Free Fire returns to India after year-and-a-half ban

Free Fire image Garena
Image credit: Garena

Game developer Garena has announced its mobile Battle Royale game Free Fire will return to app stories in India, a year and a half after being banned from the country due to national security concerns.

The game — one of India’s biggest esports prior to its ban — will be available for download in India as of September 5th under the name Free Fire India, and will remain be free to play.

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Free Fire is one of the leading mobile esports titles, and consistently ranks as one of the most-played and most-watched games of its genre. Developed by Singapore-based Garena, Free Fire was the most downloaded game worldwide in 2021, with 218 million downloads, according to data from Sensor Tower.

The game also holds the record for most-watched esports event in history per Esports Charts records, with the Free Fire World Series 2021 attracting more than 5.4m peak viewers.

Free Fire was initially banned together with more than 50 other applications and games in India’s purported crackdown on Chinese-linked software in February 2022. Battlegrounds Mobile: India (BGMI), a rival to Free Fire, returned to Indian app stores in May 2023 — and now Free Fire is returning to the scene around four months later.

India’s esports industry has welcomed the return with open arms thanks to the game’s wide popularity in the country and thus important place in its domestic esports scene.

Devam Vyas, VP of Esports at Indian esports organisation Gods Reign, called the move “game-changing” in a statement sent to Esports Insider. Vyas expects viewership for the game to skyrocket once again, and has said that the company will announce new rosters in the game as soon as possible.

Lokesh Suji, Director of the Esports Federation of India, hailed the return of Free Fire and expressed hope in more high-profile tournaments in the game. Suji said that India will now witness the continued growth of esports prize pools and user bases, and that Free Fire will “invigorate the Indian esports landscape”.

Animesh Agarwal, Founder and CEO of talent agency 8Bit Creatives, said in separate statement sent to Esports Insider that India has long been a pivotal pillar in Free Fires’ global userbase and that its return will have a marked effect domestically.

“The impact of the game will not be limited to just the competitive scenario as it will be a significant boost to the creator community as well. By providing creators with diverse and immersive content, Free Fire India will enable them to grow and expand their fanbase within the industry. As the game gains renewed attention and engagement, there will also be an influx of interest as well as investments from brands into the ecosystem.

Ivan Šimić
Ivan comes from Croatia, loves weird simulator games, and is terrible at playing anything else. Spent 5 years writing about tech and esports in Croatia, and is now doing it here.