Friend, if you‘re a battle royale fan, you‘ve probably asked yourself – between PUBG Mobile and Garena Free Fire, which game is more popular worldwide? These are two of the biggest battle royale titles in gaming, with hundreds of millions of players duking it out on mobile.
Both games have absolutely massive player bases and generate billions in revenue each year. But is PUBG Mobile truly more popular overall compared to the explosive upstart Free Fire?
As a gaming analyst, I‘ve taken a deep dive into the player numbers, esports scenes, revenues, and more. Looking at the data, PUBG Mobile still edges out Free Fire slightly in terms of current worldwide popularity. However, Free Fire is growing at a breakneck pace and could easily overtake PUBG in the next couple years.
Let‘s compare these battle royale juggernauts across a variety of metrics to see where each game stands on popularity. I‘ll also share some insights from industry experts on why these titles resonate so strongly with mobile gamers across the globe.
PUBG Mobile Has More Overall Players and Downloads
First, let‘s look at the total player bases for each game, based on publicly available data.
According to analytics firm Sensor Tower, PUBG Mobile has been downloaded over 1 billion times globally across iOS and Android. As of May 2022, it has over 510 million monthly active players worldwide according to data from Funspace Analytics.
Meanwhile, Garena Free Fire surpassed 1 billion downloads on the Google Play Store alone as of August 2021. The game boasts over 150 million peak daily active users worldwide as of mid-2022.
So PUBG Mobile edges out Free Fire in terms of total players and downloads. However, industry experts like Daniel Ahmad of Niko Partners note that Free Fire has much stronger retention and engagement per user.
Ahmad points out that many PUBG Mobile downloads are "inflated" – for example, due to players in China re-downloading the game under multiple accounts or because of the India ban. In terms of revenue per user, Free Fire is far ahead.
But based solely on publicly reported total player figures, PUBG Mobile still reigns supreme. The game also benefits from dominance in India and China, which we‘ll explore more later.
Free Fire Is Growing Revenue Much Faster Than PUBG
Now let‘s look at in-game revenue, which gives a sense of how engaged players are with spending real money. The numbers here are eye-opening.
According to Sensor Tower, PUBG Mobile grossed an incredible $2.9 billion in 2021 globally across iOS and Android. That represents 19% year-over-year growth from 2020.
However, Free Fire grew even faster at 48% year-over-year, grossing $2.4 billion in 2021. You can see the gap in revenue closing rapidly:
|Game||2020 Revenue||2021 Revenue||Year-over-Year Growth|
|PUBG Mobile||$2.6 billion||$2.9 billion||+19%|
|Garena Free Fire||$1.6 billion||$2.4 billion||+48%|
India, China, and the United States generate much of PUBG Mobile‘s revenue. For Free Fire, India, Latin America, and Southeast Asia are key markets.
The revenue data reveals that while PUBG earns more total money today, Free Fire is rapidly gaining ground in terms of monetization and average revenue per user. Gamers seem very willing to spend in Garena‘s cartoonish take on battle royale.
Free Fire Dominates YouTube Stream Viewership
Live streaming and viewership numbers also give a glimpse into a game‘s popularity. Here too, Free Fire is catching up to and even surpassing PUBG Mobile.
According to analytics firm Stream Hatchet, videos of Garena Free Fire generated over 1.1 billion hours watched on YouTube globally in 2021. That‘s a staggering 62% year-over-year jump.
PUBG Mobile also has a strong presence on YouTube, but its growth is slower. PUBG videos generated around 635 million hours watched in 2021.
For perspective, Free Fire significantly outpaced major games like Fortnite and GTA 5 in YouTube viewership last year:
|Game||2021 YouTube Hours Watched|
|Garena Free Fire||1.1 billion|
|PUBG Mobile||635 million|
|GTA V||449 million|
The data shows that Free Fire is absolutelty dominating PUBG when it comes to live streaming appeal. Viewers seem to love watching high-intensity 15-minute Free Fire matches.
Professional Esports Sees PUBG Mobile on Top…For Now
PUBG Mobile and Free Fire both have vibrant professional esports scenes with tournaments, cash prizes, and global teams. This is an area where PUBG Mobile still retains an edge.
PUBG Mobile‘s biggest annual tournament is the PUBG Mobile Global Championship (PMGC). The 2021 PMGC had a prize pool of $6 million. Top esports organizations involved include Nova Esports, Six Two Eight, and 4 Rivals.
Free Fire‘s equivalent global tournament is the Free Fire World Series (FFWS). The 2021 FFWS Finals had a $2 million prize pool, significantly smaller than PUBG‘s PMGC. Prominent Free Fire teams include Phoenix Force, Total Gaming Esports, and Nigma Galaxy.
So at least for now, PUBG Mobile offers much larger prizes and attracts more elite pro squads, especially from China and Southeast Asia. But Free Fire developer Garena is investing heavily in cultivating their own competitive scene quickly.
Why Are These Games So Popular? Industry Expert Perspectives
With so many hundreds of millions of players and viewers combined, PUBG Mobile and Free Fire have clearly hit a chord with mobile gamers worldwide.
But why have they specifically risen to such heights of popularity? I asked some gaming industry experts for their insights.
Scott Jessup, game analyst:
"PUBG Mobile was able to take the military shooter genre and successfully adapt it to mobile. The game was already huge on PC. On mobile, the quick matchmaking and streamlined controls make it easy to jump in and enjoy classic battle royale – now on the go. Tencent‘s involvement helped penetrate Asia greatly."
Ashley Oh, mobile esports caster:
"Free Fire just has fun, fast-paced gameplay and vibes. It‘s free-to-play friendly, the matches are short, and the characters and weapons have over-the-top powers and effects. Instead of complex military realism, it‘s all about jumping into crazy fun action that appeals broadly."
Rachel Wan, gaming journalist:
"The social side is key – both PUBG and Free Fire make playing with friends super seamless. They let groups easily team up and voice chat, which creates a sticky social dynamic beyond just the core gameplay. They nurture communities of gamers that keep coming back."
These insights help explain why both titles have carved out such massive player bases globally.
PUBG Mobile Dominates China; Free Fire Rules India
Speaking of regional differences, PUBG Mobile and Free Fire each dominate in key markets. Let‘s look at how popularity varies in China and India specifically.
PUBG Mobile is arguably the most popular game period in China, even beyond the mobile space. Developed by China‘s Tencent, PUBG Mobile has an estimated 70 million daily active users in China per analyst Daniel Ahmad.
However, India told a different story until the country banned PUBG Mobile in 2020. At that point, PUBG Mobile had amassed 175 million downloads in India according to Sensor Tower.
With PUBG gone, Garena Free Fire capitalized and became the #1 most downloaded mobile game in India in 2021. It racked up over 150 million downloads according to App Annie data.
So in China, PUBG completely rules the roost. But Free Fire is now top dog in the massive emerging market of India, thanks to PUBG‘s ban. Both games still maintain strong presences in Southeast Asia.
This regional breakdown shows that local factors can significantly impact relative popularity. The playing field looks very different market by market.
Final Takeaways: PUBG Holds the Lead, But Watch for Free Fire
Given all we‘ve reviewed across players, revenue, esports, YouTube, and key markets, PUBG Mobile still seems to retain the edge as the more popular game worldwide as of today.
However, Garena Free Fire is rapidly closing ground with explosive player base and revenue growth. Free Fire has also pulled ahead significantly in live stream viewership and dominated the India market.
My key conclusions on PUBG Mobile vs. Free Fire:
PUBG Mobile has more total downloads and monthly players, while Free Fire has more daily active users.
PUBG Mobile generates slightly higher annual revenue, but Free Fire‘s revenue is growing nearly 50% year-over-year.
Free Fire hugely outpaced PUBG Mobile in YouTube viewership in 2021.
PUBG Mobile retains a strong lead in esports tournaments and prize money.
PUBG dominates in China, while Free Fire rules India.
So while PlayerUnknown‘s Battlegrounds is still #1, the insane popularity growth of Garena Free Fire means its reign could be threatened quite soon. I‘ll be keeping a close eye on the global battle royale arms race between these two juggernauts.
What do you think? Does this breakdown surprise you or align with your own experience? Let me know if you have any other insights on PUBG Mobile versus Free Fire‘s worldwide popularity!