How Regional Content and Celebrity Culture Took PUBG MOBILE to New Heights

There has been an endless conversation about PUBG MOBILE’s success in India. Led by content creators and YouTubers, the game’s popularity has grown rapidly, but a large chunk of the credit also goes to its acceptance in mainstream media. Throughout its meteoric rise as one of the most played games in India, PUBG MOBILE has been able to grab mainstream media headlines, column inches and airwaves, all of which have largely helped build the narrative and shape the success of the title. 

From the Indian national cricket team’s obsession with the game to even the Prime Minister mentioning it in one of his talks, the game’s mainstream success has had a significant helping hand from the likes of movie stars, influencers, and celebrities from various fields. To top off all of this, PUBG MOBILE India has consistently and deliberately made an effort to market the title through engaging content; be it through player stories and documentaries, or even webisodes and a mini-series. 

In December 2019, PUBG MOBILE started airing a web series on its YouTube channel for India called ‘Dosti Ka Naya Maidan’ (translation: A New Field for Friendship), or DKNM. The five-episode series had PUBG MOBILE as a central theme which showed how the game connected people from different aspects of life. Each episode was a new story with relatable arches, such as a streamer convincing his parents that livestreaming is a career option. Another episode depicted roommates bonding over a game of PUBG MOBILE. Popular players and streamers were brought in for cameo appearances, thus catering to both hardcore and casual fans of the game. The series was well-received by the community and gathered over 22.6M views over five episodes. 

Earlier in 2019, a documentary featuring three prominent players was also aired as a build up to the PUBG MOBILE Club Open South Asia Qualifiers (PMCO). It featured Naman “MortaL” Mathur, Tanmay “Sc0utOP” Singh, and Gopal “Carry” Sarda, three players from three different Indian teams, and focused on their journeys, struggles, and newfound success and glories. The documentary showed a side of the players which most people had never seen before, and has been watched nearly 1M times on YouTube.

Brands have started to cash in on the PUBG MOBILE phenomenon as well by using it as a tool to reach a younger audience. Actors have collaborated with influencers and streamers prior to movie releases to help promote their films. The list includes popular names in the Indian film industry (or Bollywood) such as John Abraham, Manoj Bajpayee, Arshad Warsi, and Vicky Kaushal. Indian rapper, Badshah also released a song with PUBG MOBILE as a central theme and went on to perform at the PMCO Fall 2019 Global Finals in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. 

But perhaps the most notorious story of PUBG MOBILE in India comes via Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself. Now serving his second term as the leader of the world’s largest democracy, he famously mentioned the game in a live panel, when a concerned parent asked him how she should tackle the problem of her child from gaming too much. The video clip went viral and it became a key indicator that the terms video games and PUBG MOBILE had become synonymous in the subcontinent. 

The game’s success and popularity meant that mainstream publications were talking about it more, and although not always positively, it has helped it stay in the news. Another famous incident that captured everyone’s attention was when it was revealed that the players in the Indian cricket team were playing the game in their spare time,  which helped it add a lot of weight to the title and its mainstream appeal. Then captain of the squad, Mahendra Singh Dhoni has also been vocal about his love for the game and has tweeted about it, and been spotted multiple times at airports and hotels, relaxing over a game. 

It’s evident that Tencent has big plans for both India and PUBG MOBILE, and it has been very fascinating to see how it has gone about it. Tencent’s focus on popularizing the game through very unique channels and regional content seems to have worked for now. 2020 is expected to be a big year for the title and its esport ecosystem, but with other titles constantly threatening to take over and be the next big thing, PUBG MOBILE must constantly innovate – not just as a game but as a brand if it wants to survive in the long run.

Shounak Sengupta is a staff writer for AFK Gaming.

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