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!