Interview with Jaspreet Bindra

Earlier this month, we brought you an interview with PlayStation India boss Atindriya Bose. Today, IVG caught up with Jaspreet Bindra, Country Manager of Microsoft’s Entertainment and Devices division, which also includes the Xbox 360 business, to tell us about Microsoft’s plans for the rest of 2010. Read on to find out about the new Xbox 360 “shorty”, Kinect, Xbox LIVE, Xbox 360 Classics, post-warranty support, and why he thinks 2010 is the biggest year for Xbox.

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Things have been very quiet at Microsoft for a while. Can we expect that to change any time soon?

Yes, there are two big things to look at. First is our primary market; the core gamers. For them we’ll have the new Xbox 360 console coming in within the next 30 to 60 days. We also have games like Halo: Reach, Fable 3, and Gears of War 3, and all of these games well be launched in India as they launch elsewhere. The second big thing is how to make gaming more mainstream, and the answer to that is Kinect. I was there; I’ve played Kinect, and we’ll be able to give you a demo here in India in a few weeks time. In my and everyone else’s opinion, it’s going to completely change the face of gaming. It will redefine gaming and also make it more entertaining.

Those are the two big things, but thirdly, there will also be a renewed focus on Xbox LIVE. Globally, as you know, LIVE is a big thing. But in India with good broadband finally coming in, LIVE as it exists today will now get more importance, especially with the social networking features like Facebook and Twitter, which are already available for Indian users, and LIVE for Kinect, which will make it an even more social experience.

So we’ve got the new console and new games for the core gamer, Kinect to help make gaming more mainstream, and LIVE ties in with both to make gaming more social. All three of these are our focus areas this year. And everything will happen in India at pretty much the same time that it happens everywhere else.

At E3, Microsoft unveiled the Elite-equivalent console with a 250 GB hard drive and Wi-Fi, and just a couple of days ago, the 4 GB Arcade was announced. Will we have both in India, or just the Arcade one?

We are keen on bringing everything here that the market would want. I think there is enough excitement and there is a constituency for the 250 GB model here, and there is obviously a greater market for the 4 GB console. So while I can’t tell you exactly when each one would be available here, we are keen on bringing each SKU here.

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Can you give us an idea about the pricing for these new consoles?

The prices for these consoles have been announced globally, but here, three things will be added on top of that to increase the price. Two of these we can predict; the third we can’t. One is duties, which is 27-28 percent; second is the retailer and distributor margin, which gets added abroad as well; third and most important is the Rupee-Dollar exchange rate at that time. But looking at how the newer consoles have been introduced at the same price in the West, they should be at the same price as it is now here as well.

But we only briefly had the Elite console in India for Rs 35,000. That isn’t really an accurate price indication for the current 250 GB model.

We don’t bring in consoles because we want to; we do it because there is demand. We had brought in the Elites back then because there was a very small market for it, but it just didn’t justify the price. Now, the 250 GB console with its great features is very competitive and there is a sizeable market for it.

The similar SKU from Sony is the 250 GB PS3, which sells for around Rs 22,500. Can we expect the 250 GB Xbox 360 to be priced around that?

Yes, possibly. One thing Sony wants to know, perhaps even more badly than you do, is how much I will price the console in India. I don’t want to tell them (laughs). This is a competitive situation, and it will be competitively priced. We do special India pricing for a lot of our games, so we will definitely be competitive with the console as well. Also, with LIVE and Kinect coming in, I also have stuff that I don’t have competition in, so I’m not going to look for competitive pricing there. Instead, I’ll look at what the consumer will be willing to pay.

The target audience for Kinect is the entry-level user. This user is also more price-conscious. So considering the $150 price in the US, what can we expect it to cost in India?

I am not announcing the price for Kinect at this point. The Kinect launch is going to happen in the last two months of this year. So we have some time, and again for competitive reasons, I would rather announce the price closer to the Indian launch. Having said that, this is a product that transcends pricing. Once you see how it is, what it does, and how magical it is, the pricing is really not going to be a factor.

Next page: Kinect marketing, release date

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