Everyone knows that PUBG Mobile is massively popular in India right now, but there is also another big name here: Free Fire from Garena. So, how does this game stay competitive with the giant in the market?

First, let’s look through some basic information: Free Fire has over 350 million registered players, 100 million of which were counted as active as of Q4 2018. The game makes up 44.5% of the $231.4 million that was Garena’s adjusted revenue in that period.

Free Fire Battlegrounds Download
Free Fire had 100 million active players as of Q4 2018

Free Fire – alongside NetEase’s Rules of Survival, Knives Out, and Survivor Royale – was among the first battle royale titles to come to the mobile market towards the end of 2017. The game was originally soft-launched in certain Southeast Asian countries before getting a global release a couple of months later. Based on feedback from players and statistics, the developers decided that it was ready for the global market

“Being one of the first to market and with a focus on mobile has been beneficial to us [as it pertains to competition],” Producer Harold Teo from Garena said, “All of our designs and product features are made specifically for mobile users, so we didn’t have to translate anything.”

Unlike PUBG or Fortnite, Free Fire was created for mobile devices only and is not available on any other platforms. According to Teo, the heavy focus on mobile is paying off for the game, especially in emerging markets.

Free Fire
Free Fire was created specifically for mobile

Garena intentionally designed Free Fire to not require a lot of disk space. It originally had a size of 200MB at launch and is currently sitting at about 400MB. The purpose of this is to maximize the user base. To put into comparison, other popular battle royale games on mobile such as PUBG and Fortnite generally take up over a gigabyte of disk space.

“Lightweight games are social,” explains Teo. “People want to play with their friends and so you play the game everyone can play. In many cases, that’s Free Fire.” High-end phones are not really as popular in India as they are in the US or China, so Garena wants to create a snowball effect by making its game widely accessible. People tend to prefer a game that they could play together with friends over a more hardware-demanding game.

Garena Free Fire
Free Fire is made widely accessible so that players can play with friends

Teo then adds that “The biggest challenge for us in these markets is getting to know what the gamers really want. Not all markets have the same needs. Every single country has their own culture, language, etc. We really have to get on the ground and get our hands dirty to know what each country needs and build what each country wants.”

It seems Garena is totally serious about that intention. The company has a local operation team for every market, whose task is to stay in touch with the gamer community in the area. These operation teams are also responsible for conducting focus surveys or group studies on a regular basis as well. “We have one or two of these focus groups every month and each one is targeted at a specific thing. It helps us design future products and features. Players love seeing that they are being heard and getting the things they want.”

Event Halloween Free Fire Header 700x350
The game constantly has events to celebrate holidays and special occasions

The team also tries to make Free Fire mingle with the local culture as much as possible through several in-game events, in-game cosmetics, and bonuses. So far we have seen plenty of examples of this, especially to celebrate real-world events such as the Carnival in Brazil or Thailand’s Songkran. It’s undoubtedly a nice way to show recognition to the local community.

The monetization system is also tailored to fit the market. While gamers in the US are accustomed to paying for games, those in other markets, especially in India or Asian countries. To deal with this, Garena analyzes each market to see what pricing strategies grant it the most access to its targeted customers, and then works on the integration process.

Free Fire Esports
The game will focus more on eSports in the future

So what lies ahead in the future for Free Fire? According to Teo, esports are going to be its main focus. This month, Garena is holding the Free Fire World Cup in Bangkok, which sees 12 of the best teams compete against each other for the title of Champion.