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Round 4: Interview with Atindriya Bose

There seems to be a slight shift in your approach towards launch events and consumer events like PlayStation Experience. Will we continue to have launch events for games?

We were supposed to have a launch event for God of War III, but due to the clash in dates with the FICCI Frames event, we had to cancel it. But yes, we will have launch events for all our major titles, and of course, PlayStation Move will be big for us, so we’ll certainly do a lot around that. Then we have consumer contact programmes. The way we’re going about that now is we’re trying to reach core gamers through college festivals, whereas the more mainstream events, which we’re still calling PlayStation Experience, are smaller because we want to do more of them. This is mostly for a family audience, and here too, we’ll be focusing a lot on the PlayStation Move.

One very interesting thing about the PlayStation Experience event in Mumbai earlier this year was that you didn’t have any non-Sony games there. Not even FIFA. So is the focus of these events solely first-party from now on?

When we used to do PlayStation Experience on a bigger scale a few years ago, we used to sell that zone to EA, so there was a commercial aspect. Yes, FIFA is a big game, but if I’m going to have FIFA there now, which is from a third-party publisher, then I should also oblige WWC by having Call of Duty there, or let E-Xpress showcase Batman. The space we had there was already occupied with our games which we were showcasing across the three platforms. Whether that’s the correct or wrong way to go about it, I don’t know. But yes, we are looking for some sort of partnership, and if we are planning future events, we will contact our publishing and distribution partners and offer them space to showcase their games.

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With PSN coming, will we also start to see those peripherals that weren’t available here earlier, like the Bluetooth headset and the chatpad?

Yes, we will bring those in. We don’t think there will be a huge demand for these peripherals, so we will probably supply these to specialist retailers and retail chains in specific regions.

One of the questions most IVG members wanted me to ask you was about the warranty and service for the PS3. It’s probably the biggest reason people are apprehensive about buying a PS3. Are you planning any policy changes regarding warranty and servicing?

For now, the warranty and service policies will remain unchanged. Setting up a service centre for the PS3 is still not feasible or cost-effective for us. What we will do now though is to maintain a large swap pool, which is a stock of consoles that can be given in exchange for under-warranty consoles, so the customer doesn’t have to wait a long time for a replacement. We should have this pool of consoles in place by Diwali.

The delays in under-warranty replacements has been a huge problem. People are having to wait over a month at times to get a replacement.

That is very strange, because the moment a non-working under-warranty PS3 comes in, a replacement is to be given. The service center professionals don’t have the permissions or the expertise to diagnose issues with the PS3 hardware, so beyond checking the cables, there is nothing for them to do but to issue a replacement once they have verified that there’s no physical damage on the unit. So if anyone is facing a long delay in getting a replacement, I would request you to send me their case IDs, so we can look into it.

Is there any possibility of offering a paid extended warranty?

Sony India does offer extended warranty for some of its products, so I can discuss the possibility of offering the same for the PS3, provided it is economically viable.

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Do you see Blu-ray manufacturing picking up in India, and maybe even one day extending beyond movies to include PS3 game manufacturing?

In India, we’re in a fortunate position to have Sony electronics, music, movies, television, and PlayStation here so we have an advantage in that sense. We’ve started evaluating whether there is a big enough market for Blu-ray in India. I’ve been pushing Sony DADC (disc manufacturing) to go ahead with it. The biggest factor is how fast Indian content comes to Blu-ray, and the quality of that content. If you look at the current Bollywood offerings on Blu-ray, they look like upscaled DVDs. So once we start seeing a move towards proper Blu-ray-worthy HD content from India, it won’t be long before they’re manufactured here, especially considering that even prices on imported Blu-rays are always dropping. I don’t see that taking any longer than one year from now. And once that happens, and there is a Blu-ay production line at DADC here, we can easily start manufacturing PS3 games here.

Finally, how do you see Sony PlayStation growing in the next 12 months across the three platforms?

I think the PS3 is on a roll right now, and now we will focus on the in-store experience. We want people to try out its many features, especially once Move comes in. But in terms of mass communication via TV and print, we will continue to focus on the PS2 and PSP, because the distribution width has now greatly increased, and doing in-store demos for an entry-level console like a PS2 isn’t practical. Over the last two and a half years, we’ve sold around 225,000 PS2s. So now if we can get even 10 percent of these people to move up to the PS3 this year, that’s a decent number. In order to showcase the sort of quality, high-end entertainment that’s on show on PlayStation, we have the PSP and PS3. But the primary focus is to keep getting more and more people to start gaming, and the PS2 and PSP are the best ways to achieve this. So the PSP will play a dual role, but we’re very excited for all three platforms in the coming year, and we’re confident that we’ll see a very healthy growth for all three, thanks to some great games that are on the way.

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