was blocked by MeitY in the year 2020 and the PUBG game is not available in India since then,” Chandrasekhar added.
This is the second time the game has been delisted from app stores in India, with its predecessor PUBG, the popular battle royale game, being banned in the country prior to this.
Tencent Games, a Chinese internet company, was publishing PUBG Mobile in India when the game got banned in the country in 2020, along with 117 other applications believed to be made by companies originating in China, for allegedly being engaged in activities which were “prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order”.
Before the game’s relaunch in India in its rebranded form, the PUBG Corporation, a subsidiary of Krafton, in September 2020 had said it would not authorise the PUBG Mobile franchise to Tencent Games in India, and took over all publishing responsibilities in the country.
Before PUBG, the popular short video platform TikTok along with 58 other apps of Chinese origin were banned in India in June 2020 at the height of tensions brewing between India and China at the border.