Garena’s mobile shooting game Free Fire has overtaken Tencent’s PUBG Mobile as the top battle royale game by player spending in the first quarter in the US, generating about USD 100 million in revenue against USD 68 million for PUBG, according to analytics firm Sensor Tower.
Free Fire’s US revenue was 4.5 times higher compared to the first quarter last year, while PUBG Mobile logged just a 9% uptick. Call of Duty: Mobile, developed by Tencent’s Timi Studios and Activision, trails behind with USD 62 million in revenue.
PUBG Mobile, however, still leads the battle royale space globally. Combined with its Chinese adaption Game For Peace, it garnered USD 744.4 million in Q1. Free Fire reached USD 255 million, followed by Call of Duty: Mobile with USD 182 million.
The removal of Epic Games’ Fortnite from Apple’s App Store and Google Play in August 2020 helped these contenders along. The publisher was banned after introducing its own in-app payment system, Fortnite Mega Drop, which violated the stores’ guidelines. The battle royale market accumulated USD 1.3 billion in Q1, making up 86.7% of the global mobile shooter market revenue.
Launched in 2017, Free Fire is published by game developer Garena, a unit of Singapore-based tech giant Sea Group. The game quickly grew its user base in Southeast Asian countries, Brazil, and India. Despite having lower graphics quality and a less realistic feel compared to PUBG, Free Fire is said to be more compatible with smartphones.
For years, Garena has been Sea Group’s money-making engine. Gaming revenues grew by 111.1% YoY during Q4 2020, reaching USD 1 billion, according to its latest earnings report. Garena’s quarterly active users increased by 72.1% YoY to 610.6 million, with 12% as paying customers, compared to 9.4% in the same period of 2019. For the full year of 2021, Sea Group expects bookings for Garena to be around USD 4.4 billion, representing 38% YoY growth.