MS Dhoni Becomes Playable Character ‘Thala’ in Free Fire’s India Return

Garena’s Free Fire returns to India with new characters like MS Dhoni, promising thrilling esports tournaments and growth opportunities.

MS Dhoni Becomes ‘Thala,’ a Playable Character as Garena’s Free Fire Returns Strongly to India

Garena, the Singaporean game developer and digital entertainment branch of the Sea Group, is thrilled to announce the triumphant return of its beloved mobile battle royale game, Free Fire, to India. “Free Fire India” is set to make a resounding comeback, available for download in the country starting from September 5.

Free Fire, along with 53 other mobile applications, faced a ban imposed by the Indian government in February of the previous year. The game’s popularity was skyrocketing right before its ban, emerging as the most downloaded mobile game globally in January 2022, boasting an impressive 24 million downloads. This marked a remarkable 51.6% increase compared to January 2021, as per Sensor Tower data.


Mr. Animesh Agarwal, the Founder & CEO of 8Bit Creatives, a leading esports consulting and talent agency in India, and Co-Founder of S8UL, shared his perspective on the game’s comeback. He stated, “India has always been a vital part of Free Fire’s global user community, and its return presents extraordinary opportunities to bolster the gaming landscape in the country. With the relaunch of the game, we can anticipate a surge in the frequency of tournaments featuring substantial prize pools, offering players a chance to make their mark.”

The game’s impact won’t be limited solely to the competitive scene; it will also provide significant support to the creator community. Free Fire India is set to empower creators by offering diverse and immersive content, facilitating the expansion of their fanbase within the industry. With renewed attention and engagement, there’s bound to be a surge of interest and investments from brands into the gaming ecosystem.

Mr. Animesh Agarwal expressed excitement about this new chapter, eagerly anticipating the rise of the video gaming sector in India.

In a significant development, MS Dhoni has been appointed as the brand ambassador for Free Fire India. He will be the first Indian sports personality to feature in the game as a playable character, known as “Thala.” Dhoni is joined by other Indian sports icons, including football captain Sunil Chhetri, badminton champion Saina Nehwal, tennis legend Leander Paes, and Kabbadi champion Rahul Chaudhari, all collaborating with Garena Free Fire to elevate 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 promising prospects Free Fire’s return holds for players across the nation. It amplifies the competitive spirit and opens doors to global recognition and opportunities, marking a pivotal step forward in the growth of competitive gaming. ESFI stands firmly behind such initiatives that propel the industry towards unprecedented growth and excellence.

According to Sensor Tower data, Garena Free Fire generated an impressive $1.1 billion in revenue from January to December 2021. Additionally, it clinched the title of the most downloaded game globally in 2021 across both the App Store and Play Store, boasting 218 million mobile downloads.

Mr. Lokesh Suji further highlighted, “We anticipate a ripple effect that will encourage the inception of more high-profile tournaments and events. This move ignites the momentum needed to realize our collective vision of a vibrant and thriving esports landscape in India.”

While celebrating this wave of progress, he stressed the importance of the Indian government’s vigilance over security and data privacy. Safeguarding the interests of players and enthusiasts is a collective responsibility, ensuring the sustainability and credibility of the esports journey in India.

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

The launch of Free Fire India is a game-changer, poised to transform the esports scene in India. It promises more tournaments, higher earnings, and substantial prize pools, reflecting Free Fire’s firm grip on India’s user base. Despite the absence of Indian teams in the Free Fire World Series 2022 Grand Finals, the Hindi stream astonishingly recorded peak viewership. As Free Fire reclaims its position in India, expectations are high for even more record-breaking viewership. This is an exhilarating time for players, who stand to reap substantial rewards.

Devam “Dev” Vyas, Vice President of Esports at Gods Reign, a prominent Indian esports organization, commented, “At Gods Reign, renowned for crafting championship-winning rosters, we’re in talks with several Free Fire rosters. We can’t wait to announce our new roster soon, adding another thrilling chapter to this vibrant esports story of Gods Reign.”

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

Free Fire from Garena has been a formidable competitor to Battlegrounds Mobile India (BGMI), the most popular battle royale game in India. The game’s return promises to stimulate healthy competition between the two titles, ultimately contributing to the overall growth of the video gaming industry.

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