BGMI ban leaves tournaments & sponsors in a free fall
The gaming application was removed from Google Play Store and Apple App Store on July 28
The silence around the status of Battlegrounds Mobile India (BGMI) is growing deafening. The government is still to issue an official statement on the ban, leaving esports brands, professional players, tournaments, and their advertisers and sponsors in a state of flux.
The ban has affected the schedule of the Season 2 of BGMI tournament being organised by franchise-based esports league Esports Premier League (ESPL). The event carries a massive prize pool of Rs 1 crore. After a month-long contest of skills, the top 16 teams were franchised and set to fight in a grand LAN finale from August 1 to 5, which has now been postponed indefinitely.
The 'temporary' ban was placed by the government in the exercise of its powers under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, 2000. The Battlegrounds Mobile India (BGMI) gaming application was removed from Google Play Store and Apple App Store on July 28, with no official statement from authorities since then. According to sources, the entities concerned will evaluate/ pursue the matter in accordance with the directions issued by the government.
Rohit Agarwal, Founder and Director, Alpha Zegus, a gaming and lifestyle marketing agency, points out that BGMI is definitely one of the biggest games in India - attracting huge viewership, big prize pools, grand events, and a lot of media attention.
Nodwin Gaming recently concluded the first mainstream TV broadcast of its BGMI Master Tournament on the Star Sports Network. The tournament’s opening week garnered 12.3 million views through the first eight days on TV. Its online impressions clocked an average of 53.9 million viewers combined for digital platform Loco and mobile lock screen platform Glance Live.
“Tournament organizers (TOs) had planned tournaments for the next one year. In fact, there are about three tournaments that are just around the corner, and all bookings have already been made and heavy investments have gone in. Such uncertainty just puts things at a standstill, and the impact of such decisions coming in overnight messes up with the timelines and demotivates the industry in general,” says Agarwal.
He further added that BGMI tournaments actually had an international opportunity for players (the winner of such tournaments got an opportunity to represent India in Riyadh). “When such sudden bans come into play, not only do we close our windows to participate on an international stage, but also international brands and teams investing in India become uncertain about the future here, which negatively impacts the whole ecosystem.”
Shivam Rao, Co-Founder, Trinity Gaming India, adds, “Professional teams have sponsorships and targets to achieve which will become difficult given the ban on the game. Brand collaborations will face a serious downfall in their viewership, thereby affecting channel statistics which will push content creators further down, leading to a loss of opportunities and marketing collaborations for them.”
Rao says that this means companies working in the digital influencer management space will face deal crashes due to non-fulfillment of deliverables. “In a nutshell, if this ban decision holds, it will affect the revenue streams of the players, companies as well as industry stakeholders. The gaming industry is now looking at coping and adopting with different means to sustain. Some organizers have already begun with game shifts in order to keep the businesses and operations going.”
Rohit N Jagasia, Founder and CEO of Revenant Esports, observes that with BGMI in the gaming ecosystem, esports in general in India was on the cusp of blowing up. “We saw non-endemic brands like Hyundai, Swiggy enter the space and realise how lucrative Esports was for marketing to GenZ. With the ban, it will slow down the growth, viewership will take a toll and sponsorships for esports teams will slow down. Moreover, BGMI generates a lot of jobs, which means athletes, coaches, support staff etc will be the most affected in the ecosystem,” he says.
Agarwal recalls that in 2020 when the PUBG ban happened, most pro players and teams were sitting for a period of 6-8 months, doing absolutely nothing, meaning a big standstill for them professionally and financially.
“Their sponsorships would also hit a pause since they don't have any platform left to endorse the brands. Similarly, for content creators, their content viewership definitely gets affected (as the audience might not resonate with them when they play a different game), which in turn leads to brands lowering their budgets,” he says.
BGMI has over 100 million registered users in India. Following the original PUBG ban, Krafton, the South Korea-based developer of the game, has pumped in close to $100 million (approx INR 790 crore) in the Indian esports industry with massive investments in Nodwin, Loco, Nautilus Mobile and others.
Jay Sayta, a technology and gaming lawyer, noted that, “Such bans on a company that is investing hundreds of millions of dollars in the Indian startup ecosystem dampen investor sentiments & take India behind in its goal to make the Indian esports team a world champion.”
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