Many Indian gamers won fame and fortune by streaming their PUBG play, winning tournaments, promoting brands and charging membership for their channels. While that has come to a grinding halt, all is not lost — there’s plenty out there for the players to stay in the moolah
Entertainment, career, income source — that’s what PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, popularly known as PUBG, meant for Indians who love online gaming.
The video game, which played a big part in the boom in the Indian gaming industry, was banned by the Central government on September 2 along with 118 other Chinese mobile applications.
Shikhar Agarwal, a chartered accountant, who on an average spent six hours a day playing PUBG, said the ban will impact the entertainment aspect, especially now, as more people were playing the game because of the coronavirus-induced lockdown.
Game of choice during the lockdown
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According to data by SEMRush, a firm that offers solutions for SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), content, social media and competitive research, PUBG was the most played game in India during the lockdown, with around 22 lakh people playing it in May, followed by Minecraft, which was played by 8.2 lakh players in India.
Agarwal, who closely follows top PUBG gamers, also pointed out that Mortal aka Naman Mathur, one of the most popular PUBG Mobile streamers, saw a significant increase in his subscriber base during the lockdown.
“Before the lockdown he had around 3-4 million subscribers and during the lockdown his subscriber base increased to over six million,” said Agarwal.
Streaming involves gamers playing live for their online audience. The games are streamed on YouTube, Twitch (a live-streaming platform for gamers) or Facebook.
Agarwal said top PUBG gamers earn anywhere between $10,000 (Rs 7.3 lakh) to $20,000 per month (Rs 14.6 lakh).
Mortal, for example, earned an estimated $9,000 (Rs 6.5 lakh) a month and his annual earnings are estimated to be $113,000 (Rs 82 lakh).
Another PUBG gamer, Dharmesh Bhalala, explained how gamers and streamers earned money through PUBG. “One way is through the Super Chat feature on YouTube, which lets viewers connect with streamers by paying money to the streamer. Some pay Rs 40 and some even pay Rs 10,000,” he said.
He added: “So, what happens is that viewers message streamers and the latter mention their names during the live-streaming of a game. Viewers can also pin their comments on a streamer’s YouTube channel by paying some charges. To keep their comments pinned longer, viewers have to pay higher amounts.”
PUBG players who stream their games, said Bhalala, also connect with their viewers on social media and invite viewers to play the game with them. “Viewers can enjoy these benefits when they purchase membership in a PUBG gamer’s channel.”
For example, Soul Regaltos aka Parv Singh, a PUBG Mobile player, offers different membership plans. Under his Rega Ka Bhai plan, which allows members to connect with the gamer on Instagram, members have to shell out Rs 3,999 per month; membership of Regaltos Fam, which allows users access to a talk show by the gamer (who uses Discord, a chat and video app ) costs Rs 799 per month; members of Unbelievable Fam get the highest priority and shell out as much as Rs 7,999 per month.
Multiple revenue streams
Then there is ad revenue from video-sharing sites, which varies from platform to platform.
Khalid Azeez, another player, said gamers heavily rely on brand associations. “Brands like Asus, Logitech, HP have been sponsoring PUBG games and gamers,” he said.
But with PUBG gone, the concern many have is over the impact on gamers.
Bhalala, however, believes pro-players will not be impacted too much when it comes to revenue from streaming or brand associations.
“The big gamers can earn just as much by shifting to other games as viewers are hungry for gaming content and there aren’t many options.”
But, he added, the major impact will be seen in money coming in from PUBG tournaments. “PUBG held more competitions in India compared to other games in the same space.”
And the prize money was lucrative as well. For example, the PUBG Mobile India Tour, 2019, had a prize pool of Rs 1.5 crore. Another tournament held last year, called PMCO Fall Spilt, had a prize pool of Rs 50 lakh.
Data from Esports Observer, an esports news portal, show that PUBG Mobile tournaments accounted for 40 percent of India’s esports prize money last year.
No PUBG. No problem
Now, with the ban, the focus will shift from PUBG to other esports games. But what are the best alternatives for those who played PUBG?
Aziz said there are better games than PUBG available. For instance, gamers can go back to Dota 2, which, he said, is a more intelligent game.
Bhalala believes more gamers will shift to Free Fire or Call of Duty, but noted that PUBG had better graphics than these games.As for Agarwal, he has already downloaded Call of Duty.