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Q&A: Atindriya Bose, SCE India

'Our plan in India is to build the hardware base first'

Priyanka Joshi  |  Mumbai 

Atindriya Bose

Three months ago, at a shareholders’ meet in Tokyo, Sony Computer Entertainment (SCE) announced that it will stay focused on networked devices and services, 3D products and emerging markets. The company was referring to the action back in India where Sony PlayStation consoles are used by an impressive 1.2 million gamers giving the company a whopping 70 per cent market share. In the developed markets like in the US, in contrast, the high-definition console space is split in the region of 40:60 between Sony and Microsoft. With console sales in India growing at 35 per cent CAGR, Atindriya Bose, country manager of PlayStation, SCE India, trimmed the console price tag to tap the fence-sitters to upgrade to PlayStation devices. This year, Bose is working hard to make a success of its India-specific gaming titles — the company has invested in a game written by Hindi film actor Shah Rukh Khan — and is ready with a elaborate marketing plan to ride the festive season. Positive about doubling PlayStation sales in the next five months, Bose tells Priyanka Joshi why SCE does not fear the nearest competitor Microsoft Xbox and how it is doing things differently in India. Excerpts.

A PlayStation game on a Bollywood film [Ra.One]. How exactly did you manage to get the investment approvals from your global bosses?
We keep taking feedback from our buyers, and last year we realised that Indian parents were most comfortable buying games that had Indian themes since they could relate to the titles. So, when we launched nine India-targeted titles like Hanuman, SingStar Bollywood, Kabaddi etc, and sold 425,000 units, we knew we were doing something right here. A year back, we were contacted by Shah Rukh Khan’s production house Red Chillies Entertainment and the actor volunteered to write the game script, dub for the game, and even oversaw the entire technical development. So, we invested $1 million to license the Ra.One IP and developed a thrilling game along with Trine Animation in India for our PS2 and PS3 consoles. The game will be priced starting at Rs 499 (PS2) and will be also launched in international markets for about Rs 2,499 on SCE’s online gaming network, PlayStation Network (PSN). We are targeting to sell about 100,000 Ra.One game units across, which should help us break even on our investments. Ra.One won’t be the only title that we will release this year for Indian gamers. There’s a street cricket game that we will release by the end of October for PS3. With Bollywood and cricket games in our portfolio, we can’t really go wrong.

With these new titles, will we see a fresh round of marketing blitz from Sony?
Yes, that’s only natural. We are putting nearly Rs 3 crore in the marketing and promotions of the Ra.One game, which includes offline promotions and TV advertisements. Over the coming weeks, you will see nearly 250 TV ad spots promoting the Ra.One game and we are also launching a gaming tournament around Ra.One that will be run across eight cities and almost 30 store points. The sheer involvement of Shah Rukh in the game has ensured that we have orders to ship 21,000 Ra.One game titles at the time of launch, which is a huge number for console games.

There were reports of cyber attacks on your PlayStation Network, which we came to know in April this year. Did it affect Indian gamers too and did it manage to scare off new users?
We began the year with 90,000 registered users and we are now at 110,000 users from India on PSN. So, while we did feel the pinch of the PSN outage that had exposed users’ personal information (allegedly credit card details of up to 77 million customers) back in India, it was nothing that we could not handle. We addressed a lot of digital enquiries from consumers and handled almost a four-fold increase in consumer calls at our call centres. Later, when the network was restored, we gave free access to games on the network for 30 days and this was availed of by 45,000 users from India. Yes, the brand has taken a hit after the hack, but online security is a global issue that can happen to any brand. We have now taken all the security measures to ensure that it is not repeated and users stay safe while transacting on PSN.

Do Indian users need more coaxing to transact online on PSN?
We all know that Indians do not like to transact online but we are trying really hard by bringing the best content gamers can get on PSN. But our focus in India is to build the hardware base first and then focus on the content distribution.

PlayStation consoles also saw a price cut this year. Why was that necessary?
We made a global announcement on the PS3 price drop and it was reflected in India too. The 160 GB PS3 is now selling at Rs 16,990, after a 15 per cent drop from its original price. This is to encourage users to upgrade and to get new users. Also, a price drop ensures that we sweep off volumes in the festive season. On the cards, for the upcoming months, is extensive promotion for 3D gaming on PS3 and Move, our motion gaming platform. There’s no denying that Sony PlayStation 2 console is still widely being purchased in China, South America and India, where 700,000 users play games on PS2. So, this means we can expect higher sales of PS2 in India, since it is also the cheaper console (sells at about Rs 6,000) and has become the entry level gaming console for those who are new to gaming. Also PS2 games are now being locally manufactured and packaged; so this reduces their prices from some thousand rupees to just Rs 500 which is pretty affordable for the gamers.

It would be safe to assume that as developed markets slow down their spending on electronics like consoles, markets like India that are still showing double-digit growth will become critical to SCE.
Yes, that’s what we have been factoring in when we write our annual blueprints. I know India has a lot of potential and growing at 50 per cent year-on-year is not an impossible target but it is tricky to sell a gaming device to Indian parents who think it is a distraction. That’s why as a brand we are trying to position ourselves as a family entertainment device and not just a gaming unit.

As a leader in the category, what steps have you taken to tackle the problem of rampant piracy?
We have minimised piracy by cutting down prices of our consoles and offering free games on console purchases and will continue to dole out such offers regularly to cripple piracy.

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First Published: Mon, October 17 2011. 00:18 IST