Console Gaming in India – Part 1

Xbox 360 and Sony’s Playstation series of game consoles comprising of PS2, PS3 and PSP have entered a fresh round of pricing battle to lure consumers to gaming, Sony already has a significant share in the Indian game console market because of PS2 being in the market from a long time, For Microsoft it has being just 3 years in the Indian gaming market when it launched Xbox 360 in September 2006 with much publicity roping in Akshay Kumar and Yuvraj Singh for the ad campaign.

A year after that PS3 also entered the Indian Console gaming market, however both Xbox 360 pro and PS3 were priced high which made these gaming devices a luxury gadget to posses, Xbox 360 was launched in two versions, Xbox 360 Pro – Priced for Rs 24,000 but it sold up to Rs 27,000 adding the VAT and other taxes and Xbox 360 Core which sold for Rs 17,999 and was later it’s price was brought down to Rs 15,000. PS3 was launched in India for an astronomical price of Rs 39,999, at that time the USP it was bragging about was its 60 GB HDD and a Blu-Ray Disc player, with the game titles for PS3 starting at Rs 2799.

Xbox 360 Pro was a good deal at that time in comparison to Sony’s PS3 considering that it was offering a Gaming Headset, Ethernet Cable, HDMI Cable, 20 GB HDD and a wireless controller, and Xbox 360 Core version sold without the HDD and HDMI Cable, with a wired controller.

Microsoft then launched its online gaming service Xbox Live in India and it wanted to further fuel the need of Indian gamers  to connect with players around the world, play some popular game titles like Halo, Gears of War and COD series online, they came out with Silver and Gold Membership facility which continues even today, A Silver account member can access content like videos, game demos and other game related free content, but you require a Gold membership to play with other gamers online.

Microsoft came under heavy criticism for ripping money from gamers for just allowing them to play online, considering that news about Sony’s HOME service similar in line to Microsoft’s Xbox Live model was under development and was announced to be free for Playstation gamers.

Once the HOME service went live on Playstation, it failed to take off the way Sony intended, since it was aimed at garnering more sales for PS3, by allowing gamers to connect and play without paying anything, however Microsoft continued cutting the prices for Xbox 360 globally, and Sony stayed rigid in its pricing for PS3, still in the Indian Market both Microsoft and Sony were yet to see the sales picking up for Xbox 360 and PS3.

Microsoft did tie up with ICICI Bank to promote their sales through consumer loans being offered for this console; however it did not help much, 2 to 4 free game titles were offered along with the console, then even Xbox 360 Elite (Black) model was launched in India for a brief period with a whopping price of Rs 34,000 all for a 120 GB HDD, it was later withdrawn from the Indian Market.

Microsoft suffered the biggest blow in its early days of launch of Xbox 360, when lot of Xbox 360 devices suffered Red Ring of Death problem, caused due to hardware failure, Indian gamers too were victim of this problem, however Microsoft was prompt enough to offer a free replacement for console with this problem, giving an extended warranty on RROD issue for up to 2 years more than the original 1 year warranty period.

Sony continued to struggle on PS3 sales, however it was prompt enough to keep the sales momentum for PS2 going and continued aggressive price cut strategy for PS2, which ensured that an entry level console gamer had a clear purchase choice under a budget of 10K, whereas Xbox 360 core still retailed above 10K, Microsoft continued its effort to push the sales for Xbox by announcing promotional offers during Diwali and Christmas.

An Wikipedia article states that Xbox 360 came to India with 1,00,000 pre bookings, and currently Microsoft manages to sell around 3000 units a month, thus accounting for 12.5% of monthly gaming hardware sales in India, and the unofficial sales figure for Xbox 360 ranges to around 2,50,000 units, I could not locate much info about PS3 sale stats in India, however GTA IV first released for PS3 in India and Sony did release a bundled PS3 package to capitalize on the delay in the launch for GTA IV for Xbox 360.

Globally both PS3 and Xbox 360 have gone through lot of changes in the sales strategy and price cut war which peaked during the last year’s holiday season, with Nintendo’s Wii racing ahead in sales to the top is now seeing a fall in its sales numbers since it was targeted more towards the casual gamer.

Xbox 360 is preparing itself for the launch of “Project Natal”, the next version in futuristic gaming technology, taking the controller out of your hands and offer gamers and non-gamers a totally new way at looking at gaming, Sony too is working on a similar project, so again globally it’s a lot happening for the gaming industry, there’s little to cheer for the gamers in India.

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