Singapore-based gaming company Garena is set to re-enter the Indian gaming market with its popular mobile title, Free Fire, after an 18-month hiatus caused by national security concerns that led to its ban. The revamped Free Fire is scheduled to launch in India on September 5.
The relaunch will feature several strategic moves, including partnerships and a commitment to local player safety.
Garena, owned by Sea, is collaborating with Yotta, a company controlled by local giant Hiranandani, to ensure secure storage of Indian users’ data through cloud solutions, reported TechCrunch.
“We look forward to providing an engaging and highly localised experience for Indian users,” said Gang Ye, co-founder of Garena. “We believe our partnership with Yotta will ensure that our users can enjoy the highest quality gameplay experience and benefit from Yotta’s expertise in protecting and securing Indian user data.”
To resonate more deeply with Indian audiences, the gaming giant has also entailed legendary Indian cricket icon Mahendra Singh Dhoni as its brand ambassador. There will also be a playable character named ‘Thala’ in the game, modelled after the popular name given to Dhoni by his Tamilian fans.
Addressing the challenges that led to its suspension, Garena has localised Free Fire specifically for the Indian market. The game will incorporate region-specific “unique content” and promote a responsible gaming environment, encouraging players to take breaks at regular intervals to ensure a healthy and enjoyable gameplay experience.
Before its suspension, Free Fire boasted a significant user base of around 40 million monthly active users in India. It had emerged as a strong competitor to other popular titles like Krafton’s PUBG and BGMI. The sudden ban last year resulted in a $16 billion dip in Sea’s market capitalisation.
Garena’s decision mirrors Krafton’s approach in bringing back BGMI on a trial basis following its suspension. However, industry experts suggest Garena should further align its strategy with Krafton by investing in local firms to establish a more prominent presence in India.
Industry analysts also suggest Garena hire an established CEO to lead its Indian operations and enhance its regional identity. The launch of Free Fire, coupled with these strategic partnerships, signals a strong Indian gaming market that can boost the country’s economy, provided the government and industry promote local companies to counter the giants. Currently, gaming industry experts and investors have urged the government to reconsider the country’s 28% GST on online games.