Free Fire returning to India is a major development for esports organizations, content creators, and influencer agencies, in the region as content and competition related to the game is likely only challenged by its main competitor, Krafton’s PUBG Mobile, or Battlegrounds Mobile India.
As was the case when BGMI made its triumphant return earlier this year, we can expect to see the major tournament operators in India—namely NODWIN Gaming and Skyesports—already thinking about events and competitions that focus on Garena’s popular mobile game.
Stakeholders we spoke to on Thursday in the region tell The Esports Advocate that Free Fire attracts as much interest from fans as BMGI, and as esports is–at the end of the day—viewership-based, and the game—despite being banned—still has phenomenal reach from a viewing audience perspective; there’s data available on that viewership from content creators and studios focusing on the game such as Mayhem Studios, Indus from Roby, Mumbai Gullies, and Mayanagri, among others.
So just how popular is Free Fire? Well, Free Fire MAX (Free Fire Max and Free Fire are generally the exact same game, but MAX is meant for devices that can handle the processing power needed for improved graphics) has a global installed base of 100M – 500M, according to SensorTower data, and is most popular in Indonesia, India, and Brazil. It is also currently listed as the #1 game on Sensor Tower’s “free downloads” action game category (Battlegrounds Mobile India is currently listed at #5) for Android devices in India—but BGMI holds the #1 spot on iOS devices in the country, as of this writing.
So what do the top tournament organizers in the region think? NODWIN Gaming Co-Founder and Managing Director Akshat Rathee is excited about the return of Free Fire in India and hopes to work closely with publisher Garena again to flesh out some future events:
“NODWIN would love to help the Garena team in continuing to organize FF tournaments. We were doing so before the ban and we will continue to support after the game’s return.”
TEA also reached out to Shiva Nandy, founder and CEO of Skyesports, who offered a lengthy comment on Free Fire’s return:
First, Free Fire’s return to India is a groundbreaking thing for Indian esports. I appreciate Garena for the efforts they have put in to bring the game back into the country. For the Indian esports industry, the game unlocks another potential opportunity for investment. I don’t think that the game’s return means a decrease in competitions for other games. Free Fire has had a separate community before the ban given its more accessible specifications.
In terms of our plans, it’s too early to make a comment towards the kind of investment we can make towards the game because it has just been announced. It also doesn’t just depend on our plans but is also subject to the publisher’s approval in line with their overall roadmap for the game.
What I can say is that we are fans of the game and have organized tournaments for Free Fire with our original IPs in the past. Going forward, we’d love to continue doing that and work closely with the publisher to develop a roadmap for the Free Fire community. I believe that despite the long ban period, there is still a loyal fan base towards Free Fire. I also expect to see many new players coming in as well, given Free Fire’s association with stars like MS Dhoni.