MS Dhoni Joins Free Fire as ‘Thala’ Character as the Game Returns to India

Free Fire returns to India with MS Dhoni as ‘Thala,’ promising explosive gaming and esports growth. Discover the impact, partnerships, and prospects in this exciting revival.

Garena, the Singapore-based digital entertainment arm of the Sea Group, has officially announced the triumphant return of its immensely popular mobile battle royale game, Free Fire, to India. Dubbed “Free Fire India,” this revival is poised to reignite the nation’s video gaming industry, offering enthusiasts the chance to download the game starting from September 5.

The backstory of Free Fire’s resurgence in India is significant. In February of the previous year, the Indian government had banned Free Fire, along with 53 other mobile applications. Ironically, just before its ban in February 2022, the game had achieved the status of being the most downloaded mobile game globally in January 2022, boasting a staggering 24 million downloads and marking a remarkable 51.6% increase compared to January 2021, according to Sensor Tower data.

Sharing insights into the game’s comeback, Mr. Animesh Agarwal, Founder & CEO of 8Bit Creatives, a leading esports consulting and talent agency in India, expressed, “India has always been a vital pillar of Free Fire’s global user base, and its return holds the promise of extraordinary opportunities that will enrich India’s gaming landscape. With the game’s relaunch, the frequency of tournaments with lucrative prize pools is expected to surge, offering players a chance to establish their gaming prowess.”

The resurgence of Free Fire India extends beyond competition. It also signifies a significant boost to the creators’ community. By providing content creators with diverse and immersive material, Free Fire India is set to help them expand their fanbase within the gaming industry. As the game garners renewed attention and engagement, brands are likely to increase their investments and interest in the gaming ecosystem.

Garena’s masterstroke in this revival is enlisting MS Dhoni as the brand ambassador for Free Fire India. Notably, Dhoni becomes the first Indian sportsperson to feature in-game as a playable character, known as ‘Thala.’ Joining him are other eminent Indian sportspersons such as football captain Sunil Chhetri, badminton champion Saina Nehwal, tennis legend Leander Paes, and Kabbadi champion Rahul Chaudhari, all collaborating with Garena Free Fire to bolster the Indian esports ecosystem.

Mr. Lokesh Suji, Director of the Esports Federation of India and Vice President of the Asian Esports Federation (AESF), emphasized, “The re-entry of Free Fire promises vast potential for players across the nation, amplifying the competitive spirit and creating avenues for global recognition and opportunities. ESFI supports such initiatives that will steer the industry toward unparalleled growth and excellence.”

According to Sensor Tower data, Garena Free Fire generated an astounding $1.1 billion in revenue from January to December 2021. Additionally, it held the distinction of being the most downloaded game worldwide in 2021, across both the App Store and Play Store, with a staggering 218 million downloads on mobile devices.

This revival is poised to set off a ripple effect, fostering the inception of high-profile tournaments and events. It signals the acceleration of India’s esports landscape, resulting in increased prize pools and userbase for Free Fire India, contributing to the vibrancy of the esports sector. While embracing this progress, it is imperative for the Indian government to ensure vigilance over security and data privacy, safeguarding the interests of players and enthusiasts for the sustainability and credibility of India’s esports journey.

In 2021, the Free Fire World Series, a Garena Free Fire tournament hosted in Singapore, made history as the most-watched esports event of all time, with a remarkable 5.41 million peak viewers, according to Statista.

The revival of Free Fire in India signifies a game-changing moment that promises to transform the country’s esports landscape, introducing more tournaments, increased earnings, and substantial prize pools. With Free Fire’s return, it is anticipated that viewership records will be shattered, providing players with significant opportunities. Esports organizations like Gods Reign are already in talks with Freefire rosters, promising an exciting new chapter in India’s esports narrative.

According to Sensor Tower store intelligence data, Garena’s Free Fire, including Free Fire MAX, emerged as the most downloaded mobile game worldwide in June 2023, with nearly 19 million downloads. Notably, India led the download count during this period, accounting for 27.9% of the total, followed by Indonesia and Vietnam at 12.7% and 8.1%, respectively.

Free Fire from Garena, known for being the most significant competitor to Battlegrounds Mobile India (BGMI), the country’s favorite battle royale game, is set to reignite healthy competition between the two titles, fostering the overall growth of the video gaming industry in India.