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PUBG is renaming itself (again) in a bid to get past its ban in India

PUBG Mobile’s developer is trying hard to tap back into the Indian user base they lost to Indo–Chinese border skirmishes last year. After initially renaming the hit game to PUBG Mobile India, and promising a relaunch that never materialised, Krafton, the South Korean company that owns the PUBG brand, has now renamed the game as “Battlegrounds Mobile India”.

PUBG stands for “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds” in the first place, so all this rebranding practically does is distance the game from the version that was banned by the government last year.

“The game will be available to play only in India,” Krafton, which owns the IP for PUBG, said in a press release. PUBG Mobile’s publishing used to be done by China-based Tencent in India, which is probably why the game was banned, while its PC and console versions, published by Krafton itself, were spared.

PUBG of Theseus

Can PUBG really come back? To answer that question, it may be useful to study the Ship of Theseus problem: if a ship’s planks are replaced one by one, until none of the original planks remain, is it still the same ship?

In the case of PUBG Mobile and Krafton: if a game’s publisher, name, and content are changed (let’s not forget that during the first attempted rebranding of the game, Krafton committed to censor content classified as ‘gore’), is it the same game?

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That is a philosophical question that Google and Apple, which are behind the iOS’s App Store and Play Store, have to contend with, along with the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology. While the ban was done for geopolitical reasons, it may be awkward for the government to revoke it when it cited national security reasons for issuing the ban.

Of course, Krafton has gracefully provided to the government a plausible cover for the reinstatement of their game: “With privacy and data security being a top priority, KRAFTON will be working with partners, to ensure data protection and security, at each stage,” the South Korean company promised; Krafton has signed a deal with Microsoft to this end.

All that remains is to see is what the government’s stance on identity is, especially considering that a large number of Tencent employees have reportedly moved to Krafton India according to IGN, meaning many of the proverbial planks are still in the game, no matter what it is named.

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I cover the digital content ecosystem and telecom for MediaNama.

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.

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