Friday, September 29, 2006

gaming, India, et al.

Now, for a second I will remove my "Oh my god" expression I had while playing the XBox360 for the past seven-odd weeks and do a slightly serious post about gaming in India.
Microsoft told me they were launching the XBox360 here almost six months ago and told me they would fire a console over to my place almost three months ago, since I knew I was coming back to Delhi by then, it made sense to wait till I got back as well as time any review closer to launch date. Anyway, I've had a console lying around for a while now and it feels nice to be gaming aggressively again, something I stopped once I joined EchTee which coincided with my driving my Dreamcast to the ground.
Now, the XBox360 is the latest in a long string of attempts to sell consoles in India, there was the Atari 2600 which was imported, the Nintendo Game System brought here and branded the 'Samurai' (I had one of those) and then 'Media', some local company reworked the NES with different catridges which were cheaply avilable in Palika. Then Stracon, a company headed by Siddhartha Ray, a discredited former businessman (He ran a company which defrauded the government telcos, some claim it was a front company for a recently murdered politician) launched the Dreamcast. There was next to no support for the console, and even controllers had to be bought from the bustling grey market in Palika Bazaar. Then last year, a company called Milestone entertainment finally 'legally' released the Playstation2 in India. Again, there is almost no support, and if you want the latest games, you should just go to Palika.
Now, stories on gaming in the Indian media talk mostly of shady Java-based games, which are not very cool at all. In fact, most of them suck and are only good for time-pass, not serious, involved gaming. You really can't do that on a Nokia 3220 can you? And the games are awfully 2-D, I'm sorry but the tripe (even written by former colleagues) hyping up these companies is mostly cock and bull. Come out with a serious title, even for the PC with good graphicsand then we're talking. Until then, stop trying to fool idiotic peers of mine. The Indian gaming industry does not exist, it is just a bunch of silly companies making stupid games for phones.
That brings us to the XBox360, which is rather unique in many ways. Firstly, this is the first time that the company making the console is actually marketing it in India. If you ignore the Samurai-Nintendo business, which was virtually that, but anyway. Secondly, replicating (ie: pirating) games on the console will be near impossible, please note the word 'near', but I wouldn't put anything past the guys at Palika. But, MS is desperately trying to keep the prices of the games down, and that would be crucial, but even then (and even with region locking, which the PS3 will not have) how low is low? Would you pay Rs 2000 for a game?
More importantly would you pay the price of a low-end computer for a console. I would, but would you? See, even if the market for the console crosses 50000 in six months, and I hope I'm wrong, is that a sustainable market? I mean, gaming moves in the millions scale globally and it is worth over $50 billion according to some studies, which usually other idiotic peers of mine, who think gaming is for bachchas don't realise. Gaming is not for kids, a significant, actually surprisingly large amount of gamers are not kids, they are adults in their second or third console. How many PS2's would have been sold in India, quite a few I assume, but not more than 150000, maybe 250000 if you stretch it and that isn't because it wasn't available through official channels, but because even at Rs 12000 and Rs 100 games (pirated), it was seen to be a bit steep.
So at Rs 20000 and Rs 24000 and with shitloads of money in the Indian economy will the XBox360 rock. I really hope so, it is a really good console and I hope that the online gaming through XBox Live also takes off, I would really want to bash up buddies in Bombay and Bangalore, virtually of course. But, there are a couple of issues here too. One, while the XBox360 is a console targeting 'young adults', parimarily 'working young adults' elsewhere, in India, MS will have to go after rich kids and that is still a limited target group. Many kids might be able to afforda XBox360 but would rather still go to a cybercafe to play games because they would want upsupervised access to games (that is important, how many kids have a big TV and a broadband connection at home, ignoring big overgrown kids like me).
This is a great console, and since BillyG started giving money to cure AIDS, the guilt that some folks might have buying a MS product would diminish a bit. But still, I do have my doubts. Not that it would stop me from playing the one in my house though!

11 comments:

Shashi said...

You are right. Indians tend to think gaming is only for kids. Just like animation movies.

And, little OT. Have you ever wondered whatever may be the business, the estimated market size is always closer to US$ 50 billion?

GBO said...

The big thing here, barring a small segment across all sections of society, is that this is simply not cool in India. Going out to eat junk food is cool. Scoring or trying to score in the XIIth Boards is cool. Dandiya is cool. writing 39 valve turbo on an Alto-800 is cool.

Maybe "they" can try to stick rent-an-XBox and allow 1000 people to race together or something on the big screen at Priya or something. But sit at home and go to war over the Internet?

EMail kaa thappad is more fun.

Write, carve this in stone..

thalassa_mikra said...

My university just started a brand new research centre which would be primarily concerned with developing technology for Hollywood and the gaming industry.

We had a massive gaming convention here a few months ago, and I realized that Scandinavians are huge players in the business.

Yeah, I don't think a lot of people whether in India, or generally outside the gaming business realize how huge this thing is.

Anonymous said...

Well the console gaming market has always been way bigger than the PC gaming market both in terms of global as well as country-wise sales. But in India, this has never been the case. Barring Samurai and Media, most people in india have always associated electronic games with computers and never really with consoles cause of easier access to computer games(through piracy of course)and well, computers. Just go to any music store or large shopping store and you'll mostly see only computer games up for display in the gaming section.
However, i feel the reason that the indian gaming market never really took off and still remains at a nascent stage is the incredible leaps in gaming technology over the last few years which has meant better, more powerful and exhorbitantly priced computer hardware (graphic cards, processors, better RAM etc). Now who the hell in India is ready to dish out $400 on a graphics card just to enjoy the latest gaming titles. Forget the individual prices of computer games in India, you go to buy a computer game look at the system requirements at the back and go.. holy shit but i just upgraded my PC a few months back and already i can't play this new title. It's crazy... and honestly, not worth the money. It's got to do with people's purchasing power.. who in India has money to keep upgrading their PC(well nowadays upgrading your pc means effectively buying an entirely new one) every 6 months or so just for GAMING. And so gaming in India has always been compromised. Car racing titles and a few silly first-person shoot-em ups can only garner a limited audience within a specific age bracket who only play games for 'passtime' in the 'arcade' sense if you will. Most people in India like games that are completely unsophisticated so that they don't have to 'matha lagao'. Serious RPGs RTS's or even serious FPS's for that matter have never stood a chance in India. So how do you change people's attitudes? i don't think you can. I think gaming in India will rise as we become more affluent but first it has to be treated with respect and for that to happen we need people in the media to give gaming an image overhaul.
I think consoles have the potential for doing well in India simply because it's better value than owning a PC for playing games but i feel that ad campaigns for consoles in India have always been tepid. Even now, a couple of my friends who own PS2's and play games on a fairly regular basis didn't know about the Xbox360 being launched in India. There's hardly any 'gaming culture' in India like the West and i think the xbox and the ps3 are targeted at a niche audience.. i don't these companies are under any illusions of blowing the indian gaming marked out of the water anytime soon. Fact is, these gaming consoles and the global gaming market is way ahead of the average indian consumer. We are just not there yet.

K said...

Hey anon, great comment, but if you leave such a long comment, it would be nice to track you back!

abhi 2.0 said...

K, check out some of our coverage (including the snakeman's) here at moneycontrol.com/xbox or at ibnlive.com/xbox360

Anonymous said...

i don't have a blog so i don't know how you'd track me back! names Rohan btw.

K said...

Abhi, saw Sankes interview with Peter Moore. I actually ran into Snakey yesterday, well not ran into, I had invited him over and we chatted about such techno junk as well...

Karthik Krishnan said...

Absolutely spot on! You inspired me to write a post on it!!
Thanks K!!

Cheers KK :-)
http://karthinc.blogspot.com

wish4guns said...

You are probably right. But I think that even Microsoft is relying on the modders to bring the prices of the games down. Also, if gamming does take off in a country like ours then there's no telling what is the potential. Just look at the mobile phone industry in Inda. People buy 12,000,15,000 and even 20,00o Rs mobile phones these days. A big market and a lot of players have nrought down the call charges to the lowest in the world!!

charwaha said...

We don't need those gaming consoles.

We don't need those FPS.

We don't need those kids.

Shooting their classmates.

We care for the evil.

Who resides within us.

Pray to lord Xbox is here.

Pray to lord no one Takes you Down.

When you are on your way to San Andreas.

There is Nothing to Lose.

Just the Silverstone.

Are you stoned?

Xbox is here.

So will the PS3.

Band of Brothers, aren't they?

The war is fought somewhere else.

We will just have some radiation.

Some psycho writers writing shit.

Very soon.

The news channels will boom.

Murder of the Indian childhood dreams.

Carrom, ludo, TT, chess.

Everything here looks in a mess.

Hail the media which still is in dark.

Evil forces are already in the Park.

Playing with your kids.

Forget the age.

Kids are kids.

Have fun.