Q. Why hasn’t the gaming boom taken place in India yet? Is it to do with price?
People use price to compare console gaming to other electronic segments because it’s the most obvious way to categorise, but Indian purchasing power parity can be sliced and diced into many different economies. Was the PlayStation 4 (PS4) launch substantial to the gaming market in India? Yes. Has it gone mass? No, it hasn’t. In electronics, there are factors outside price [the PS4 was launched at Rs 39,990]. Telephones and TV became big in India on the basis of a low running cost and improved infrastructure: 300 channels got beamed with high quality content and it resulted in people wanting to enjoy it. With mobile phones, your value-added services and call costs and call-drops have fallen drastically. Everyone would love to have console prices where they’re not constrained to a one shot payment.
Between 2002 and 2007, when we launched in India, when Microsoft launched as well [with the Xbox], it was a market-building effort. I think now it’s nicely positioned into verticals. There are more gamers and each gamer is a marketer for you: He brings in three more gamers into the fold. The mass base has broadened over the last 1.5 years at a speed that the PS alone could never had done, thanks to the tablet and smartphone revolution.
Younger gamers are also realizing that mobiles games are repetitive and without deriding those games, mass gamers are looking for more immersive, deep gaming experiences. Going forward, it will be about how we give the mobile gaming population a taste of the layers and depth in PlayStation titles. For example, Crash Bandicoot on PlayStation Mobile is one of our best-selling titles! Over a period the value equation will also fall into place: People say our games are Rs 3,000 to Rs 4,000 and they can get mobile games for free or pay Rs 99 to Rs 199. What they aren’t comparing is a 26-hour versus a 1-hour [respectively] game experience. The PlayStation network and store allows you to download snackable games like mobile games because of the internet infrastructure that now exists. The indie [independent] game developers will play a very important role along with the big developing studios because they can deliver low-GB games at Rs 250 to Rs 500.
Q. What is the size of the console gaming market in India?
It is estimated between Rs 700 crore and Rs 750 crore at the consumer level: Rs 450 crore for hardware and Rs 250-300 crore for software. On top of that you have PC gaming. Mobile is a different industry altogether. On the hardware side, we are almost 75 to 80 percent of the market. In the Rs 300-350 crore software market, as publisher, Sony Computer Entertainment is about 20 to 25 percent of the market. A console is a gaming device because of the content, not the machine, so it’s important all the publishers’ titles are available at the right prices.
We did a study five to six months ago: Almost 55 to 60 million Indians claim they are regularly gaming—this grew thanks to the mobile, the previous study had just 27 million! Advanced gamers who download games come to 30 million, and they are looking for bigger, better things. In India we have an installed base [owned, purchased consoles] of 1.7 million consoles, which is miniscule but has grown tremendously. The potential is huge: 7 to 8 million people claim to play on a console regularly! So each console owner allows anywhere between four to five people to play on their consoles.
Q. Why were you pleasantly surprised by the response to the PS4?
Between 2007 and 2012, we had seen business growth at almost 33 to 35 percent CAGR driven by the PS2. In the first 2 hours of the PS4 launch, we sold almost as much stock as the whole of 2013’s worth of PS3s! It was 10 cities, 35 stores midnight launch through pre-booking with partners like Flipkart, Landmark and Reliance Ezone. In Pheonix Mills, in Mumbai, we sold almost a month’s worth of PS4s in one night! These are unique things that have never been tried on the hardware side. If people are coming in at midnight in Ludhiana or Jalandhar, it showcases the demand, even if many customers were picking up pre-bought units.
Q. What are the challenges you face in a newly forming, emerging market like India?
(This story appears in the 07 February, 2014 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)