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PUBG Mobile India RTI: IT Ministry ‘does not grant permission’ for apps, hasn’t approved PUBG

“MeitY does not grant permission for starting of any websites / mobile Apps / service. Accordingly, MeitY has not granted permission to PUBG / PUBG mobile India.”

That is the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology’s full response to MediaNama’s RTI application with multiple questions on whether PUBG Mobile India’s creators have asked for, and received, its blessing to operate. PUBG Mobile India’s Korean publishers have long sought to assure the government that control of the application is no longer in the Chinese company Tencent’s hands, and that a deal with Microsoft protects the government’s supposed concern for user data; to top it all off, Krafton Inc., which owns the PUBG IP, censored the game to remove gory visuals, another apparent concern the government seems to have had.

In spite of all this, the IT Ministry, which banned the Tencent version of the game, has signalled that it wouldn’t like PUBG Mobile India to operate. Of course, now that control of the game’s publishing has been handed over to Krafton, which announced a large investment of US$100 million among other sops to lure an approval out of the government. The company has long tried to get a nod from MEITY, which has refused to do so. We have reached out to Krafton/PUBG Corporation India for comment.

GEM Esports on Tuesday published a response to a different RTI application, in which MEITY simply stated that they have not approved PUBG Mobile. This story is based on a different application, whose text is below.

Our take

Video game of Theseus: If a game’s maps, servers, and publishers are changed, is it still the same game? Granted, the branding is the same, but the censored and Microsoft Azure-based PUBG Mobile India is a different app — the versions of PUBG on PC and gaming consoles have not been banned, and PUBG Mobile India is arguably closer to their territory legally than the erstwhile Tencent app. Recall that the version of PUBG Mobile that the Indian government banned was “PUBG MOBILE Nordic Map: Livik”, which is what Tencent called the game at that point. MEITY’s stance that it “does not approve” apps is misleading, considering that Krafton has openly said that it is engaging (“hopes to work hand-in-hand”) with the government on the app’s launch.

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It is doubtful that Google or Apple would, even if it is technically legal to do so, allow PUBG Mobile India on their app marketplaces without a MEITY nod. And considering how extra-legal this entire situation appears to be, this nod may actually be a literal nod from an official, serving as a promise that the new variant of the app will not be banned.

MediaNama’s PUBG RTI to MEITY

The Ministry sidestepped our questions, which were as follows:

  • Whether Krafton Inc. or PUBG Corporation has sought permission from MEITY for a re-launch of PUBG Mobile.
  • Whether either company sought permission for a launch of a modified version called PUBG Mobile India. If so, whether this request was granted.
  • List of conditions placed before Krafton/PUBG Corp. by MEITY in order to approve the aforementioned application.
  • Copy of physical correspondence Krafton/PUBG Corp. with regard to user safety and any other associated issues with PUBG Mobile India application.

We have appealed MEITY’s response and have sought to obtain correspondence from Krafton seeking approval for the launch.

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