On the evening of 28 July, Battlegrounds Mobile India (BGMI) suddenly went missing from Google’s India Play Store and Apple’s App Store. The disappearance quickly began trending on social media—after all, BGMI is one of the country’s most popular mobile games, with well over a hundred million registered users. 

About three weeks later, when we asked Naman “Mortal” Mathur about that evening, his eyes widened and his eyebrows furrowed upwards. Mathur is among the most popular BGMI athletes in the country, commanding over seven million YouTube subscribers. “Afraid,” he declared quickly. “I was, we were, all afraid.”

A pause. “It was a déjà vu,” the widely-admired player finished. He was referring to India’s 2020 ban ban Reuters India bans 59 mostly Chinese apps amid border crisis Read more  on Chinese apps that had also included PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG). The runaway battle royale hit, which had over 170 million installs in India, was a precursor to BGMI.  

Battle royale games usually have multiple players and pits competitors against each other in a last-man-standing fight. They’re also awfully popular in the country. 

Just ten days before the latest app store removal, a tournament called BGMI Masters Series became the first esports esports Esports Short for electronic sports, is a form of competition using video games  event to be broadcast on primetime television. With a prize pool of Rs. 1.5 crore (US$187,000), the tournament clocked over 1.2 million TV views, reportedly reportedly Afkgaming BGMI Masters Series 2022 Reportedly Breaks Viewership Record on Television Read more surpassing the India viewership of the UEFA Champions League finals and the French Open finale. It also garnered garnered ET BGMI Master Series 2022 records a viewership of 100 million on Loco Read more  over 100 million views for homegrown game streaming platform Loco.

The PUBG ban had also come right at the game’s peak, after deadly border clashes between Indian and Chinese soldiers. At the time, Chinese tech conglomerate Tencent was not only the franchisee owner of the game in India, but also the second-largest shareholder in the game’s publisher, South Korean gaming behemoth Krafton Inc.

By July 2021, Krafton had taken on taken on Business Standard After ban, PUBG ends ties with China's Tencent Games for India franchise Read more the responsibility of publishing the game in India by itself, employing employing IGN Battlegrounds Mobile India Update Fixes China Server Data Sharing Read more safeguards for Indian data collected from the game.