Garena Free Fire is among the fastest-growing mobile games in the world as of now. Later last year, it crossed the 4.5 crore download count and brought revenue of over $10 crore. The game achieves massive success in Brazil and certain countries in Southeast Asia, the publisher, Garena, seems to forget one of the largest markets in the world: India. 

Harold Teo Garena Free Fire potential
Many game distributors, including Garena, view India as a market with enormous potential

The Great Potential of Indian Mobile Gaming Market

This potential subcontinent shows a great love for mobile titles, evidenced by the vibrant eSports ecosystem of PUBG Mobile - which was built in just under one year. Now the Indian PUBG Mobile community consists of funded teams, domestic organizations, homegrown tournaments, multiple talents, and content creators. Such success even attracts the attention of global eSports giants, namely Fnatic and Team Solomid, to come and set operations in the country. 

Harold Teo Garena Free Fire scratch
Harold Teo claimed that Garena had just barely scratched the surface of the Indian mobile gaming market

The number of Indian people who own smartphones is one the rise - with one in every four owning a mobile device. Harold Teo, the Free Fire producer at Garena, views this evidence of the market’s enormous potential. “This means that we’re barely scratching the surface of India’s gaming industry potential.”, he told The eSports Observer. If this rise continues to keep its pace, combined with infrastructure development, India’s mobile gaming industry is projected to reach $4.05 crore by 2022 from only $2.66 crore in 2016. 

The Pros and Cons

Free Fire doesn’t want to miss the obvious focus of the gigantic market size, however, there’s a set of pros and cons waiting to be tackled. PUBG Mobile took the first-move advantage, hence, Free Fire has to compete with another BR game that already established a community that’s an integral part of the Indian entertainment scene. So far, Garena has had the groundwork for the market set. Free Fire will act as the next stepping stone for Indian organizations to fortify their standings. And with a sizeable player-base, the potential for the game to boom is always lucrative.

Harold Teo Garena Free Fire community
Building a vibrant Free Fire community is the very first step of expanding the player base

Capturing an audience requires good insight into the demographic as well as the landscape. In this endeavor, building and supporting the community in its initial stages is crucial to lay a strong foundation. In the case of PUBG MOBILE, the influence of content creators had been a key factor in the game’s success. 

Harold Teo Garena Free Fire tanmay
The famous comedian and YouTuber Tanmay Bhat also appeared as one of Free Fire's influencers

 Harold Teo shared that since India’s mobile gaming industry is still budding, Garena has so much to learn about the gamers here. There’s little knowledge of their preferences, consumption patterns, and gaming behavior. “Against this backdrop, we’re currently focused on getting to know our Indian community better.”, he added. He informed that Garena had been looking at various members of the community in the past months to learn how to better attract new players and keep the former ones excited. The researched subjects are their player-base, streamers, content creator, brands, and celebrities. 

Localization is The Way to Go

The recipe for success of Free Fire is focusing on localization and celebrating the regions’ unique traits and culture. For example, in Brazil, they teamed up with DJ Alok, a top local producer from the region to release an in-game skin themed. But with a country as diversely divided as India with different regions, religions, and languages, localization might not be as easy to implement. 

Harold Teo Garena Free Fire DJ Alok
The release of DJ Alok was Garena's successful attempt into the Brazilian market

“Localization has always been a key part of what we do at Garena and is one of our core strengths,” said Teo. They don’t stop at text localization but aims for what makes the players feel most comfortable and familiar.  The Garena Free Fire producer firmly believes that localization is vital to their ability to create exciting and engaging experiences for fans. He said that Garena constantly engaged their community so that they could cater to the players’ preferences.

Efforts Have Been Made

Efforts have been made by Free Fire to attract the local audience, from the celebration of the Indian Holi festival with the in-game “Color Challenge” event to teaming up with prominent content creators such as YouTuber Tanmay Bhat. On the eSports side of the campaign, Free Fire has presented India with several domestic tournaments featuring quite generous prize pools. These include the currently ongoing Free Fire India Championship and the 2019 Free Fire India Today League. Both of them held a prize pool of INR 35 lakh ($45.5K). With the same purpose to serve the Indian audience, Garena has also made the Hindi language an available commentary option for Indian tournaments and for internationals that have Indian contenders. 

Harold Teo Garena Free Fire indian championship
The Free Fire India Championship Finals was canceled due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic

Most recently, Garena launched the #IndiaKaBattleRoyale campaign - starring Indian superstar Amol Parashar. The campaign filmed the actor on outdoor hoardings in Hyderabad, Bangalore, Kolkata, and Chennai. There was also a three-part video series posted on social media emphasizing Free Fire’s key features: low memory usage, battery consumption, and short game duration. As of April 7, 2020, the campaign received more than 35 lakh views across the game’s official Facebook fan page and YouTube channel. 

Harold Teo Garena Free Fire amol
The #IndiaKaBattleRoyale campaign with Indian superstar Amol Parashar is Garena latest advertisement campaign in India

Early this year, Free Fire also flew the top 20 Indian streamers and influencers to a retreat facilitating their sharing of new ideas and building connections. It was also a great opportunity for Garena to directly interact and get feedback on the game and community management. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has put a halt to Free Fire’s eSports plans. The finals of the Free Fire India Championship was scheduled for online streaming before postponed eventually when the country went under lockdown. However, it’s inevitable that Garena has made valiant efforts to reach the masses.