Garena enters into the Indian gaming market with localized titles post Free Fire ban

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After the ban on its popular game Free Fire in India, game studio Garena has ventured into developing localized games with Indian themes. This move comes more than two years after the Indian government imposed the ban over national security concerns, dropping the Singapore-based gaming company into a complex geopolitical struggle.

As reported by TechCrunch, Garena, a division of Sea, has launched its first title, Versus, on early access via Google Play. The game is a 1v1 fighting game with Hindu mythology themes, marking Garena’s steps into the Indian gaming market under the guise of AstroTech Studio. Harold Teo, a director at Garena and the global producer of Free Fire, leads AstroTech Studio.

Despite no explicit confirmation of Garena’s involvement, regulatory filings reveal Teo’s pivotal role within AstroTech Studio. The development team, stationed in Pune, has been crafting Versus for over two years, with individuals from India’s gaming and esports communities granted early access.

Furthermore, Garena’s Pune team is actively working on other projects tailored to Indian preferences. Among these is a cricket-based game, capitalizing on India’s love for the sport, alongside a rendition of the classic board game Ludo, developed by a team based in Mumbai.

Garena’s studio highlights the challenges faced by companies navigating India’s strict bans, which can stay indefinitely. However, it also shows the resilience of global entities like Garena, who are determined to explore alternative routes into the market.

Despite the ban, Free Fire had a user base in India, estimated at around 40 million monthly active users before its prohibition. Sea’s previous attempts to relaunch the game in India last September were useless, but recent developments suggest ongoing efforts to cater to local preferences.

Yanjun Wang, Sea’s group chief corporate officer, hinted at adapting Free Fire to suit Indian users’ preferences during a recent earnings call. Sources close to the matter suggest that the necessary modifications have largely been incorporated, signaling a potential for Garena in the Indian gaming landscape.

Garena’s venture into localized game development highlights a broader trend within the gaming industry, where adapting to regional preferences could serve as a strategy for re-entry into restricted markets.