Sea Ltd., the Singapore-based internet giant controlled by billionaire cofounder Forrest Li, is relaunching Free Fire in India a year and a half after the popular mobile game was banned in the country.
Sea’s gaming unit, Garena, said on Thursday that the game will be available for download in India from September 5. Now called Free Fire India, the game will offer features designed to “promote safe, healthy and fun gameplay,” including parental supervision system and break reminders, Garena added in a statement. Its partner Yotta, the data service unit of Indian property billionaire Niranjan Hiranandani’s Hiranandani Group, will provide infrastructure to store Indian users’ data on local servers.
“India is home to very passionate communities of esports enthusiasts and we are excited to be able to support our fans from Bharat with the launch of Free Fire India,” Gang Ye, the billionaire cofounder and chief operating officer of Sea, said in the statement. “We believe our partnership with Yotta will ensure that our users can enjoy the highest quality gameplay experience and benefit from Yotta’s expertise in protecting and securing Indian user data.”
In February last year, India blocked access to Free Fire as part of a crackdown on some 50 apps it believed were sending user data to servers in China. The ban of Free Fire, which was among India’s most popular mobile games, at the time wiped out more than $16 billion of Sea’s market capitalization in a day.
The long-awaited return of Free Fire in the world’s most populous country could help reignite Sea’s slowing business. Last month, the New York-listed company once again disappointed investors with its lower-than-expected quarterly revenue, including a 41% year-over-year plunge in sales of profit-making Garena. Profits from Garena help fund Sea’s expansion in the cut-throat e-commerce market, where it competes with Alibaba’s Southeast Asia-focused Lazada, and grow its nascent digital financial service.
Despite the reintroduction of Free Fire India, Sea has yet to reveal plans for its halted e-commerce operations in India. The company, which counts Chinese tech behemoth Tencent as its biggest shareholder, shut down Shopee India a month after authorities prohibited Fire Free amid growing hostility between the country and China.