Just like its console counterpart, PUBG Mobile has taken the world by storm in recent years. The competitive survival game is available for Android and iOS for free and clocked up an impressive 1 billion downloads in March 2021.
But it's not all been smooth sailing. PUBG Mobile was banned in India in 2020 and denounced as both a security threat and an unwanted distraction – a move that left plenty of gamers stunned and disappointed. Since then, a new version of PUBG has been released, specifically for India. But what were the initial security concerns, and is this new title as secure as it claims to be?
🔍 PUBG privacy explained
India's Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology banned PUBG Mobile in September 2020. It wasn't the only application to get the boot, however, as 117 other Chinese apps were also removed from stores and sites.
The Ministry claimed that the apps in question posed a threat to India's sovereignty and integrity, and were prejudicial.
"The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has received many complaints from various sources including several reports about misuse of some mobile apps available on Android and iOS platforms for stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users' data in an unauthorized manner to servers which have locations outside India."
As you can imagine, the decision sent shockwaves through the country. PUBG had been massively popular in India, so much so, in fact, that it accounted for 24% of all users – a total of 175 million downloads!
The 2020 ban wasn't the first time that PUBG Mobile had come under government scrutiny, though. Earlier in 2019, the game was banned in Gujarat state by its local government. PUBG Mobile was deemed to be a massive distraction to students preparing for exams, and entirely too addicting. As a result, students were actually arrested for playing the game!
But let's move into 2021, where PUBG Mobile is still banned despite the best efforts of the development team.
In an attempt to reverse the ban, the PUBG company had previously severed all ties with Tencent, and declared a $100 million investment into India's economy. The measures did not sway the Indian Ministry, however.
So, a new version of PUBG Mobile was announced... specifically for India!
The new title was announced in May 2021 as a separate game to PUBG Mobile, called Battlegrounds Mobile India, and the PUBG company and new developers, Krafton, made some tantalizing promises, too.
Perhaps the most important was that the new game would maximize data security and stick closely to local regulations. There would also be regular audits and verifications of the game's storage systems to ensure all player data is safe and sound.
Battlegrounds Mobile India would also implement new restrictions for players under the age of 18. Any players below the age threshold would need to seek parental consent before checking out the game – and this means providing a parent or guardian's phone number. In addition, underage players would be allowed up to three hours of game time per day, and no more, and be unable to make purchases via the app of over 7,000 Rs.
Buzz about Battlegrounds Mobile India percolated, and after a period of pre-registration and early access, the game was released for Android on July 2, 2021, with an iOS version set to follow soon.
📅What's next for Battlegrounds Mobile India?
It's probably safe to say that Battlegrounds Mobile India hasn't seen the last of its fair share of issues and hiccups – but the Krafton team is dynamic, and addresses issues as they rear their heads.
Take the news that broke in June 2021 as an example. IGN India discovered that data pertaining to the Android devices of Battlegrounds players was being sent to servers in China – some of which were owned by Tencent.
The report was corroborated by anonymous users, citing that user data reached Mobile Communications servers in Beijing, Tencent servers in Hong Kong, and even Microsoft Azure servers dotted across the US, as well as Mumbai and Moscow.
The Times of India stated:
"The one reason behind this could be because of PUBG Mobile account transfer feature that Krafton is allowing BGMI players to transfer their account and game data from PUBG Mobile to BGMI till December 2021".
Following this report, Krafton sprang into action and released an update to solve the issue of data being shared with servers in China. Krafton was also able to stop the game from pinging Chinese servers when players deleted the application data.
Despite this quick response, there were once again calls to ban Battlegrounds Mobile India completely. Politicians from the BJP and Congress parties were united in their request to have the game stricken from the Google Play Store... and it seems like Apple is keeping a close eye on proceedings, too. It has been reported that Apple is wary of adding the controversial title to its App Store.
But that doesn't mean that Battlegrounds Mobile India is doomed to fail. In fact, more than 20 million people pre-registered to play it before it even launched! And when the game did release, officially, it was an instant hit, with more than 10 million downloads via the Google Play Store in a matter of days.
Obviously, having access to the game is what matters most to players who were left feeling betrayed and disappointed following its initial ban in 2020. Battlegrounds Mobile India is hot from the oven right now, though apparently a faithful recreation of the original, and there's even more to look forward to if you're a PUBG fan, with an entirely new game set to release in Fall 2021. PUBG New State will be available for Android and iOS devices, with pre-registration taking place in August.
🔨What could be improved?
Honesty is the best policy...
Ultimately, the PUBG and Krafton teams need to maintain a clear line of transparent communication with fans.
If the fans begin to feel ignored, or as though their questions or concerns are going unanswered, you can bet that some of them will simply stop playing – Battlegrounds Mobile India has had enough of a twisting tale to make some people wary about sticking with it in the first place, anyway.
Account security 101
On a more personal level, I think Battlegrounds Mobile India could do a better job of informing its players of how to keep safe. A lot of PUBG fans are teens, after all, and the continued success and popularity of PUBG titles make it a prime target for bad actors and hackers.
Fortunately, securing your PUBG account – whether you're playing the original or Battlegrounds Mobile India – is deceptively simple!
- First things first, make sure you're not using the same password for all your logins. If you are, well, that's a hacker's dream! Consider checking out a password manager if you want some extra help storing and creating super-strong passwords.
- You'll also want to use two-factor authentication wherever it's available. When enabled, you'll need to input an extra bit of data before you can log in to your account – and it's usually a single-use code texted to you. It makes your accounts that much harder for hackers to crack, as they'll be denied access even if they somehow have your password and email info.
- As with any online multiplayer game, be wary of who you talk to and what you're telling them. Don't reveal personal information over voice or text chat, and if anyone asks you weirdly specific questions, ignore them. They could be attempting to figure out your password or the answers to your security questions.
- I also recommend keeping your login information to yourself, and not sharing it with family or friends. Obviously, we all like to think that these people would never do anything to upset us, but disaster can strike at any time... even by accident! I've heard countless stories over the years of parents deleting accounts because they thought it was a temporary thing, friends accidentally locking other friends out of their profiles, and even vindictive exes accessing accounts on their own devices to cause havoc, intentionally.
Use your tools
Similarly, Battlegrounds Mobile India players should know Krafton is receptive to suggestions and even encourages its fanbase to reach out with feedback! Not everyone will know this, of course, and depending on which page you land on in the Battlegrounds Mobile India FAQ, you might remain out of the loop...
But, if you have any concerns, questions, or comments about the game, you can send them off to the team in two ways.
- In-game, simply head into the settings menu and tap the "CS" button in the bottom-left corner.
- Via the web, visit pubgmobile.helpshift.com to deposit your feedback without logging in.
There's no singular way to format your suggestion, but the team recommends you include the version of your OS and device model, as well as your nickname.
It certainly hasn't all been smooth sailing for Battlegrounds Mobile India, and it looks like there'll be more storms and high seas to weather in the coming months – especially as tensions between India and China continue to simmer. Apple also seems reluctant to list the game on its store due to the controversy surrounding it, and so players would be forgiven for feeling wary about what comes next.
On the other hand, it's great to see the game's team openly address sensitive issues and patch them quickly. There is a lot to feel optimistic about, and I hope that Battlegrounds Mobile India continues to prioritize the privacy of its players rather than pushing its in-app purchases.