Can FAU-G realistically be the next PUBG?

Short Answer: NO.

A bit of context for the uninitiated

A direct fallout of recent disputes with China has been that India has ended up banning lot of China owned apps from the Indian app stores.

These decisions have been made supposedly because there are concerns regarding data privacy with these apps and games. I am not writing this to either support or contradict those concerns. There's lot written and spoken about it anyway.

One of the biggest apps to bear the brunt of this ban was TikTok some time ago. Then this was followed up with another set of ban where another big name to fall was the game called Player Unknown's Battlegrounds, better known as PUBG.

Just like TikTok which had amassed a huge audience, PUBG was one of the most popular games in past couple of years in India. The strong push from Tencent to promote and build an audience for the game in India had worked wonders. It could be said that this game brought the mobile gaming scene to the mainstream in India. It had sprouted lot of new avenues for players, from streaming, to e-sports, to being a virtual space to catch up with your friends.

Some of the reports like this that mention the numbers this game was doing in India give a better idea of how big this thing had become.

You can read more about PUBG and how it impacted, and kind of shaped the Indian mobile gaming scene at lot of places, but I am not going to talk more on that here.

What interests me in this scenario is what happened a day after this ban. One of the biggest celebrity accounts of India, with 38M+ followers, tweeted this.

So, they've announced a new PUBG competitor, which would be made locally, and which is supposed to be the replacement for the banned game. Special mention to the super lame name made up to sound like PUBG, and the poster art, which has been pointed out that it's been ripped off from a Google image search.

All these criticisms aside, let's consider that this is the next PUBG competitor, which has been announced today. I would also assume that it has been in development for a fair amount of time now. Also, there's just an announcement of the game, but there's no more information yet on it's release date, or any sort of gameplay footage.

Who is making it?

According to the accounts tagged in the tweet, the game is supposedly built by a Bangalore based company - nCore Games.

The company doesn't have much details on their website apart from claiming to be a leading mobile games publisher. They do mention they do original IP development, as well as third party publishing. So we can't be sure if they're the developers, but I am assuming it to be so.

I am nobody to judge the skills of the development team that would be behind the project. However, it'd definitely be an insane challenge for a fairly new studio to achieve.

Even if this game has been in development for a while, since I didn't find any more details than that of the poster, I believe it's not in any soft launch phase anywhere yet. This part is super important as you need to understand the game space that this game is trying to breach and compete in.

What are they competing against?

One of the cliché motivational quote, that I just realized has too many variants from so many people, applies here perfectly

It takes twenty years to become an overnight success. - Eddie Cantor

Not 20 in this case, but to look at PUBG, this was a game that was released originally, in early access (meaning, limited access only), as early as 2017 on the PC. It first came on mobile in 2018, and has been growing since then.

Thus, whatever you see in the game currently - each bullet shot, the experience and feel of each gun, the reaction from each tap on the screen, is a result of at least 3 years of work, which starts after the game has been made available to the players.

With regards to FAU-G, there's no idea of the timeline for the release yet. So it can be argued that all these tests and fixes would be done, since there'd be lot more interest from the players to help the game grow as well. Until then, there's an empty space created for the players who were engaged with PUBG.

What would players do?

The players would've started to look for options to fill that space of their PUBG time with some other game. Of course there will be a major sense of loss for the players who already had some rare items, or were ranked high in the game, but they'd also be willing to find a new avenue to continue their gaming escapades.

Image source: shorturl.at/hjyBI

Considering the Battle Royale format which PUBG uses for the game is not some new one for 2020, there are multiple options already available. Some of the expected choices for the players here would be Garena Free Fire, or Call of Duty Mobile. Both these games have been around for a while with a considerable audience engaged audience already present.

Note: CODM is developed in collaboration with Tencent, so there'd be a chance of that being banned as well if it gets popular (Not trying to give any ideas here).

This would mean that for FAU-G to release as an alternative to PUBG, it'd still have to face stiff competition with these fairly established brands already around.

However, considering the backing that this game is expected to get in terms of marketing, it'd definitely be easy to get users quickly. Given the amount of buzz generated by this game without even a single in-game screenshot, it's safe to assume that players are going to try out the game even if they're playing any other game by then. But then, this will come with its own set of challenges.

What are the issues need to be address for the release?

While the user acquisition is guaranteed for FAU-G, the back-end systems would have to be ready to take such load on first day itself. There is definitely going to be a spike in downloads if the game is opened for public at the same time, and assuming the game to rely on the multiplayer systems, it needs to be able to handle the traffic.

From the front end, it needs to be a perfect game. By perfect I mean the feel, the onboarding, the features, all of them need to be as good as, if not better than, the competitors in the market then. At this point, even to make a perfect screen-by-screen copy of PUBG is a difficult task for any team.

If the front end isn't as great as any of the popular PUBG alternatives, players will go back to those games again. If that happens, all the scaled up back end system supporting the influx of traffic won't be used after the initial peak, as there'll be a massive drop.

In addition to being the perfect one, the game needs to be out as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the longer time you give to the players to get accustomed to other games and build their network and habits there. Once habits are formed, it'd take something as serious as a forced ban to break them. (Again, not giving ideas.)

It can be easily argued that all these points I presume, which are based on zero insider information about the actual game, are already handled by the team working with nCore. They'd be releasing the perfect locally produced PUBG alternative, within the shortest time possible. I would also take this as a valid argument, since that is the reason I write this long post sitting late at night, before there's any new update about this game which invalidates any of my points.

I sincerely hope to be pleasantly surprised when the actual game comes out and I'd be more than happy to change my short answer from NO, to a resounding YES, once I play the final product.

TL;DR

  1. PUBG got banned in India, and the next day, an Indian alternative, FAU-G, was teased.

  2. Judging from the available info on the team that might be working on this game, it seems like an insane challenge for the studio to achieve something on this scale.

  3. FAU-G is already trying to be an alternative to one of the best brands in this business, which has built its current experience over at least 3 years.

  4. Until this alternative is available, the players are going to turn to the options that are currently available - my guess being Garena Free Fire, and Call of Duty Mobile.

  5. Once released, user acquisition would be fairly easy, but the systems would have to be in place to handle the traffic.

  6. In addition to coming to market ASAP, the game needs to be exactly right, to a tee. Missing this would mean giving time to the players to build their communities on the other competitor games.

  7. While this looks like an insanely ambitious and challenging stuff to achieve, I hope FAU-G surprises me by being the next best Battle Royale game and makes me change my short answer from NO, to YES.