At PlayStation Experience 2008, it was time for Round 3 of IndianVideoGamer vs Atindriya Bose, Country Manager of Sony Computer Entertainment India. You can read our earlier interiews with India’s PlayStation head here and here. Somehow, we never seem to run out of things to ask Atin. This time around, he sheds some light on the new 80GB PlayStation 3 set to hit stores in December, the post warranty situation for the PS3, the long-awaited PSN launch, and news of Activision moving its PS2 game manufacturing to India.
IndianVideoGamer: Last year’s PlayStation Experience seemed visibly bigger than this year.
Atindriya Bose: It’s actually not; square-foot area is the same.
IndianVideoGamer: It looks a lot smaller.
Atindriya Bose: That is something we’ve taken up with the agency. What is missing is the depth; this year the area is wider. So it looks smaller but in terms of the scale and spends, nothing has gone down. And this is not because we are doing three cities. The number of consoles put up is the same; in fact, the number is slightly higher because this year, we have put up more PS2s. It’s a lot more modular this year. Rather than detailed themes with lots of props from last year, we wanted a lot of branding this year with images of the games. So it looks a little more boothy this year.
IndianVideoGamer: The turnout too seems a little less than last year. Do you think that’s because of the location of the venue?
Atindriya Bose: We think the people will really start pouring in in the evening. Last year at the Taj, people started coming in right from the start. What’s happening here though, is we’re getting a lot of crossover crowd. The gamers that we saw last year, they somehow seem to be less this time. Last year, across the two days, we had about 80,000 visitors. My estimate is that we will have the same this year. I guess the fact that the venue is behind the mall and quite a distance away from it also has something to do with it.
IndianVideoGamer: Why is it that only games from Sony Computer Entertainment and EA are showcased at this event, when there are so many other great games from other publishers as well?
Atindriya Bose: Firstly, this event is from the platform owner’s point of view, which is why we offer the partnership for the event to others. EA is a partner here and was last year too. Secondly, there is also a publisher’s role that I have to fulfil, and that means that Sony products should be seen more. That’s why we don’t open it up to publishers so they can come in free. EA comes in with monetary involvement in the programme. If I open it to others without monetary involvement just because they have good franchises, then I cannot ask EA to push in money. As it grows and publishers like Activision start becoming big, they will also start chipping in and take a zone for themselves.
IndianVideoGamer: There are some really great titles available in India, like Metal Gear Solid and Street Fighter, which could really sell consoles.
Atindriya Bose: That’s true, but ultimately we have a limit to how many displays we can accommodate. There’s also the cost of the hardware that we have to bear. That’s the balance that comes in. Even with Milestone around, who hold distribution partnerships with the likes of Atari and Capcom, we have not allowed their games to be showcased. Because if we allow Atari and Capcom, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t allow games from WWCDROM or E-Xpress Interactive to be showcased as well. They too have premium titles.
IndianVideoGamer: So you would require monetary involvement from these distributors or publishers for their games to be shown here?
Atindriya Bose: Yes. In the future, one scenario could be that this could move towards a PlayStation platform event. Since India is predominantly a PlayStation market, I don’t expect to see an all-encompassing gaming event in the near future out of India. Neither Xbox nor Nintendo will come in; if that happens, nothing like it. I would love to have that sort of event because it gives the consumer choice. So in the future, I see this moving towards a PlayStation platform event, where other publishers would chip in.
IndianVideoGamer: Can you tell me a bit about Sony’s policy towards post-warranty PlayStation 3s?
Atindriya Bose: Currently, we are giving you a new console at 50 per cent discount in case something goes wrong with your console after warranty has expired.
IndianVideoGamer: Won’t there be a service facility?
Atindriya Bose: Not on an immediate basis. I think currently we are just touching figures of 20,000 with the PS3. Both the PS3 and PSP have quite complex service requirements, but at the moment, the PSP numbers allow us to go ahead and think about setting up a service centre in India. The process of changing the Blu-Ray drive is a very complex one and the Blu-Ray drive error is the most common issue we have faced. So right now, offering this replacement is a more cost-effective strategy. But surely at some point in time, these numbers will grow to the current PS2 numbers, and there will be nothing stopping us from setting up servicing here. For the PS2 and PSP, we are in the process of setting up service facilities here.
IndianVideoGamer: Until these facilities are set up, what is the current policy for post-warranty PS2s and PSPs?
Atindriya Bose: The policy is the same as for the PS3, but we are in the process of setting up servicing here, and that should happen in the next financial year.
IndianVideoGamer: Does this PS3 policy cover grey market PS3s or only those that are officially purchased here?
Atindriya Bose: It will cover any PS3 sold in a PAL territory. It has to be a PAL console.
IndianVideoGamer: So is there any support for someone who has an NTSC console?
Atindriya Bose: No; none whatsoever. We can’t even take them and send them back, because those won’t be recognised as Indian PS3s. It’s outside the company’s global philosophy to provide support for NTSC consoles in PAL territories. Also, those purchasing grey market PS3s will be losing out on warranty completely.
IndianVideoGamer: You’ve announced that you’ll be replacing the 40GB PS3 with the 80GB SKU. Will there be any price difference between the two?
Atindriya Bose: As of now, we are debating that. The pressure that is coming is from the exchange fluctuation. We want to keep it at the same price, but we may have to push it up a bit.
IndianVideoGamer: Can you give me an estimate of how much more someone waiting for the 80GB PS3 might have to pay?
Atindriya Bose: Rs 2,000 is the maximum possible increase.
IndianVideoGamer: Game prices too have gone up by Rs 100.
Atindriya Bose: That’s just to tide over this period of exchange rate fluctuations. Even if the exchange rate goes up but stabilises at a point, our idea is to come back to the old price. If exchange rates keep going up and down, we can’t do anything, and this affects PSP and PS3 games more because these are imported. For PS2 games that are manufactured here, we can keep prices stable by managing the shortfall at our end, but it’s harder for imported games.
IndianVideoGamer: You had mentioned a while back that you were in talks with Activision to have their PS2 games manufactured in India. Has there been any progress on that?
Atindriya Bose: Activision have transferred all their assets here. They have done the transfers, their costing is ready, and the distributor is ready as well. Again, they are also a little confused with the Dollar fluctuating between Rs 47 and Rs 49. They need to figure out at what price they can start a plausible operation. So all the transfers are done and they have also obtained a special sanction to maintain the mid-range pricing of Rs 699. So they’re pretty much ready at their end, but I think the Activision-Vivendi deal had also put this on hold to an extent.
IndianVideoGamer: Currently, Activision games are distributed here by Worldwide CD ROM. So with this going through, will these PS2 games come through Sony or WWCDROM?
Atindriya Bose: They will continue with WWCDROM. Third parties have the right to select their own distributors.
IndianVideoGamer: Every time I talk to you, I ask you this question and I’m going to ask you again – When does India get PSN?
Atindriya Bose: India is now in the top 5 list of PSN Stores being created and integrated. When I last spoke to the person in charge, I was told that India would get PSN in this fiscal (by March 31, 2009). That looks like a plausible date and I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
IndianVideoGamer: Will there be a PSN card system for India or will buyers have to rely solely on credit cards? Do you think the prepaid card system will work?
Atindriya Bose: You tell me.
IndianVideoGamer: I think the card system would work pretty well because many people are still paranoid about using their credit cards online.
Atindriya Bose: I have my doubts. Regular gamers will get their content either way; whether it’s by prepaid card or credit card. But pushing the prepaid card system to the general population and the distribution of it can be hectic. Even Zapak is pushing that system but I don’t know to what extent that will work. The micro-transaction system that works in east Asia may not work here. So we will need to evaluate whether we really want to get into that level of complexity.
Click here for our coverage of PlayStation Experience 2008