Internationally, the PSP has been going through some tough times, and you told me a little earlier that PSP sales had slowed down a bit last year. So how are things looking now?
I wouldn’t like to comment on other territories, but worldwide, Sony is looking at 10 million in PSP sales for this year, and over 4 million for the third quarter alone.
Is that because there’s a God of War game in the third quarter?
(laughs) No comment. I really cannot respond to rumours and speculation.
But coming back to your question, as far as India goes, we lost some momentum with the PSP last year, and by the end of the year, we had about a 20-25 percent growth. People may have been holding off on buying a PSP due to the uncertainty around whether the PSP 3000 was hacked or not. That’s unfortunate, but it’s the reality of our market. At the same time, PSP software sales have been good. Additionally, there is now more competition from mobile phone gaming. But people then realised that getting a gaming experience that is even close to what the PSP offers on a mobile phone will cost you over Rs 20,000. The PSP offers you a better gaming experience at less than half that. So there was initially a rough period, but now we’re seeing the PSP growing again. We’re seeing PSPs being gifted a lot, and it’s great to see retailers taking the initiative to promote the platform. Also I think there is a broader consumer demographic for the PSP than there is for the PS2 and PS3. The casuals prefer the PS2 and the core gamer has a PS3, but both the casual and the core gamers game on the PSP, and that’s great for us.
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This summer, we’ll be introducing the coloured PSPs. We’ll be offering the PSP in red, white and pink colours, and this is more targetted towards the younger audience; the pre-teens. In the West, there’s been about a 25 percent increase in sales when these SKUs are introduced. In India, we’re expecting that to be around 15 percent. We’ll also be bundling these coloured PSPs with two games – Daxter and LocoRoco. And of course, we have many new games coming out this year, so we’re excited.
What’s the likelihood of a price drop on the PSP?
Under the current conditions, it will be very tough to bring it down, especially since we’re bundling games with it. It’s very unlikely that we’ll see a drop in the price this year. And we’re very eager to figure out how the GST (Goods and Services Tax) affects us, because it could have a real impact.
You knew this next question was coming – when is India getting PSN?
For the first time, I actually have some positive news on this. We’re in a position where we should be able to roll it out this year. We’re already working on the store integration. Sony has seen the PS3 numbers here and they’ve seen the number of PSN registrations from India. As of January, the PS3 install base in India is around 50,000, and 60 percent of that is already registered on PSN. So that’s encouraging, and it definitely helps our case.
It’s too early to say what sort of content we’ll see on the PSN Store. We probably won’t see videos and comics for a while; initially it will be only game content. First and foremost, our focus will be to get the store up and running and making all the free content available. And we’ll take it from there.
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How will payment work?
Indian credit cards will work. We can even introduce prepaid PSN cards, because many Indians are apprehensive about using their credit cards online. Looking at developing markets like in the Middle East, there the prepaid cards are the preferred mode of buying store content. So it is quite important that sooner or later we introduce PSN cards.
Wouldn’t it be easier to let us use Indian credit cards on the US or UK store?
A separate payment gateway has to be created for India, with an added layer of security as per RBI regulations. So allowing Indian cards to work on the US or UK store is just not possible. But all that will be in place for the Indian store.
Which currency will the store use?
It will either be Dollars or the equivalent Rupee value, but we still have to work that out.
So once PSN comes, will that mean that collector’s editions of games will also release in India?
We used to bring collector’s editions to India, but we’ve been holding them back because of the PSN store content that comes with them. Once the store comes in, we’ll definitely bring them back. I can always tell Sony that releasing PSN content won’t be a problem because PS3 users here are already indirectly on PSN. But they look at the legality of it; that releasing content here, which requires a service that isn’t available in India, could be a problem. Once we have the PSN store here, that gets sorted out automatically.
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The last year has been great for the PS3 internationally, with big games, the slim SKU, and the price drop. What’s it been like here?
Each of the big game releases – from Killzone 2, to inFamous, to Uncharted 2, have dramatically boosted PS3 sales here. The popularity of inFamous in particular was beyond our expectations. Even the big games that have released on other platforms, like Call of Duty and Batman, have helped the PS3 greatly, and the PS3 has now become associated with these games. And then when you end the (financial) year with a game like God of War III, it’s just the icing on the cake. God of War III, in fact, took some of the attention away from another great game, which was Heavy Rain. It sort of missed out on the media attention as well with the impending release of God of War, but we’re very happy with how it’s performed sales-wise considering its target audience.
What do you make of the street date breaks and having to release games like Killzone 2 and God of War III before the official release date?
God of War III’s was a strange situation. Firstly, our official release date was never 19th; it was the 17th. And with 16th being a holiday and a weekend before that, we started sending out stock to retailers before the weekend, so that there wouldn’t be a delay on account of the weekend and holiday. Due to some miscommunication, it was thought that the release date was brought forward, so the retailers who were taking preorders started shipping out the game early.
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