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Krafton Dreams of Ascending the World Stage

Walk into the topmost floor of Krafton’s HQ — spread across eight floors of a 35-storey glass-and-steel building in Seoul’s posh and trendy Gangnam neighbourhood — and you’ll be greeted by a giant curved screen. On a breezy, overcast November morning, it’s playing a loop of Krafton’s latest collaborations, including a tie-up with K-pop girl group Blackpink for an in-game concert. But it’s what lies behind that screen that defines the South Korean video game giant.

A row of awards and trophies is dominated by seven Guinness World Record plaques. They are all for the battle royale title PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds — colloquially known as PUBG — Krafton’s most famous game to date. Following its massive success on PC, Krafton designed a free-to-play mobile offshoot, PUBG Mobile, in partnership with Chinese tech behemoth Tencent. It was by far the most popular mobile game in India, until its highly controversial ban in 2020. At the time of its ouster, India was PUBG Mobile’s biggest market, accounting for slightly less than a quarter of its global total downloads.

The PUBG and BGMI era

Citing national security concerns and privacy issues as the reason for the ban, the Indian government included PUBG Mobile in a list of apps 118 long, alongside suspect business card readers, flashlight apps, music and video players, apps for news, dating, photography, search, and a bunch of other games. But many, including CNN, CNBC, and Financial Times, noted that it came in the wake of Chinese incursions on the Ladakh border region.

India said that the apps were “engaged in activities which [are] prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defense of India, security of state and public order.” China said India had “abused the concept of national security and adopted discriminatory restrictive measures against Chinese companies,” according to CNN. FT labelled it “tough economic action targeting the country’s companies” — in PUBG Mobile’s case, against Tencent. But as Inc42 pointed out, a South Korean firm had been “caught in the crossfire.”

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