Almost a year and a half after being removed from Indian app stores due to national security concerns, Garena’s Free Fire is making its anticipated return on September 5, promising an amazing gaming experience with new features and iconic sports personalities.
Singaporean game developer Garena made the announcement on Thursday, revealing a strategic collaboration with Yotta, a subsidiary of Hiranandani Group, to offer localized cloud hosting and storage solutions for the Indian version of the game. This partnership also aims to ensure gameplay is aligned with local norms by introducing features like parental control, gameplay time limits, and reminders encouraging players to take breaks.
MS Dhoni in Free Fire’s Relaunch
Garena took the excitement up a notch by announcing that former Indian cricket captain MS Dhoni will be the game’s brand ambassador. As if that weren’t enough, Dhoni will also be integrated into the game as a playable character named “Thala.” He will be in good company, joined by a gallery of Indian sports stars like Sunil Chhetri, Saina Nehwal, Leander Paes, and Rahul Chaudhari.
Before it was banned in February of last year, Free Fire had been making waves globally. According to Sensor Tower, a research and consultancy firm specializing in the internet economy, the game had accumulated 24 million downloads in January 2022 alone, marking an increase of 51.6% from the same month in the previous year.
Esports on the Rise: Free Fire India Championship
In a move that signifies the growing importance of esports in India, Garena has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Uttar Pradesh government to launch the Free Fire India Championship (FFIC). This competition will be open to teams across India and serve as a qualifying event for the Free Fire World Series slated for this November in Thailand.
The announcement comes on the heels of another popular battle royale game, BGMI (Battlegrounds Mobile India), making its return in May, following its ban under Section 69A of the IT Act 2000. The government had given BGMI a three-month trial approval, emphasizing the need for continual assessment of any potential risks to users, including addiction and other forms of harm, during this period.
The Road Ahead
Free Fire’s relaunch in India comes with significant implications for the gaming industry and the regulatory landscape. The game’s three-month trial approval is conditioned upon meeting stringent data security norms, demonstrating that authorities are taking an increasingly proactive approach to both user safety and national security.
With such a star-studded lineup, technological alliances, and government support for its esports endeavors, Garena’s Free Fire is well-positioned to reclaim its title as one of the most downloaded mobile games in India, if not the world. As we count down the days to its relaunch, one thing is clear: the game has levelled up, both in features and in star power.