July 15, 2024
Anyone seen Garena's Free Fire in India?

Sea’s Garena has yet to launch its popular mobile title Free Fire in India, more than six months after announcing plans to do so, a prolonged delay that has raised concerns among entrepreneurs and investors who are closely watching Sea’s expansion strategy in the lucrative South Asian market.

Garena, the gaming unit of Sea, announced plans to launch Free Fire in India in August last year, marking a return more than a year and a half after the title was banned in India. The firm — which has partnered with Yotta, controlled by local giant Hiranandani, for cloud and other storage needs of local users’ data in the country — said it will release the title in India on September 5.

But more than six months later, the firm that appointed Indian cricket icon Mahendra Singh Dhoni as its brand ambassador in the country has yet to launch the game.

Yanjun Wang, group chief corporate officer at Sea, said during the earnings call this week that the Singapore-headquartered giant was “still making changes” to the game to factor in “users’ preference locally” and has “no material development” to share.

Free Fire, once a beloved game in India with more than 40 million users, has left its devoted fanbase frustrated by Garena’s lack of transparency regarding the relaunch, leading many gamers to abandon the title in favor of Krafton’s BGMI.

Sea declined to comment.

India banned Free Fire and dozens of other Chinese apps in 2022. Days later, Sea said it was shutting down Shopee’s operations in India, months into testing the social commerce service in the country.

The testing of Shopee in India had prompted criticism from local retailers in the country. The Confederation of All India Traders, an influential lobby group for scores of offline retailers in India, had reached out to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, cautioning him that the arrival of yet another foreign player engaging in what it alleged were “unfair trade practices” will hurt the local ecosystem.

India had also banned Krafton’s PUBG in the country, but last year permitted the firm to launch a similar battle royale title. Krafton’s title has once again become the most popular game in India.

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