India blocks Krafton’s game on concerns over data sharing with China

NEW DELHI/SEOUL (REUTERS) – India’s government blocked a popular battle-royale format game from Krafton Inc, a South Korean company backed by China’s Tencent , as it was concerned about its data sharing and mining in China, an Indian government source said.

New Delhi used powers it has under India’s IT law to block Battlegrounds Mobile India (BGMI), relying on a provision it has invoked since 2020 to ban several other Chinese apps on national security concerns, said the government official and another source with direct knowledge.

The Indian government has not publicly announced the blocking.

But the app was removed from Alphabet Inc’s Google Play Store and Apple Inc’s App Store as of Thursday evening (July 28) in India.

The removal of BGMI, which had more than 100 million users in India, comes after the South Asian country’s 2020 ban of another Krafton title, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG).

The PUBG crackdown was part of New Delhi’s ban of more than 100 mobile apps of Chinese origins, following a months-long border standoff between the nuclear-armed rivals.

The ban has expanded since to cover more than 300 apps, including popular gaming app ‘Free Fire’, owned by Singapore’s technology group Sea Ltd.

Tencent held a 13.5 per cent stake in Krafton as of end-March through an investment vehicle, according to Krafton’s regulatory filing.

Krafton shares slumped more than 9 per cent on the news on Friday, later paring losses to close down 4.5 per cent in Seoul.

The company said in May that India accounted for a high single digit percentage of its revenue in the first quarter of this year.

Tencent Holdings shares fell 4.9 per cent to their lowest since March 15.

A Google spokesperson said it blocked the game following a government directive, while India’s IT ministry and Apple did not respond to requests for comment.

The sources declined to be named as such orders are confidential.

The Chinese embassy in New Delhi did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In Seoul, a Krafton spokesperson said the developer was talking to relevant authorities and companies to figure out the exact situation regarding the suspension in the two major app stores in India.

Krafton’s India CEO Sean Hyunil Sohn told news portal TechCrunch earlier this week that the Indian government had previously noted that PUBG and BGMI are different games, adding that “BGMI complies with all guidelines” in India.