Charted: India’s obsession with Chinese online game PUBG

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Image: Google Play Store.
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If there’s one winner in India’s booming online gaming scene, it’s PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG).

Nearly 62% of the 1,047 Indian respondents in a survey said they played PUBG, which is about three times the next most popular game, Free Fire.

The survey was conducted by free internet provider Jana on its mCent browser app exclusively for Quartz in the first week of December. Most of the respondents were males (92.1%) in the 16 to 24 age group (83.1%). In some cases, totals exceed 100% because respondents could select multiple options that apply.

Created by Chinese publisher Tencent Games, PUBG was first launched in December 2017 on gaming consoles and then in March 2018 on smartphones. In each round, PUBG parachutes 100 players on to a virtual island where teams of four fight each other to death till only one of them is left alive. The game has already been downloaded over 100 million times on Google Play Store.

Almost half of the respondents in the survey said they like PUBG because it is simply “better than other games.” Another reason why many Indians are playing the game is that “everyone’s talking about it.”

Game on

Versions of PUBG were initially only available on computers and consoles. In March, the game was launched globally on iOS and Android. Soon after its mobile launch, the app topped the charts on App Store and Google Play, beating old-time favourites such as Temple Run and Candy Crush Saga. And while these games are less than 100 MB in size, PUBG’s size is over 10 times larger.

“The launch of Jio services brought this revolutionary change and the makers of PUBG couldn’t have asked for a better time to launch in India than in 2018,” a recent blog post by Gurugram-based video analytics firm Vidooly stated.

The game is available for free only on smartphones, the device most Indians use to get on the game. Nearly 80% of data consumed in India is via mobile phones, and the number of smartphone users in the country is set to double in four years.

India’s gaming community is also robust: In 2016, it was 120 million strong; the market is estimated to be worth $1.1 billion by 2020.

But PUBG’s success lies in having crossed over to users beyond this community.

Those who play are hooked, spending over eight hours a week on the game, some of them even playing during school and office hours.

In fact, PUBG has crossed over to become almost a social communication channel.

Nearly 40% of PUBG players in India said they use its in-app communication tool to talk to other players about things that are not related to the game. The voice chat feature is the most-used.

Over a third of the respondents even make in-app purchases on the wildly popular game.

Indian gamers made in-app purchases worth $19.65 million in the year ending February 2017, and PUBG is currently the top-grossing game on Google Play Store, Quartz found. The game also holds the pole position in Apple’s top-grossing iPhone games chart.

For a country where internet users are extremely cash-conscious, most of the PUBG users making purchases—72%—spent up to Rs350 ($4.91).

Most of the money spent on PUBG is for buying players’ clothing and weapons.

However, despite the roaring success, some Indians haven’t taken to the game owing to its large size and hefty data requirements.

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