Though there are plenty of obsessed gamers in India, it’s interesting to note the wholesale divided between gamers and non-gamers – even in cities, the number of hardcore gamers is woefully low compared to the United States and UK. Nonetheless, that number is rising thanks to the presence of the PS4 and Xbox One. For its part, it’s becoming much easier to get your hands on the latest releases at acceptable prices but there’s still work to be done.
GamingBolt spoke to Atindriya Bose, Sony country manager for India, and discussed the impact of the PS4 in India, the likelihood of a price cut arriving in the country and much more.
(Note: this interview occurred before the official price cut in the United States and Canada. Atin’s response are from an Indian market perspective.)
"The software attach ratio is becoming a bit more difficult to gauge. There aren’t numbers that we officially quote but a safe estimate in terms of the installed base will be somewhere between 50-60K and in a few months, we will be going in with around 60K of installed base."
So let us jump to the most important question straight away. You know it’s been over 18 months since the PS4 launched in India, how would you gauge its success compared to the PS2 and PS3 launches back in the day?
Atindriya Bose: When the PS4 and PS3 were launched I don’t think India had such a broad based acceptance of gaming as a concept. At that point of time there were a lot of barriers for the PlayStation 2 or PlayStation 3 or gaming as a whole. When we launched the PS4, I don’t think we had that as a problem but since it’s a product that is on the higher end and therefore there is a category of consumers which is on the top end of the pyramid. So that’s the only difference but in terms of gaming as a concept we did not have any issues when we launched the PS4. In terms of numbers or if we look at the install base or like the annual number that we’re notching up in India market, these are perhaps numbers that we achieved in three or four years’ time as the installed base when compared to the PlayStation 3. So that way, the PS4 has come in with a certain requisite speed that makes India import it and also it has been much more acceptable.
Okay. So do you think that it would probably be more successful than the previous PlayStation launches?
Atindriya Bose: Definitely, but you cannot compare it like that because the time frames are different but do I call those console launches not so successful? No. They have played their part and because they have been successful in the Indian market we have been able to build on that success and got a number that is far higher than perhaps the launch numbers for those formats.
You probably don’t have any official sales figures for the exact install base of PS4 in India but how many consumers do you think have a PS4 and what is the software attachment ratio like?
Atindriya Bose: The software attach ratio is becoming a bit more difficult to gauge. There aren’t numbers that we officially quote but a safe estimate in terms of the installed base will be somewhere between 50-60K and in a few months, we will be going in with around 60K of installed base. But what I’m giving you is an estimate on the basis of the connected installed base that we see.
"The biggest challenge is that while the gamers are quite gung ho about it, it is not yet a mainstream console and many people do not understand that along with the gaming there is a huge amount of non-gaming applications that can be used."
In the past we have spoken a bit about local manufacturing of PS4 games for first party and third party games. Is there any update on this?
Atindriya Bose: No. There is no update. We have not started first party replication in India simply because when you have a sixty thousand installed base even with certain attach ratio, you do not. On a title basis you do not get up an adequate volume to justify that. As we double this number then perhaps there will be talks around bringing in replication but and that’s a strategy of the future and a bit speculative to comment now.
So it’s all about software numbers.
Atindriya Bose: There are so many titles coming up even if we have a good attached ratio, you are talking about a total of around 300,000 to 350,000 software ratio. So I think it’s bit too early but it’s a possibility that will obviously be evaluated at a later stage.
What is your biggest concern regarding the Indian market and promoting PlayStation products?
Atindriya Bose: The biggest challenge is that while the gamers are quite gung ho about it, it is not yet a mainstream console and many people do not understand that along with the gaming there is a huge amount of non-gaming applications that can be used. In terms of acceptability, we are in the cusp of a really good period. However, for PlayStation to be a household console it still requires the justification that it is not just a gaming console but it has a lot other entertainment features built into it. In terms of the future as we look forward the biggest concern I have is the broadband speed of the country which doesn’t justify all the developments that are happening worldwide on the PlayStation whether it is in the form of the digital software distribution and the digital non-gaming concepts. There is a gap that I see with the benefits that our international consumer gets out of PlayStation and the Indian consumer who can possibly get out of PlayStation.
So this is like more of a problem related to the infrastructure?
Atindriya Bose: If I have to rank the three, one is the infrastructure part of it because if the broadband infrastructure is fantastic then the PlayStation can actually become the all-rounder in the house. And your software distribution or your access to software also is not so dependent on to the widely distributed offline channel but every PlayStation consumer will have a huge range of software that he can perhaps download it. The second part is the niche level entertainment concept.
Our extraction is too out of sync with the world to be able to have a price point that is meaningful for the India market. We definitely need to maintain a price point which is twenty percent to thirty percent higher than the world markets simply to cover the tax differential that lies in the India market. So tax structure is something that remains a bottleneck to grow this business. Hopefully we will see a certain rationalization of that. And the third part of it is from the consumer point of view. While the core consumers or the gamers are very gung ho about the product the purchase of the product still requires a family ratification and that is where like the other non-gaming entertainment aspects and the knowledge of that entertainment aspects that comes out of PlayStation 4, that part remains still a low in terms of consumer knowledge.
"Whatever pricing plans that we have will be in sync with the world price changes. But as of now there is nothing on the anvil to declare."
Recently we interviewed one of the developers in Ecuador and PlayStation is putting in some local efforts, providing development tools to local developers over there. Why don’t we see such kind of initiatives taken from PlayStation in India?
Atindriya Bose: In terms of Indian game developers we have had…see like it all has to match with the different phases that we are in the console life cycle. With a PS4 obviously we aren’t perhaps in a position to do it earlier. On the PS2, PS3 we have had a very strong local development program and those channels are obviously open to the Indian consumers. As of now on the PS4 because of the development cost and all we are perhaps not looking at a local content business development. However from the indie portfolio, the channel of communication and the access to any of these developments is open to every Indian developer today and anyone who is interested, they are doing it and there are Indian game developers who have access to do these and are developing on the PS4 but they are doing it independently.
It’s not like the PS2 or the PS3 days where we actually handheld and worked in partnership with developers because there was a lot of interest in the local content development. So the channel of the technical support remains open for the Indian developers. However as of now at this point of the life cycle we are not looking at funding or like subsidizing any of the Indian content business development.
The next question ties in perhaps what you said before. You admitted the PS4 is expensive according to current Indian standards and in fact even the PS3 which is retailing at 16,500 if I’m not wrong.
Atindriya Bose: Yes.
Well at least in my opinion these two are still expensive given their respective life cycle. Do you think there’s a price cut coming out anytime soon?
Atindriya Bose: No. Whatever pricing plans that we have will be in sync with the world price changes. But as of now there is nothing on the anvil to declare. On the PS3 side the price remains. The PS3 500GB may be available in the market but we are not selling many fresh quantities so it’s only 12 GB. And there is no price cut that is planned on the PS3. On the PS4 also there is nothing to declare now. If there are changes worldwide then it will change in India. So we will maintain a parity with the world prices.
" It’s nice to claim to say that to keep it open by saying we are planning it but is the infrastructure going to change so fast that I can discuss it? Without the infrastructure changing, it’s too premature to discuss it about the India market."
I think going back 18 months and before that, we used to have a lot of local events for the public and for the press but that has declined now.
Atindriya Bose: Not declined. We are still having the the PlayStation Experience that is still there. That has happened during the summer months. There is a slight change in terms of how we are approaching the event now, it’s more focused on the PlayStation 4 which is slightly on the higher rate and is more focused on the gamers. Previously with the PS2 and a PS3 especially when we had the portfolio of the PS2, PSP as well as the PS3 on the top end the events could accommodate both the gamers but they were actually focused on broad basing the gaming as a concept. And therefore those events got a lot of family audience into it.
The current events which is focused with the gamers and rewarding the gamers. You cannot jump into a PS4 product without having a certain concept and a certain excitement about gaming. It’s not just a family audience you just start with the PS4 and then let’s see like how it pans out. So you need the gamers to talk about it, you need the fame seekers to experience and get into it.
What about PS Now?
Atindriya Bose: I don’t think we are discussing India in terms of it because even if you look at the US market, it goes by pocket by pocket. Even in Europe it started in certain parts, so as of now it’s too premature to discuss India on it. But it is ultimately a feature and a service that can be offered on PlayStation 4. If there is infrastructure that allows it everything can be considered but is it being considered for India? As of now I don’t think it’s like we are not discussing it.
So it’s not going to happen any time soon?
Atindriya Bose: No, definitely not. It’s nice to claim to say that to keep it open by saying we are planning it but is the infrastructure going to change so fast that I can discuss it? Without the infrastructure changing, it’s too premature to discuss it about the India market.
"The third party strategies are doing very well on the platform so that is encouraging. I feel that new IPs along with remastered games as support is good enough package for the full the year."
Sony usually has a very strong showing at Gamescom. Why do you think Sony missed out on Gamescom?
Atindriya Bose: There is nothing to read into it. We had a very good E3, an excellent one in fact. This is all about how everyone phases out the announcements. So I won’t be reading too much on why we missed out on Gamescom and these are strategies that are developed by the European head and the SCEI so it’s a bit difficult to comment on that.
So PlayStation 4 owners shouldn’t worry about or look into it in too much detail.
Atindriya Bose: Yeah, remember the only thing I can say is that perhaps we should not read too much about it. These are very cogent strategies that are created there. So for a player who is planning to buy a PlayStation 4, I don’t think he/she should read too much into this.
Given that you already have a strong line up of games for next year.
Atindriya Bose: Exactly.
Even though the PS4 seems to be doing well in India as well as outside, there are no major Triple A exclusives coming out whereas your competitor, Microsoft has this vast line up of games. How do you think the PS4 will perform despite this upcoming challenge?
Atindriya Bose: We had releases in the past that have been exclusive to the PlayStation 4 including successful remasters such as The Last of Us and at the same time building up to Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, we have a good 3-4 titles that will be coming up. You have seen the excellent launch of Bloodborne which did exceedingly well even in the Indian market. I was a bit apprehensive about it but it is a surprise. I was quite happy to have it as a positive surprise because I thought it was specific to a particular genre but it did very well in the Indian market. We were fast enough to move in with a Bloodborne bundle. Initially that was not planned but the moment we realized it was doing well we came up with a summer bundle.
Then we also have Until Dawn which is coming up. Then between Until Dawn and Uncharted 4, there are quite a few releases but they may not be specific to the Indian market like Tearaway Unfolded. Tearway has a very unique concept, we will bring it here and test it out but we will have to see how it pans out.
So we have 3-4 new titles coming up along with remastered games. There is The Uncharted Collection that we are talking about and is already available for pre-order. Along with that, if you see our third party partnerships, Batman Arkham Knight did so well on the PlayStation 4, this was further supported with significant numbers that we did with the Batman bundle. So I feel we have our partnerships very strongly in place.
Destiny is not an Indian product but there are things we plan to do with Call of Duty and stuff like so am quite confident that PS4 owners will have a gaming experience between the exclusives and the 3rd party stuff that will make them satisfied on the PlayStation platform. The third party strategies are doing very well on the platform so that is encouraging. I feel that new IPs along with remastered games as support is good enough package for the full the year.
Third party things are doing very well on our platform so that’s very encouraging. But I feel like four new IPs, 3rd party support and the remastered products is a good enough package for the full year to keep the Indian gaming audience very interested.
The PlayStation 4 gamer should not be bothered at all. In terms of new IPs there are some huge ones. When I look at E3 where we have announced what is coming up which also takes care of next year’s line up and those are pretty big. So in terms of overall experience I think there is nothing to worry about. The games are going to be better, bigger and more exciting.
"These are strategies and partnerships that are drawn up at the world level. But whenever it comes in players will have it. See, there are two competitors playing with certain strategies. We have to look at what are the best things in our portfolio and what differentiators are there and to what extent it covers up certain gaps that we may be having."
What is your take on the Rise of the Tomb Raider timed exclusivity deal?
Atindriya Bose: These are strategies and partnerships that are drawn up at the world level. But whenever it comes in players will have it. See, there are two competitors playing with certain strategies. We have to look at what are the best things in our portfolio and what differentiators are there and to what extent it covers up certain gaps that we may be having.
The other competitor is also not going to fit without doing anything. These strategies happens between the platform owners and the developers.
But in terms of whenever it happens [the game’s release on PS4], there should not be any concern about its availability. I am not too concern about this delay but there should not be any concerns about its availability. In terms of distribution between ours and the third parties, making them available in the market, I think we have created an infrastructure that can take that ahead.
So if I can only comment on the product and ability of India market and for the India market I’m not too concerned about this delay but there should be no concern about any of the games not being available in the India market. In terms of the distribution making all the products between ours and the third parties, making them available in the India market I think we have created an infrastructure that is strong enough to take that.
You have a lot of great games coming up like Unchartered 4 and Horizon Zero Dawn. Can players expect new IPs and games besides the ones already announced?
Atindriya Bose: There will be. There have been so many games that have been showcased other than Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End and Horizon: Zero Dawn. The games portfolio showcases how the game is and what new things are there in it, as we go forward towards the launch the acceptability of many new IPs also comes in.
If you look at the whole E3 line up, you are only taking two out of the so many that have been declared, hopefully for 2016 and onward and then you have the third party titles. This is definitely a defining year for the PS4 because at that point we are perhaps with a base of 100,000-120,000 units in India. So I think yes, it’s a re-defining year, those two are exciting titles but those two are not the only two.
So is this a testament that Sony continues to invest in new IPs?
Atindriya Bose: We do. Those testaments are perhaps best seen during E3, Gamescom and the Paris Games Show, and similar events. And we have always been able to deliver on that.
"So if you have to ask me like are we doing a certain reasonable number on the monthly basis but is that a satisfactory number for the India market? I don’t think so."
Is the PS Vita dead?
Atindriya Bose: In India market…while we are making it available it is a big challenge. Whether it is dead or alive is not something I can talk about but the acceptance is nowhere near the PSP. So it remains a very niche category which makes it even more challenging for the India market in terms of making the games available. So for the PS Vita to be successful you need the online part of it to be very strong and you just cannot do that. So if you have to ask me like are we doing a certain reasonable number on the monthly basis but is that a satisfactory number for the India market? I don’t think so.
So it’s fair to assume that your complete focus is on the PS4.
Atindriya Bose: On PS4 and the home console market.
Talking about the home console market in general, not necessarily related to the PlayStation or the Xbox, what are your thoughts on the rise of mobile gaming market and how does it affects console gaming?
Atindriya Bose: In terms of Indian market, the entry level gamers that we had were coming through the PS2 or a PSP. That segment has completely gone to the smartphones and the mobile games. However the advantage is that like in a year like if we were able to push three hundred thousand between a PS2 and a PSP the mobile gamer numbers that gets added is far greater than that. So even a small percentage of that gets addicted to gaming and starts looking for better gaming experiences. So that conversion into a PS3 or a PS4 is becoming far easier. So we’re getting a bigger pool of gamers where even a small conversion ratio can do a far greater justice than we were being able to do by trying to create a gaming market on our own through the PS2 or the PSP.
When do you think the next iteration in PS4 hardware will happen? [PS4 slim]
Atindriya Bose: That’s too speculative in nature. As of right now we are going to focus on the 1TB launch.
Talking about games, where is Gran Turismo 7? It’s one of Sony’s premier franchises.
Atindriya Bose: Yeah true, but where exactly GT7 is…it is probably for the publisher to comment on.
"There is a high level of inquisitiveness about the title which if properly harnessed, it can do pretty well. It will still require IP creation for the Indian market. It’s a very unique title and it has a story based approach so in order to harness the inquisitiveness, there will be a bit of investment here."
But you can’t deny its importance to PlayStation as a whole.
Atindriya Bose: There are certain genres that does very well and there are certain titles that do well. But if I have to pick up a few that perhaps every player talks about you have the Gran Turismo and FIFA series. These are the must haves for anyone who is jumping into any of the console formats. So yes, Gran Turismo is a very important title. We have seen fantastic success with the last bundle we did (Gran Turismo 6) but beyond that I don’t think I can comment on its future.
Do you think the Last Guardian is an important title for the PS4 specifically in India?
Atindriya Bose: There is a high level of inquisitiveness about the title which if properly harnessed, it can do pretty well. It will still require IP creation for the Indian market. It’s a very unique title and it has a story based approach so in order to harness the inquisitiveness, there will be a bit of investment here. [The delay] This has worked in our favor in creating an inquisitiveness and creating an IP on the basis of PR it has generated here. It can do pretty well in the India market also. But it still will require an IP creation for the India market.
But do you think there will be special attention towards this game.
Atindriya Bose: We will. Definitely. It’s a very interesting title, it has a story build approach which is quite unique so I think we will give it…given that level of inquisitiveness that’s there in the India market for this title, we well if you have to harness it you obviously have to, also invest a little bit on it.
"To the fans, I can only reassure that the PS4 or the PlayStation category, we are completely motivated to serve the Indian gamers in the best possible way within the infrastructural and tax bottle necks."
Now the PS4 despite it’s up and down it has been more up to be honest with you ever since the console was launched in 2013. It is already selling more than the PS2 you know, in India as well as abroad. It has already sold like 25 million units worldwide. So do you think it is on track to be Sony’s most successful console?
Atindriya Bose: That only time can say during the console life cycle but it’s a fantastic success and we are doing everything to make it as successful as we can but whether this is the best one or this is the best one, I don’t think these are comparisons…they are nice to talk about maybe, but we are doing everything we can to make it successful as it should.
Has the recent surge in sales for the PS4 given any rise of interest for PS3?
Atindriya Bose: No. In India market our PS3 still does pretty well. India market has categories, right? So at a 16,990 the PS3 still clears a certain price point to enter into the home console.The pre-teens or the teenagers are still entering with the PS3 as their primary console and then the PS4 category is more from the college and the post college or the early earners. So there is a segregation of the category that is happening so the PS3 still does pretty well and works its purpose in a certain segment of the market.
I think I guess that will be it. Do you have any closing words to our PlayStation fans?
Atindriya Bose: To the fans, I can only reassure that the PS4 or the PlayStation category, we are completely motivated to serve the Indian gamers in the best possible way within the infrastructural and tax bottle necks. But we will try doing the best for them. In terms of making all the products available, making all the games available and serving them the best way we can. So there should be no doubt about it and where it is possible we will do things that will always keep them excited and surprised.