SPIRALING PRICES AND OTHER WOES…

As we look forward to the great new games coming out this fall, there is a worrying trend that is becoming apparent — the increasing prices of upcoming games (and, in many cases, the stagnant prices of games beyond their peak!).

So we did some research to figure out what was going wrong.  What we found was interesting. Spiralling prices are only the tip of a somewhat large iceberg — the disorganized state of the market and the lack of market intelligence are more pressing challenges, which are hopefully more in our control to fix.

Prices: The Government
How can there be a negative market trend and the government be not to blame, right? In this case, there are actually two ways, not one, that the government has managed to impact us gamers.  The easiest one to spot is, of course, the nose-diving rupee which seems like it is heading downward in an extreme bungee jump (we can only hope there is a rope tied to the ankle)! While release prices of most games worldwide have remained the same–in rupee terms, they have become more expensive.

There has always been a 27% duty on importing the great stuff we love.  Now, unconfirmed reports say that there is a “clarification” that this 27% does not depend on the price at which Indian suppliers import but on the MRP at which suppliers plan to sell.  This clearly makes the 27% have a much hire impact on prices than earlier.  We sure hope the importer community begins to push back on such practices and looks for workarounds to such inefficiencies.

Pirated Games and Prices: The Chicken Or The Egg?
The ease of access to hacked games and gaming consoles in India has undoubtedly been driven by the high prices of games. The appeal of drastically reduced prices coupled with the Indian approach to jugaad has made the pirated game market rampant. But what was originally driven by high prices could now be keeping prices high. When someone buys a pirated game, they don’t buy an original one:   this reduces the size of the Indian market in the eyes of game producers/distributors.  This means we get less attention (see the Unavailability arguments below) but also potentially higher prices for those who buy legitimate games.

Unavailability: The Nascent Market

Diablo III: Better Late than Never

When B+ games are released in the US and UK and don’t make their way into the subcontinent, we don’t really mind.  But when an obvious blockbuster like Diablo III doesn’t make it way here on Day 1, then that is a cause for worry.  Clearly, the market in India is not developed enough to make publishers take note.  Thankfully, some retailers have managed to now get the Diablo III franchise into India–and (shameless plug) we have a wide suite of Diablo III products from Steelseries to choose from!  The reason that the market is still nascent compared to other nations is that gaming was actively discouraged as a hobby until very recently thanks to parents’ obsession with raising the world’s next Sheldon Cooper.  And also, the high cost of gaming… but we have already established that!

So What’s Next?
Recent trends in the gaming information segment, such as the new MCV India website and the annual E-xpress conference of retailers, are welcome improvements that will hopefully play an important role in the maturing of the market.  Further, the naturally maturing market base (college students playing  PC games 10 years ago are playing original console games today) will contribute to more serious consideration from publishers worldwide.  So what if we got Sniper Elite V2 at a jaw-dropping, eye-bulging, expletive-inspiring price of Rs.3,499 (also available for Rs.3,135 on our store).

FIFA13: Raised quite a few shackles in the gaming world with its pricing!

The future looks mixed. FIFA 13 was announced at Rs.3,499 on PS3 until the distributor for the the XBOX version announced it at Rs.2,999.  The PS3 price was then revised immediately to Rs.2,999.  We have also seen some price cuts on last year’s Activision titles.  Analysts believe most distributors will be forced to increase the already-high prices in the future due to the change in import duties.  But there is also potential good news with Sony looking to manufacture games in India as the head of Sony India stated in a recent MCV article. That should drive some of the prices down – with the aim to get PS3 platinum games to the Rs.999 mark.

If you are a gamer, developer, retailer, or supplier, we want to know what you think!  Let us know in the comments section below!

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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?

CONSOLE WARS: SONY PLAYSTATION 3 OR XBOX 360?

This article comes to us from our guest writer, Anish Kataria. Anish is a passionate gamer, a car and bike enthusiast, and a generally happy guy. He can be reached on twitter @AnishKataria.

Choosing between the PS3 and Xbox 360 is for most gamers one of the most difficult decisions they’ll ever have to make.
You might compare it to deciding between Alexandra Ambrosia and Adriana Lima (did you ever really have a choice?). The following guide is meant for gamers who don’t have the privilege of being gifted a console or a lot of money lying around in the bank.

Decision Point One: The Basics

Factor

PS3

Xbox 360

Price in India 160 GB – Rs. 16,990320 GB – Rs 18,990

320 GB + Move Starter Kit – Rs 19,990

4 GB – Rs 14,990250 GB Elite – Rs 20,889
The CPU 3.2 GHz Cell Processor, 7 Single Threaded Cores ( +1 Backup core), Maximum 230 GFlops 3.2 GHz Xenon Processor, 3 dual-threaded cores, Maximum 77 GFlops
The GPU NVIDIA RSX “Reality Synthesizer, 256 MB GDDR 3RAM ((additional 224 MB can be shared w/ system RAM), 22.4 GBps bandwidth ATI Xenos, Up to 512 MB GDDR3 RAM (shared w/ system RAM), 21.6 GBps bandwidth (256 GBps via eDRAM)
RAM 256 MB XDR RAM 512 MB GDDR3 RAM (shared with GPU)
The Hard Drive 160 or 320 GB HDD, 5400 rpm, User replaceable with standard HDD 250 GB HDD or 4 GB SSD, 5400 rpm, User replaceable w/ proprietary HDD
The Disc Drive 8x read speed (DVD), 2x read speed (Blu-ray), 25 GB disc space 12x read speed (DVD), 7 GB disc space
Video Support Up to 1080p resolution Native 720p resolution, OS supports up to 1080p
Audio Support Analog – Stereo, Digital – 5.1 Dolby Digital & 7.1 LPCM Analog – Dolby Pro-Logic II, Digital – 5.1 Dolby Digital
Connectivity 2 USB ports, Bluetooth 2.0, 7 controllers max 5 USB ports, Kinect port, 7 max controllers (3 wired and 4 wireless)

Decision Point Two: Which console do most of your friends have?

Who are you going to share games, play online and offline, and compare scores with? Enough said.

Decision Point Three: Which genre of games do you prefer? Developers?

In most cases (FIFA, Call of Duty, Crysis 2 etc) this is an inconsequential point since developers offer their games on multiple platforms. That said you do have certain exclusive titles for each of the consoles. Gamers need to consider what sort of games they usually prefer and would enjoy playing long after getting them.

Consider

PS3

Xbox 360

Games released and reviewed in 2011

164 titles (86.6% average review score) 155 titles (86.1% average review score)
Exclusive vs. Non-Exclusive Titles in 2011

103/61

103/52

Motion Control Titles in 2011

13

11

Major Multiplatform Titles

Portal 2, Dead Space 2,Deus Ex: Human Revolution,L.A. Noire, Crysis 2, Portal 2, Dead Space 2,Deus Ex: Human Revolution,L.A. Noire, Dirt 3

Major Exclusive Titles

LIMBO, Killzone 3, Infamous 2,Resistance 3, Uncharted 3 Bastion, Child of Eden,Gears of War, Torchlight

Game Prices

FIFA 11 – Rs 1599
Crysis 2 – Rs 2499
Portal 2 – Rs 2499
L.A. Noire – Rs 2499
Call of Duty: Black Ops – Rs 3499
Uncharted 3 – Rs 2499
FIFA 11 – Rs 1299
Crysis 2 – Rs 1999
Portal 2 – Rs 1999
L.A.Noire – Rs 2499
Call of Duty: Black Ops – Rs 3499
Gears of War 3 – Rs 2499

Source: Link


Decision Point Four: Which controller do you prefer?

Controller preference is a very subjective choice and depends on the amount of playing time that a gamer gets on a particular console.

Decision Point Five: Console Life

With the upcoming launch of the next generation Wii U in the first half of 2012, both Microsoft and Sony will be forced to upgrade the current generation of consoles. Conservative estimates predict Xbox 360 to be replaced by the Xbox NG/720 by mid-to-end 2013 followed by the next generation PS sometime in mid 2014.

Decision Point Six: Media Player and Online Gaming

A couple of other factors that you may consider:

Factor

PS3

Xbox 360

The Disc Drive

Blu-ray. This is the optical storage medium which will supersede the DVD format globally. Can be used to watch HD media in the future.

HD-DVD. This medium lost the high definition optical disc format war to Blu-ray.

Online Gaming

Free but Sony is planning to charge gamers for additional features. Overall online gaming experience inferior to that of Xbox Live.

Microsoft charges gamers a fixed amount to access online features and gaming. Overall experience better than that of PS3.

Did that Help?

Did all this information confuse you ever further? If so, go to a retail store and try out both the consoles. Remember, if it feels right, it is right! Have fun!

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