Singaporean game maker Garena has announced that it is relaunching its flagship title Garena Free Fire in India, almost eighteen months after it was banned in the countryin February 2022. The game will make its return to India on September 5 with the new title Free Fire India.
The title was among 54 apps with links to China removed from India’s market, citing national security concerns. This removal had a significant impact on Garena parent company Sea’s revenue, with the company’s market cap declining by $16 billion in 2022.
Prior to its ban, Garena Free Fire was a massive success in India, being India’s third most downloaded mobile title of 2021, with estimates placing it as the country’s top earning game.
In order to return the game to Indian markets, Garena has partnered with Yotta, a subsidiary of Indian giant Hiranandani, for cloud and storage needs, helping to assuage concerns regarding the use of user data. The company has also appointed Indian cricketer Mahendra Singh Dhoni as brand ambassador.
Garena has also stated that it is localising the game for the Indian market, incorporating content which it hopes will “encourage a safe, healthy, and fun gameplay experience.”
“We look forward to providing an engaging and highly localised experience for Indian users,” said Garena co-founder Gang Ye. “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.”
A troubled history
India is one of the world’s biggest mobile gaming markets, and arguably the only true competitor to China’s dominance on the platform. The two neighbours have a long history of tension, which has led to several major Chinese releases being removed from the market, only to make a return with some adjustments. Among the other titles is PUBG Mobile, which was removed from sale in India and reinstated as BGMI India - a title which was itself banned prior to its relaunch earlier this year.
“Garena’s launch of Free Fire India and commitment to localising and developing the esports ecosystem locally is testament to the vibrancy of the mobile games and esports space in India, and to India’s potential for global leadership in this area,” said high commissioner of Singapore to India H.E. Simon Wong. “I look forward to greater partnerships in the digital media, entertainment and esports fields between India and Singapore.”