PUBG Mobile and Garena Free Fire are the two most popular mobile disciplines in 2020, and both belong to the battle royale genre. The games are very similar to each other, and the competition between them has risen to great heights: in the overall top of the most popular mobile games of 2020, the difference between them was only 1.4M hours watched. We figured out how the games get along on the same market, and how they have achieved such popularity.
For an objective comparison, we have derived the growth of PUBG Mobile and Garena Free Fire on all platforms for 2020. As you can see, in January, PUBG Mobile was far behind its rival, but in February, HW of the Korean battle royale increased from 712K to 4.8M.
The reason is that a lot of esports events took place in February, for example, the decisive games of the PUBG Mobile International Championship 2019-20, the start of PMPL and PMCO 2020 (the two most important leagues of the discipline), as well as Dunia Games League.
We should also mention the Brazilian organization LOUD, whose members create content and participate in esports tournaments. LOUD streamers play League of Legends and Fortnite, but their main discipline is still Free Fire. Their fanbase started growing in 2019, but in February they gained more attention thanks to streaming on Twitch and made Free Fire interesting for their fans.
In spring 2020, the disciplines were about the same, but in July, PUBG Mobile skyrocketed in viewership statistics: hours watched of the discipline increased by 20M compared to June's numbers. The reason for this success is PUBG Mobile World League 2020. The event in the Western region was the most popular in the discipline's history, with 37M hours watched and 1.1M viewers at its peak.
At the same time, Garena Free Fire is beginning to strengthen in the Brazilian community: in August, major tournaments including Liga Brasileira and Gigantes Free Fire took place, and Liga NFA Season 4 started. Compared to July, in August Free Fire's HW increased by 36%.
In September and October, the Free Fire's indicators remained almost at the same level. Meanwhile, viewers began to lose interest in PUBG Mobile, HW of which almost returned to the February's numbers. The reason is that PUBG Mobile was banned in India, which is the top 1 region for the game.
The first triumph of Free Fire
November saw a dramatic spike in the popularity of the Free Fire due to the Continental Series. In total, there were three regions: EMEA, Asia and America, which allowed to reach almost the entire audience of the game. The Asian region attracted the most viewers — 2.5M people at the peak. Of this number, 1M viewers are Hindi speakers, which once again confirms the importance of this region for the discipline. Although South America did not lag behind (as in the case of PUBG Mobile) — 1.7M peak viewers thanks to the distribution of the game by LOUD already mentioned above.
PUBG Mobile brings back the leadership
In December, PUBG Mobile took the lead again. PUBG Mobile Global Championship Season 0 has started, the finals of which took place already in 2021. The main stage helped PUBG Mobile to increase hours watched from 7 to 20M in just a month.
As a result, the difference in the total amount of hours watched in 2020 was only 1.4M (133M for Free Fire and 134M for PUBG Mobile). However, it should be remembered that the disciplines were seriously different in terms of airtime: 3.1K for Free Fire vs 7.7K for PUBG Mobile.
The most popular Garena Free Fire and PUBG Mobile tournaments
If you compare the PUBG Mobile and Free Fire tournaments, PUBG Mobile Global Championship Season 0 leads in terms of hours watched with 37,3M. Taking into account the statistics of viewers in the game client, the peak of the event was 1.1M people, however, the discipline's record was achieved in 2021 at the event finale, though we take into account data only for 2020.
Free Fire tournaments are inferior to PUBG Mobile leagues in terms of HW, but this is because they have been on air much less. Note that all Free Fire tournaments from the top were aimed at Brazilian audience, while PUBG Mobile hosted international events.
In terms of peak viewers, Free Fire outruns its competitor. The most popular tournament was the aforementioned Free Fire Continental Series Asia with 2.5M PV in just 8 hours of airtime (the final part of the tournament was held in 2021). By the way, these tournaments are popular not only within mobile disciplines, but are also among the most popular tournaments of 2020.
Garena Free Fire and PUBG Mobile Audience
Although the disciplines are incredibly similar, the audience is very different. PUBG Mobile is watched the most by Indonesian viewers — 33.9%. However, things could have been different if the game had not been blocked in India in September 2020. Despite the four months dropped, local fans still contributed 29.2% of the discipline's hours watched in 2020.
The ban in India worked out for the benefit of Garena Free Fire. While in August, Indians contributed 0.39% to HW of the discipline, in September the figure rose to 6.81%, and in October — to 9.9% of hours watched. As you can see, after the ban of PUBG Mobile, the audience of the title immediately switched to Free Fire.
As for the original audience of Free Fire, 65.8% of HW were brought by Portuguese-speaking viewers, and 13.1% by Spanish-speaking ones. The reason is the incredible popularity of the game in Latin America, Brazil and other countries in the region. Vietnam and Indonesia are also interested in the game, but less actively.
The games are as similar as possible in their functionality, but they are popular in completely different regions. Now both disciplines are almost hand in hand in terms of the audience, but everything can change in 2021 if one of the two games begins to enter the competitor's region: and Free Fire has already begun to lure the huge audience of PUBG Mobile from India.