The Indian government's recent banning of 54 additional Chinese apps is unlikely to have a big impact on the industry or users like it did when 200-odd apps were banned in mid-2020. This is because of the relatively-low installed base of the apps the government has got rid of this time around, according to industry experts.
As an example, Apps like Beauty Camera: Sweet Selfie, Equalizer: Bass Booster and Volume EQ, and Virtualizer, among others have less than a million downloads in India with some of these apps being downloads in just thousands. In comparison, TikTok had over 100 million users in India, while PubG had over 50 million when they were banned in July and September 2020, respectively.
According to Faisal Kawoosa, founder of market research firm techARC, most of the apps in the current list are utility apps, and did not have the same impact on users as apps like TikTok or Bigo Live did. Further, the overall usage of these apps would likely be even lower, since the monthly or daily active user base of an app is usually significantly lower than their download count. “Most of the apps that have been banned are not significant and do not have a large installed base in India. Very few might be using them,” Kawoosa said.
Others in the list are even lesser-known apps like App Lock, Omyoji Chess, Omyoji Arena, MP3 Cutter: Ringtone Maker & Audio Cutter, EVE Echoes, and Astracraft.
That said, one big name on the list this time, however, is Garena FreeFire--a battle royale game that is similar to Battlegrounds Mobile India from South Korean developer Krafton Inc. Sensor Tower’s tracker showed the company had amassed over 15 million downloads from India till date, and had global revenues of $28 million last month.
The game is run by Singapore-headquartered Sea Ltd., but Chinese Tencent owns about 18% stake in the company, and is among its biggest investors.
While FreeFire’s exact user base in India is not known, the game is known to be popular among mobile gamers with many tournaments being run around it. The company also partnered with Olympic gold medalist Neeraj Chopra last month for a promotional campaign.
“Free Fire has a pretty big audience that grew significantly during the PUBG Ban, and I think the creators and athletes are eager to know if it will come back. But once a gamer always a gamer, I'm sure they'll find another game and the community will get scattered as it had the last time a big game was banned,” said Rushindra Sinha, chief executive officer of Global eSports, a professional gaming organisation.
He added that while the ban will be a hurdle for the FreeFire community, it won’t necessarily be a hurdle for the gaming or esports industry in India as it “never relies on one or two games or publishers”. According to the head of a gaming industry body, who requested anonymity, companies that had planned tournaments will likely shift to an alternative, like Krafton’s Battlegrounds Mobile.