China's regulatory roadblocks stop most downloaded game PUBG Mobile from making money

Despite 100 million downloads and 50 million active users, there are no IAPs

China's regulatory roadblocks stop most downloaded game PUBG Mobile from making money

Tencent's two PUBG mobile games Full Ahead and Exciting Battlefield were the two most downloaded mobile games on China's App Store in the first half of 2018, but a suspension on new game licenses is preventing then from monetising.

The mobile games have been downloaded more than 100 million times and have over 50 million active users.

But according to Niko Partners analyst Daniel Ahmad, due to a current suspension of new game licence approvals from new regulatory body SART (the State Administration of Radio and Television), Tencent has had difficulty receiving the greenlight to implement in-app purchases.

What’s more, as the PUBG IP originates from PUBG Corp and Bluehole, both South Korean companies, China’s current ban on game imports from the country is also proving a stumbling block.

China hasn’t approved new game licenses since March 28th 2018.

End in sight?

It’s been speculated it could take as long as another six months for the country’s regulatory body to begin handing out licenses again, though these suggestions have been quashed by some analysts.

While Tencent still has five of China’s top grossing App Store games, including the hit MOBA Honor of Kings, the company could effectively be missing out on tens of millions to hundreds of millions of dollars due to the block.

Tencent's PUBG mobile games in China are the most downloaded, but they don't appear in the top grossing charts

The company’s valuation recently plummeted by $20 billion following news that China was set to implement new regulations - which include gameplay restrictions and potentially a limit on the number of releases in the country.

While PUBG's mobile variants are unable to monetise in China, NetEase's battle royale titles as Knives Out have been able to step in and make some serious money. According to App Annie data, in recent weeks the title has been a top 10 to top 40 grosser in the country.

There's better news for PUBG Mobile elsewhere in the world, however. The game has racked up 20 million daily active users globally - not including Japan, South Korea and China.

More than 130 million players from 200 countries were said to have bagged a chicken dinner from nearly 865 million matches. Importantly, outside of China the game is also able to monetise.

Senior Editor

Craig Chapple is Senior Editor of and He was previously Deputy Editor at Develop and Online Editor at Nintendo of Europe.