PS VITA LAUNCH INDIA: A CONFUSED STRATEGY FROM SONY

The PS Vita will launch in India on the 22nd February.  The same day as launches in Europe and in the U.S.  It’s good to see that more and more console and video game makers are treating the Indian market seriously.  Or are they?

There are two PS Vita models:

1)       PS Vita Wifi:  can only be used online in a Wifi zone

2)       PS Vita 3G:  can be used online as long as you have 3G receptivity in the area you are in.

So the pricing for the PS Vita in India, UK, and the U.S. is as follows:

  • PS Vita Wifi:  UK – $362 (or £229);  U.S. – $250; India – $406 (or INR 19,990)
  • PS Vita 3G:  UK – $440 (or £279 ); U.S. – $299; India – $507 (or INR 24,990)

Answer is no.  $150-200 more than in the U.S.?  For real Sony?

Now, there are some financials behind it that explain some of the pricing  – like the 27% custom duty the Indian government put on any imported electronics, and the high manufacturing costs that Sony bear with the PS Vita (it took them years to make the PS3 profitable).  But with the Indian market being such a large and growing market – it’s a crying shame Sony have priced the PS Vita so high.  With both the PS3 and Xbox being available cheaper in India – and the PS Vita’s original sales struggling in Japan (as described here) – Sony is making it very difficult for the Vita to be widely sold in India.  We’re making progress – but we’re still not being taken as seriously as we should be.

If you are a hardcore gamer, can afford the INR20k outlay, and like portable gaming devices – here’s what you get for your money.

HARDWARE:

A Slick Design With Front And Back Touch Screen

  • Screen:  5-inch (130 mm) OLED touchscreen
  • Controls: two analog sticks, a joypad, a set of standard PlayStation face buttons, two shoulder buttons (L and R), a PlayStation button and Start and Select buttons, and a rearpad.
  • Cameras:  two cameras (front and rear) featuring face detection, head detection, and head tracking capabilities.
  • System:  512 MB of system RAM and 128 MB of VRAM
  • Battery Life:  3–5 hours of gameplay (no network, no sound, default brightness level), 5 hours of video, and up to 9 hours of music listening with the screen off (i.e. pack your charger if you’re travelling longer than you’re daily commute, and if you work in Bangalore it may not even last your whole commute).
  • Memory:  4-32 GB (and yes, you pay more for more).  Keep in mind that a game can use up to 1GB.
  • Additional Good Stuff:  stereo speakers, microphone, Sixaxis motion sensing system, three-axis electronic compass, built-in GPS (only for the 3G version) as well as Wi-Fi, 3G, and Bluetooth 2.1+EDR connectivity.

The graphics and speed of play are impressive – in terms of a gaming experience, it’s the best portable gaming experience available on the market.  But it doesn’t go as far as a tablet in terms of all round functionality.  In summary:  the best portable gaming platform with some useful gimmicks, but it won’t replace your tablet if you have one.

TITLES:

The PS Vita is launching with 26 new titles – including some big hitters that received rave reviews such as Unchartered & Wipeout 2048.  You also get access to 275 downloadable PSP games (to be confirmed for India), with more coming.  At the moment, there are no plans to make PS2 or PS3 games downloadable on the PS Vita.

In India, these will start retailing between INR2,400 – 2,800.  A bit cheaper than PS3 games – but not significantly.

Wipeout 2048 Shows Some Impressive Graphics.

SO SHOULD YOU GET ONE?

The PS Vita comes across as a confused product.  Sony is confused by how well it is going to do.  It feels like it’s halfway between a portable gaming device and a tablet.  And Sony confused its pricing model by making it more expensive in India than in the U.S. (or maybe they just got their geographies mixed up – who knows).  They also made it more expensive than a PS3 (again, they might have confused their products).

It shouldn’t take away from the fact that it is the best portable gaming platform, and will give you a whole new gaming experience with some cool touch screen interfaces, great portable playability, and the best graphics available on a portable device.

But you’ll be looking at 30,000INR to buy the console, a couple of games to get started, and a decent memory card.  If you’re a hardcore portable gamer – go for it (or ask a nice family member or friend outside of India to be generous on your birthday). If you’re just looking for a new gaming experience, thought you should know that the WiiU is being released in 2012 and rumours are that it may be cheaper than the PS Vita in India.  No recommendations yet.  Just saying…

If do go for the PS Vita and are looking to pick up some PS Vita games, check out our new PS Vita games section.

PS VITA SALES SLOW: BUT DOES THAT MEAN PORTABLE CONSOLES ARE DYING OUT?

PS Vita

Disappointing initial sales cloud the PS Vita

Recently, Forbes Magazine carried a series of articles on how the failure of PS Vita is going to kill the portable console market.  This article is a reaction to Forbes’ assessment.  To read the Forbes articles, please refer to the links at the end of this article.

PS Vita was launched in Japan on December 16, 2011 and sold about 3,25,000 units in less than a week.  This appeared quite

encouraging to Sony, especially after increased investing lot on building a support system of popular games to boost initial sales.  But the second week brought bad news: only a little more than 72,000 units were sold.  According to VGChartz, Nintendo’s 3DS crushed the PS Vita in sales last week, with a little under 500,000 units sold.  Admittedly, Nintendo has been a leader in the portable console category while Sony has been playing the fringes.  Even then, to extrapolate this information to say it is the end of portable gaming is probably stretching it a bit too much.  If this is indeed the end of portable gaming — and it might well be so — it will not be because there is no market for it, but because companies have failed to understand market needs.

The PSV may not be doing all that well, but the 3DS is still running strong. Source: VGChartz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The key challenge that portable games face comes from mobile gaming.  To face this challenge, companies need to understand a) what their core value proposition is and b) understand what the customer segment is willing to pay for.

GET YOUR VALUE PROPOSITION RIGHT

Mobile games and portable PS games are fighting for the same pie.  All PS owners have mobile phones but not all mobile phone owners have PS.  As a result, Sony has a bigger task of upselling its console to mobile phone users (who may already be playing games on their phones).  The PS Vita (or any such console) has to be significantly better for mobile users to turn to it for their gaming needs — and the advantages have to be apparent, given that a non-gamer (or casual gamer) is unlikely to conduct too much research before deciding on a portable console.  Do portables have better screen resolution? Are they faster? Are the games easy to find/download?  Are they well-priced?  Chances are you just answered no to all of these questions.  If companies have to compete with mobiles, they are just going to have to step up to the challenge.  They have to understand what their target segment wants (not just what the target segment is) and design a value that not only beats the value proposition of mobiles but is also different in kind.  The fact that kids are a key segment here is evident by the fact that the Nintendo 3DS is still doing well and has not been impacted by Sony’s PSV.  Nintendo knows its segment well and promotes games that this segment wants.  Of course, the prices of Nintendo games could do with a reduction — although, in my opinion, Nintendo manages with the premium (over mobile games) because a) parents do most of the purchasing and possibly hold their children to guidelines for when they will buy a new game and b) kids don’t finish a game overnight and the games are long enough to keep them occupied for a month (or months).

English: Nintendo 3DS "Target Shooting&qu...

The Nintendo 3DS is still running strong.

I personally like to keep my media player (an iPod), my phone (a Blackberry), and my portable gaming console (a PSP) separate — my belief is that products that are meant for one thing do better than one that tries to do everything.  Now the iPhone is fast challenging that belief because it is a great media player, phone, and gaming console all in one (but also costs as much as all of them put together).

UNDERSTAND WHAT THE CUSTOMER IS WILLING TO PAY

You can’t sell a portable game for 2,000INR when the nearest substitute (mobile games) costs 50INR.  You don’t need a management degree from Harvard to tell you that.  As I mentioned above, portable consoles have so far failed to differentiate the additional value they provide to justify a 39X premium.  Apart from kids whose discerning parents want family-friendly games for their children, “core” gamers usually look at portable gaming devices as a stop-gap — to be enjoyed only until they can afford that 40″ TV and a real console, or for times of travel.  Neither of these two segments will want to spend excessively on this pastime.  Portable console manufacturers, especially Sony, has to understand where their consoles are placed in the bigger scheme of things.  There is no such thing as customer loyalty in the Internet age when every consumer has free access to information that allows him/her to make an informed purchase decision.  A simple Google search will show how bad an idea it is to buy a portable console over a high-end mobile phone.

There is no reason for one product or another to be obsolete as long as it fills a compelling customer need.  Companies just have to innovate to meet customer needs.  Do we see the portable consoles disappear (like we saw the pager disappear from public eye)?  Most likely not.  But will we see another failed product in PS Vita?  Maybe.  There is still a market for portable consoles, now whether a company manages to meet customer needs and create a product that people are willing to buy — that is a different deal altogether.  We have seen Sony take multiple wrong steps with the portable playstations (anyone remember the PS Go ?) and while some amount of market experimentation much be encouraged, it seems that Sony hasn’t yet cracked the code.  We have not had a chance to review the PS Vita yet and are eagerly awaiting its worldwide launch, but we are pretty  sure we won’t be disappointed with the product itself.

What are your views on the portable gaming market?  Do you like your gaming equipment to be different from your mobile phone?  Is mobile gaming for n00bs? Post your opinion below!

References:

Sony in Big Trouble with PS Vita

Does PS Vita Mark the End of Portable Game Consoles?

Is This the End for Portable Gaming Consoles?

FIFA 12 FOR IPAD: WASTE OF SPACE OR NEXT-GENERATION GAMING?

So when GamesInc was sitting in its Ivory Tower deciding the theme of it’s next blog post, something really strange happened. A conversation which involved armies taking over Europe, human baseball, treasure hunting across the world, ice skating for old people, an Elephant called Minimus and a Mouse called Gigantus, and whether chopsticks could be good game controllers (think about it, really!) led us to – a review of FIFA 12 for iPad. There is method to the madness – we wanted to see how iPad gaming had evolved and what it meant for the PS Vita coming out next year.

I was not enthused with the idea as I had to spend hours playing FIFA on my ipad. This sounded as appealing as counting frozen chickens in a deep freezer. But boy was I mistaken.

Positives
I must admit my preconceptions were broken as I played FIFA 12. The graphics, whilst nowhere near the console equivalents, are surprisingly good. You get a good sense of space on the pitch, and play build-up is enjoyable. Although the close up of players is pathetic – they look like they’re built of Lego – but you can live with it as it doesn’t take away from the game.

Player characteristics are surprisingly realistic – Messi is god, Rooney is unnervingly quick, strong, and accurate, Benzema will score from anywhere with the ugliest shots ever, and Zoolander can turn in one more direction than Walcott (right).

The iPad touch-screen controls work surprisingly well.

The touch screen playing which was my biggest fear turned out to be surprisingly enjoyable. You have three touch screen buttons, and by pressing, double-tapping, or sliding them you get nearly all the options of the console.  There are some nice innovations too, you slide your finger over the screen in the direction you are aiming for free kicks and corners, meaning you can curve the ball away or towards goal easily. The ability to give directions to players off the ball by tapping them onscreen is interesting, although good luck doing it when you’re sprinting down the field. You can also use your iPod touch or iPhone as controllers which means it takes more of a console feel to the game.

Negatives

Manager Mode tends to crash randomly.

You obviously don’t get the same multiplayer joy from the iPad as you do for it’s console cousins, even with two players on iPhone controllers. Despite the playability being good, it’s no PS3 or Xbox version.  There are also some irritating in game habits. In the manager mode, the game would crash at random game moments meaning I had to replay or simulate the game–which, when you’re crushing Chelski 3-0 at half-time, is very annoying!  The commentaries can also be ridiculous and after blocking a clear goal scoring opportunity for your opponents at the expense of a corner, your team look distraught as if someone had just told them that Nestle had decided to stop producing Maggi noodles. And if you have quick wingers you can guarantee that they’ll be able to sprint the length of the pitch and get into the box nearly unopposed.

Overall impressions and what it means for PS Vita
Despite all the positives, FIFA 12 on iPad is nowhere near it’s console equivalents – but then it’s not supposed to be. Buying an iPad for it’s gaming offerings is like buying a PS3 for it’s Internet browsing – a silly idea. Having said that – I throughly enjoyed playing it and I still whack out my iPad randomly to continue my managerial career (although the amount of in-game crashes has curbed my enthusiasm).  It’s also been significantly less powerful for picking up chicks in coffee shops than reading a Tolstoy, Steinbeck, or Proust, but that’s hardly surprising!  Picking up chicks in India is a tough task anyway.

So what does it mean for Vita and gaming more broadly?  Well first of all, I’m not sure I’ll buy a Vita. I’m guilty of having bought a PSP and given up on it early, not really getting the gaming joy out of it, and finding my need for a portable gaming device not as big as I needed. Despite the Vita promising some innovations such as the rear touch pad, and two joysticks – it’ll need to deliver significantly more than the PSP for me to consider getting one in addition to my iPad. Having said that, there are 26 launch titles (including Wipeout and Unchartered) and another 100 games in the works. Having all the benefits of Internet access on the go and my media files, means that the media offerings of Vita are not going to sway me (the PSP ones were interesting but failed to deliver). So all in all, I will need to be convinced by the Vita before I get one – at the moment, my limited on-the-go gaming needs are well fulfilled by my iPad.

PS Vita and Wii U integrate touch screen functionalities.

The one thing that did occur to me while playing FIFA 12 is how well the touch screen can work, and hopefully console makers will take note. Nintendo seems to have already taken note with WiiU where there will be a touch screen included in the remote controller. Sony also promises that the Vita will integrate effectively with the PS3. But if you think beyond that, the development of Move and Kinect could integrate with a sort of touch screen option (or even a virtual touch a la virtual reality).  We’re not there yet – but surely the development of different types of gaming platforms will take to whole new realities of gaming in the future, which can only be a good thing!

What are you’re experiences of gaming with your iPad or iPhone? Do you agree that these types of development will push gaming forward? Want us to tackle new topics in our blog – just let us know!

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