Sony is currently rolling, and in the driver’s seat, and being the best there ever was and other metaphors for success since E3. With the PlayStation 4 announced to retail at $399, not to mention a bunch of new games announced for the PS Vita, it seems that 2013 will be the publisher’s year. How will that affect the Indian market though, which will see a PS4 release this year, but is still in the midst of the PSP and PS3 upswing. The PlayStation Vita is still relatively young worldwide as well. So how does India fit into the swing of things?
We recently spoke PlayStation India Country Manager Atindriya Bose to get his view on all things related to Sony in India, along with discussing the PS4’s new Remote Play feature for Vita and when exactly we can expect the PS4 to launch here.
Compared to when it was first introduced, how has the PlayStation 3 been performing in India?
In India market, the PS3 sales have been encouraging. Like in terms of install base that we have, which is upward of 225,000 now. In terms of the rate it’s been going, it still has a pretty long future. The type of titles that have come onto PlayStation in the recent past and the titles lined up in the near future makes PS3 still a vibrant product to own.
To what extent are technologies like Move responsible for the push it has received?
India is perhaps one of the few countries where the Move peripheral or the Move attachment ratio since the time it was launched was pretty high. Almost 80 percent of the products where the Move was bundled and the other 5-10 percent of the people were coming in at the latter stage to buy the product. So the time the Move as a platform was launched, and this did extremely well.
That perhaps stems from the fact that India has a very substantial number of the core gamers, but maybe the new gamers were also looking at opportunities of the family gaming and therefore motion gaming as a platform, on a platform like PS3, has done extremely well. Also, the fact that it was the motion gaming or the Move platform was supported by local development of the Street Cricket – cricket being so popular and no other cricket title was there – has definitely helped in making the motion gaming one of the most important, must-have features when buying a PlayStation.
Do you think with the advent of PS4 in the Indian market, it will negatively affect PS3 sales in India?
Both will be in different stages of their lifecycle and therefore will be focusing on different segments of consumers. We have done this migration very successfully in 2007 when PS3 came in and PS2 still had a five to six year life cycle beyond that. What happens is that the PS3 over the last six years and the creation of the installed base and also how it has been positioned and repositioned and repriced to a more accessible price point today…it has gone into more of a family…it is definitely a gaming device, the games are fantastic, but it also adds a lot of value in terms of it being a family entertainment device. This is because of other characteristics around it.
" PSP today has an install base of over 400,000 or 450,000 in India market, which is almost half a million. In the handheld gaming market, the new entrants or the lower price point is the one that sells more."
If you look at the catalogue around it, many of the marquee titles have already moved into the Essentials brand. So a new gamer when he enters into a PS3 still gets an essential price point below Rs. 1000 games, he gets family oriented in the catalogue which is in the form of Move games and stuff like that. So in terms of the catalogue appealing to the new gamer who is slightly more family-oriented, PS3 is the one that still will run thanks to its catalogue strength and also because of the type of titles which is wider genre that will keep on coming in. PS4 on the other side…the initial appeal will obviously be the early adopters and typically on a gaming console or a next gen console, the early adopters come from the gaming fanatics or like the core gamers in terms of the pre-order interest or pre-order shops.
Even though we haven’t started a pre-order system, the type of inquiries we are getting, those are more predominantly gaming shops and in each of them, when someone is making a query about PS4, they are making equal amount of query for the software and they know the software that are coming in. It showcases that these are going to attract the core gamers, either the new hardcore gamers who had been waiting to buy a console and another part will come out of the upgraders – those who have imbibed gaming as a hobby, they will upgrade to PS4. But in terms of the broader base PS3 enjoys, that remains because of its strength of catalogue and because of its strength of wider genre of games that is already there in the market.
The PlayStation Vita is still struggling to compete with the Nintendo 3DS in territories such as the United States and Japan. But it has a far stronger presence in India than Nintendo. How far does that go in affecting its overall success?
In terms of the PS Vita…I won’t comment on the US or the international market because we hardly have visibility in terms of like what they had targeted and what they had achieved. But in terms of the India market, when you get into the handheld gaming device – again, the handheld gaming device you have to demarcate into the new entrants who are flocking into PSP where we have a very high level of success. The number of consumers entering through the PSP is very meaningful. PSP today has an install base of over 400,000 or 450,000 in India market, which is almost half a million. In the handheld gaming market, the new entrants or the lower price point is the one that sells more.
"We are becoming more and more cautious given the exchange rate scenario of India, so that is a major load in terms of pricing strategy. But in terms of the longer term handheld market, we still see the PSP to be the forerunner in the Indian market."
In terms of the PS Vita, it has done very well among the gaming fanatics. But in terms of continuing sales, the handheld segment…majority of the sales happened through the PSP and not through the PS Vita for India. We are looking at it, because in India to be successful, there are two factors that you always have to look at: One is the initial price of the product, while it may be an attractive price point internationally, maybe in India, it still is a price point where people will definitely have to be a lot more discretionary and compete with other product categories also. So at the same price point the way PS3 has become an important purchase for a consumer, PS Vita being a handheld device at the same price point has not seen the same level of success.
But if I take the overall handheld gaming, that number is still pretty impressive because it is being driven by the PSP. So in India market, these product categories behave entirely differently from the international ones. In the initial years, they may be at a success rate that is much lower than the international one but as they go deeper into the life cycle and certain cost-price benefits get passed on in terms of the price point, the numbers pick up is pretty impressive.
Will we see price drop for the PS Vita in the Indian market?
As of now, there is nothing to declare. We are becoming more and more cautious given the exchange rate scenario of India, so that is a major load in terms of pricing strategy. But in terms of the longer term handheld market, we still see the PSP to be the forerunner in the Indian market. At some point of time with the strategic inputs, whether it is in the form of content availability, whether it is in the form of making it more viable for the Indian consumers to opt in for a PS Vita, it will start taking as we go forward into the coming months or the coming years of the lifecycle of the PS Vita. It will start playing a much bigger role in terms of the total handheld market.
I am actually very impressed by what the PS Vita is going to offer in the next six months. There were over 20 games on display at E3. But the question is will all of them make it to the Indian shores?
In terms of the gaming, the disc based games or PS Vita games, we have always followed the day one strategy aligned to Europe. I don’t think today in India any of the gamers are complaining about any of the games unless it’s a very typical one region game not being available in India on a day one basis. It’s not just Sony – most of the major publishers bringing in those games into India market. But at the same time, one of the challenges of the PS Vita is in terms of install base creation and everything.
"Whatever are the internet connections or the Indian internet infrastructure, PS4 is still going to be a very strong offering for the Indian market."
It is at a stage much earlier to PS3, so the volume that can be brought in for a PS3 game, you don’t see the same level volume for PS Vita games. Therefore for you to get the game in the Vita market it sometimes becomes a bit more difficult. At the same time, with the Indian stores or the Indian digital store being very active till now, the access is not a problem. It’s just whether the consumers have the same level of infrastructure that we require for a download.
What are the official numbers for units sold in India for the PS3 and PS Vita? If not exact numbers, how about a range?
In terms of the PS3 install base, it is 225K plus as the install base we work with for India and this number is as of March end. That’s the lifetime install base for the PS3. In terms of the PS Vita, given that we’ve only sold it for a year, we cannot divulge the number because that gives the annual number and we don’t share those splits.
When the PS Vita first came about, it was marketed as a portable PS3. Now that the PS4 has come about, Sony recently announced that Remote Play will be possible on almost all of its titles with the Vita. Do you think that when the PS4 does eventually come to India, that could somehow give a surge to how the PlayStation Vita is performing here? Because you can take your PS4 titles on the go and play those as well.
It definitely is a very key feature that has been declared at E3, and we definitely attach a lot of importance to it. The feedback from the gaming community is also in the same line, if I look at the Indian gamers. They also love the fact that this sort of feature has been made available between a PS4 and a PS Vita and I think this will definitely be a good support to the PS Vita’s future also.
What did you feel were the lessons learned from E3?
In terms of the Indian market, and that’s what I’ll comment on in terms of the PS4, it’s a very confident product in terms of the whole presentation, in terms of the pricing, in terms of the product configuration. I think it will have a pretty bright future and I think that unlike the PS3, which entered into the Indian market when the gaming culture was just getting created in India in 2007 onwards, now it comes into a more matured audience who have actually seen the benefits of gaming and are continuously trying to upgrade themselves in terms of the gaming culture. So I definitely see a pretty bright future for PS4 in the longer term and PS3 in terms of the current fiscal and the coming few fiscals.
In my opinion, Sony won this year’s E3 when Jack Tretton announced that the PS4 will support used games and it won’t require a constant internet connection to work. The audience and the internet literally erupted with joy. What is your personal opinion on this since in India the internet connections are pretty unstable?
In terms of the consumer appeal or whether it is the core gamers or anything else, this definitely helps us a lot in terms of the Indian infrastructure condition and all, which reassures the Indian audience that PS4 as a product will not be sub-optimized in terms of the experiences in the Indian market. Whatever are the internet connections or the Indian internet infrastructure, PS4 is still going to be a very strong offering for the Indian market.
SCEE’s Jim Ryan recently revealed in an interview that Sony will announce new games at GamesCom. Will these be any new IPs or do you have a surprise in store for us?
I have no idea. He is making the statement, and these are things they definitely plan for each of these big events. At a local level in terms of development organizations or marketing organization, we will have little visibility till we come closer to those dates. So I can’t comment on that.
"Ideally, we’ll go day and date with Europe which is…territory-wise we fall under Sony Computer Entertainment Europe and therefore we follow their logistics. But there are certain realities of the Indian logistics also in terms of the customs, shipping time and customs clearance and putting it across India. "
Microsoft had its DRM policies for the Xbox One, which it has since scrapped (for the time being) in favour of a more “consumer friendly” console. How strong a part did the PlayStation 4’s approach play in affecting their stance and ultimately changing it?
I won’t be commenting on our competitor’s strategy or what their product development strategy is or what their PR or marketing strategy is, internationally or in India. But in terms of the Indian context, I will definitely say that our Indian consumer today has to look at a PS4. From the start, we have kept the different types of consumers in mind and have said that wherever you may be or whatever may be your gaming capability, we will have a “consumer first” and that is what we’ve done. In terms of Microsoft and Xbox One, that is their own internal order, their own internal decisions – which I can’t comment on – but in terms of the PS4 and in terms of the Indian audience, I feel very reassured, as well as confident about its success in the Indian market.
Microsoft’s Xbox One does not launch until late next year. Does this make you guys comfortable that you are basically the king here with no competition? Not to mention the fact that Nintendo does not even exist in the Indian market.
It definitely gives us a head start in the Indian market. That is something they [Microsoft] have declared but things can always change. It gives us a head start, but if you look at the Indian gaming market, a greater amount of activity is welcome. I think that is also an important factor for growing the Indian market.
Talking about the hardware itself, it really looks beautiful but it also packs in with a ton of power and is easily the most powerful next gen system out there. Do you think we will be able to see AAA exclusives on the PS4 sooner compared to the PS3, given the fact that it is much easier to develop for?
As of now, none of the local markets – Indies or local markets – representatives will be commenting on either the technological or the publishing strategies of PS4. Because it is pretty tightly controlled from the centre and we have only seen the first part of it. The whole strategy is yet to unveil. It’s going to be very difficult for me to comment from a local level.
Indian pre-orders for the PS4 have already started. Does this mean that the PS4 will be hitting Indian shores this year?
We will be coordinating with Europe. As always, we will follow the European market in terms of the launch date and logistics. What happens sometimes is if Europe goes on a certain date, because of certain Indian logistics and logistic cycles like…we go within a certain number of days beyond that. Ideally, we’ll go day and date with Europe which is…territory-wise we fall under Sony Computer Entertainment Europe and therefore we follow their logistics. But there are certain realities of the Indian logistics also in terms of the customs, shipping time and customs clearance and putting it across India. So, we will coordinate with the European dates in terms of the launch.
"Whatever little I have done, the best thing I like is the DualShock 4 controller. My personal favourite is the controller and how easily you can do so many things with that controller. "
Is the Indian price for PS4 finalized and more importantly will be it affordable compared to higher PS3 price when it was first announced?
We haven’t finalized the price yet. We’re still looking at it, but we’re definitely looking at the pricing to remain very competitive but at the same time we have to look at the realities of the current exchange rates and the fluctuations happening. [Concerning whether it will be more affordable compared to PS3 when it first launched] it’s a bit too early to comment on that, because at that point of time we rolled the PS3 out around Rs. 39,990 but at the same time, the exchange rate was much more favourable. When we have all the factors put into the place, we will be in the position to declare Indian pricing. But given the exchange rate scenario, we will be declaring the Indian market’s price much closer to the date than as early as what has been done for other markets.
Will there be any more SKUs available for pre-order in the future for the PlayStation 4 before launch date?
For Indian market, we’re currently planning on the basis of the standalone SKU. As we go forward as to whether we require other SKUs or other bundles, that will be determined. But as of now, there is no such plan for the Indian market.
What’s your personal favourite feature of the PlayStation 4 and why?
From outside, I like the Share feature but that’s perhaps what’s been talked about the most. But, I have not handled the PS4 or gone deeper into the PS4 in terms of actually experiencing it in terms of a hands-on basis. However, whatever little I have done, the best thing I like is the DualShock 4 controller. My personal favourite is the controller and how easily you can do so many things with that controller.
"We have to take – as a strategic decision and like as of now, nothing has been decided as to whether the PS4 discs also will be replicated in India."
The share button is one of the pivotal features of the new DS controller and one of the things I am interested in is the video uploading feature. How long of a video can you record using the share button, 15 minutes, 30 minutes, or unlimited?
I do not have that technical part of the information. I think all of these things will become clearer and clearer with each cycle of declarations. Because all of these meaningful questions will keep coming back to us…people will delve into the different segments and figure out what exactly is happening in terms of what’s beyond each of the features.
Now that PlayStation games are being manufactured locally, can we expect the Indian price for PS4 games to be about the same as the current PS3 games?
The Indian game replication that is happening as of now is restricted to PS3 Blu-ray discs. We have to take – as a strategic decision and like as of now, nothing has been decided as to whether the PS4 discs also will be replicated in India. And until we have a clearer picture of that, we will…our endeavour is to keep the software pricing because the running cost is always very important to be as competitive as possible for the Indian market. But exact software pricing with respect to the Indian PS3 software pricing has not been finalized.
Tell us a bit more about game development that Sony has been investing in on the Indian side. Now that we have a powerful hardware in the PS4, will it eventually lead to bigger budget games on the scale of God of War or The Last of Us? Or to an umbrella of studios that SCEA and SCEJ currently maintain?
PS4, because of its configuration, gives a lot of opportunity to developers across as it gives to the Indian developers or the Indian development studios. But in terms of the exact development strategy with the Indian studios for studios on PS4…it’s a bit too early to make any comments whatsoever. In terms of scope and all, the PS4 is definitely developer friendly and given the competence that already exists in the Indian developers, it gives everyone the opportunity of success on a larger scale.
"It’s execution, execution, execution – that is the critical thing I think in terms of the local level initiatives we need to take on the PS4."
Sony will allow the PS4’s HDD to be replaceable so will someone be able to use a Solid State drive to get an increased performance boost?
I can’t comment on those technicalities. There is no way I will comment on any of the technicalities of PS4.
After announcing a round of exclusives, and marketing itself as friendly towards used games and indie development, what else does Sony have in store for us this year?
If I had to focus on the basis of the success we have seen at E3 and upcoming games as we go forward nearer to the launch, from the Indian perspective, it already has boiled down to a successful execution of a launch date for the Indian market, making it available to the Indian market in the best possible presentation in terms of both the console and availability of the software so that the Indian gamers from day one can jump into this format. So it’s execution, execution, execution – that is the critical thing I think in terms of the local level initiatives we need to take on the PS4.