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PlayStation Experience 2008 wraps up in Delhi

This year’s PlayStation Experience wrapped up on November 23 in Ansal Plaza, New Delhi. IVG was there for all three – starting off in Mumbai, and then at Bangalore’s Kormangala Indoor Stadium. The mercury has been dropping in the city and I decided that the best way to spend a Sunday would be go to and damage some heavy hardware.

For those of you not familiar with Ansal Plaza, it’s a large coliseum-shaped mall in South Delhi, and in the centre, Sony had erected a large bunker. With about a 100 install points covering PS2s, PS3s and PSPs, and a LOT of fancy Sony Bravias, this was a sweet setup. The first thing that hits you is the noise – the kids running amok, the announcer screaming with faux enthusiasm and a constant background noise mix of music, gunfire and sports crowd cheering. The second thing is the vivid colour scheme – completely orange. The setup overall was very nice; enough space to walk around, sit, enjoy the games, and large TV screens hanging from the ceiling showcasing what the players were playing.

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From what I heard and read, the setup was very similar to Mumbai and Bangalore with separate sections for Racing, Family, Kids, PSP, Action, Shooters and Sports. The seating was not uncomfortable; I really liked the golf cart in the EA Sports section. There was also a standalone SingStar section, and the highpoint of the day was watching an aged couple singing along to the jumping bars. The kids had a lot of fun in the EyeToy section, and getting them away from LittleBigPlanet was tough. I found out the hard way that a 6-year-old can show scorn like no one else can.

For hardcore gamers, the big draws were FIFA 09, Killzone 2, Resistance 2 and Mirror’s Edge. The last three are definitely meant to be enjoyed on a large screen. I really wish that Sony had managed to get the DUALSHOCK 3s for a better experience.

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PSE is meant to reach out to the non-serious gamers or the non-gamers and get them introduced into this new world of entertainment. If that is the single primary objective of PSE, then the Delhi leg was a huge success. There were a lot of families walking in and actually looking at some of the games with interest. The EyeToy will probably make its mark as the next big birthday party must-have, and LBP will be the one reason for parents to buy their kids a PS3.

A chat with Atindriya Bose (again)

I also got a chance to catch up Atindriya Bose, Country Manager, SCEI, to ask him some questions as PSE 2008 wraps up. You can also read his conversations with IVG from the Mumbai and Bangalore PSE events. We touched on a variety of topics; from the rise of gaming in India, outlook for next year, to Fallout 3.

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Outlook for 2009: The Indian gaming industry is nascent, so the industry is bound to increase, even with the economic slowdown. Next year, SCEI will be pushing forward on its marketing and business plans for India, and Microsoft have also realised that marketing just does not sell consoles. So they will be building up a new team to push forward on their business plans. Right now, gaming is about 4 per cent of Sony India’s business as compared to a world standard of 10-15 per cent.

Hurdle for growth in India, combating piracy: The big hurdle right now is the duty structure. A large fraction of the price goes towards duty. But people have to realise that there are advantages like warranty and customer service and content availability in buying legal systems. SCEI is committed to provide the consoles as cheap as possible even in an economy where the dollar is rising. The PS2 is pegged at the grey market rate and people are buying it for that reason. Getting a PS2 into a family means they will move up to the next level. PSE goes a long way in getting the families into gaming. And the gaming championships are meant to attract the hardcore gamers.

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Government support: The big companies have to show that there is a long term benefit from gaming as well. It’s not just the sale of content and consoles, but with the numbers there is a case for indigenous development. This will bring more associated jobs into the country. The other factor is that if the government decides to take a closer look at the industry and introduce a rating system (like Bollywood), there’s a fair chance that will be the death of gaming industry in the country. We do not develop mainstream games in the country, and we don’t have the numbers to justify a case for making a change in a game. This is not like censoring a movie where some scenes are cut. Here a large section of the game might have to be rewritten and that takes time.

Fallout 3: Microsoft took the right step. The numbers do not justify the business risk. Australia had the numbers to force Bethesda to change the game, but we don’t.

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PSE: The PSE has been a large success when you see the kind of people coming in and showing an interest. LBP has been the surprise draw. The initial thought around LBP was that it would appeal to hardcore gamers since there is a lot of level creation involved. However, even the standard campaign is very appealing. Parents love it because it’s safe for all ages and enjoyable. We missed the bus with LBP. The EA Sports section had a large draw as well and SingStar is very popular. We hope to get some more publishers/distributors next year. Guitar Hero from Activision would surely be a crowd puller. The entire theme of PSE is to show families that gaming is more than racing and shooting.

80 GB PS3: The console will release around mid-December. The pricing is not yet confirmed because the dollar fluctuations might warrant a change, but we will try to keep it minimal.

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Wrap up

Well Sony pulled off a great PSE this year. Hopefully a couple of more years and this will be instrumental in generating enough hype to increase the gaming industry in this country. Microsoft – are you taking notes?

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