The PS4 launched in India on January 6, 2013 - 7 years ago.
We had a chance to talk to Prosenjit Ghosh, Head of PlayStation business, Sony India.
He talks about the journey and success of the PS4 in India.
If you were to look up the best selling consoles in video game history, the numero uno position is held by a little console called the PlayStation 2 that sold more than 155 million units during its lifespan. The second and third positions are held by Nintendo’s handheld gaming consoles – the Nintendo DS family (154 million) and the Game Boy (118.69 million), respectively. At number 4, we have the PS4 which as of December 31st 2019, sold 106 million consoles and as of 31 March, 2020 has shipped more than 110 million consoles. The PS5 may be on the horizon, but Sony is sending the PS4 off with a bang in 2020 with the launch of 2 big-name games. The Last of Us Part II (review) which released in June and Ghost of Tsushima (review), that released in July.
Gaming, as a hobby, may be decades-old globally, but it is in the past 10 years that gaming has seen tremendous growth in India. According to Statista, “The value of the console gaming market in India was projected to reach about 291 million U.S. dollars by 2022. This was a considerable increase in market value from about 193 million dollars in 2016”.
So, how has the PS4 fared in India’s multi-million dollar console gaming market? Well, Prosenjit Ghosh, Head of PlayStation Business, Sony India didn’t share any numbers with us but he did say that, “The PS4 had a phenomenal run in India since its launch on 6th Jan 2014. PS4 numbers far surpassed PS3 numbers that too much earlier than PS3 did in its time. Some of the worth mentioning milestones in the journey would be the introduction of the PS4 1TB and the PS4 PRO which resulted in a significant jump in demand. Some of the key software releases also helped create a positive impact on the market. While 2017 and 2018 were great years for us in India, 2020 has been a bigger surprise. The two months, May and June witnessed incredible demand and sales have been at its record best”.
(Above) Prosenjit Ghosh, Head of PlayStation Business, Sony India
What does the head of PlayStation India really do?
Let's back up for a second. What does the head of PlayStation India do exactly? Apart from playing all the games before the rest of the world, what does his average day look like? Prosenjit tells me, “My average day at work is usually divided into two parts. I like the first part the most, which is front-facing. Here I speak with customers and retailers, get to learn from their experiences and feedback. These inputs are extremely critical for our business and help drive innovation and make important day-to-day decisions. With customer expectations on the rise, we believe that in order to have an edge over the competition it is extremely important to embrace customer feedback and work continuously towards improving their experience”.
He goes on to say, “The other part is the back end, which involves aspects like planning and logistics. The fact that gaming in India is fast evolving, forecast accuracy is an important factor in effectively managing the business. It helps us plan better and serve our customers with what they want, in time. On the personal front, a typical day starts with a brief workout which is mostly outdoor running with longer spells over the weekend, with my constant companion for the past ten years, the Sony Network Walkman”.
Gaming in the time of lockdown!
May and June 2020 saw most of the nation sitting at home due to the pandemic and in addition to watching their favourite shows, a lot of people rekindled their hobby of gaming. When I asked Prosenjit about the changing trends in gaming during the lockdown he said, “Apart from the record sales numbers we achieved in May and June 2020, a very interesting element came out from the feedback of our retailers. We noticed a significant shift in the customer’s approach towards making console gaming a more family-inclusive mode of entertainment especially during this lockdown, which I believe is a very positive shift. I can say, this marks the beginning of the times when console gaming as a concept becomes a ‘way of life’ in India, much like many other countries. Gaming has become a means of family entertainment just like the other two popular passions, which is, cricket and Bollywood. Apart from many other accomplishments attained by PS4 over the journey of so many years, the last two months could probably be termed as the most “culture-changing” period for console gaming in India and PS4 has been a catalyst in this process."
It should also be noted that one of Sony’s biggest exclusive games, The Last of Us Part II launched in June, smack bang in the middle of the lockdown in India. This led me to ask about two very important things. The first is, of course, the reception the game received to which Prosenjit said, “ Last of Us Part II was a much-awaited title and has performed better than our expectation. What really worked in our favour is the launch taking place at the time when the number of PS4 users in the country was at an all-time high. We have received positive feedback from our customers and expect it to be among the top performers for PS4”.
Sony unveiled the PS4 Slim and PS4 Pro in late 2016
How big are digital game sales in India for the PS4?
The second question is about digital sales. In 2019, it was reported that digital game sales outperformed physical sales. In a market where the internet is available, that makes sense. In India, broadband and high-speed internet are limited. To put things into perspective, The Last of Us Part II is about 80GB to download and requires 100GB space on the console. To highlight digital sales in India Prosenjit says, “There has been a significant rise in all things digital this year and downloading games from the PS store is no exception, however, it is important to note that the overall market has grown to such an extent that digital growth does not come at the cost of physical discs”.
If you are looking to pick up The Last of Us Part 2 or Ghost of Tsushima, you will have to shell out a whopping Rs 3,999 for the game. Talking about pricing of games in a price-sensitive market like India Prosenjit says, “ The comprehensive hits range of software available at Rs 1,499 was introduced a few years back. It has made the PS4 titles very attractive and is one of the key factors contributing to the huge jump in software consumption in recent years”.
Will mobile gamers migrate and become console gamers?
Console gaming has 3 costs involved – the cost of the consoles, the cost of the games and the cost of the online subscription if you want to play with friends. In the mobile gaming space, however, the situation is quite different. Nearly every household in India has a smartphone today and it is easy for those interested to pick up the phone and download a game like Call of Duty Mobile, or PUBG Mobile free of charge and get immersed into gaming. I asked Prosenjit if there was any plan or strategy to entice these mobile gamers to migrate and invest and become console gamers. He said, “It would not be wrong to say that mobile phone gaming in a way is complementary to console gaming. We have been actively making efforts to collaborate and participate in mobile gaming-related events. This acts as a platform allowing gamers to get a taste of both the experiences and acknowledge the leap in terms of content quality and depth that console gaming offers. We will keep taking up such initiatives in the future as well”.
Sony is also the only gaming console to offer a VR solution and speaking about PlayStation VR Prosenjit says, “VR’s performance has been fantastic in India. PlayStation conducts several customer engagement events every year and the kind of response we have received at our VR Zones is phenomenal. In fact, this is the spot where the queues are the longest. With high quality and varied content coming in, the excitement around VR is sustained or rather going up remarkably. The Megapack bundle has been very well accepted by the audience enabling customers to choose from the variety offered.”
Before ending the conversation, I asked Prosenjit what his favourite gaming memory is. He says, “The midnight launch of PS4 and more recently seeing people’s response for our midnight software launch remain etched in my memory. The enthusiasm of retailers and customers waiting patiently to get their hands on the console or a newly launched game is beyond imagination. The level of love and support for the brand, the energy one derives from PlayStation enthusiasts is precious for the brand and PS4’s journey in India. It is rare for a brand to stimulate a customer to stay awake, stand in a queue in the dead of the night and rejoice the experience offered by a newly launched product or software. To be a part of such a brand and to be able to continuously improve and innovate is no less than a marketer’s dream come true. It is a privilege for me to be a part of such a brand and living this dream”!
We asked Prosenjit about the PS5 and just like the rest of the PlayStation family, he is tightlipped about the upcoming console. With the PS5 on the horizon, it is interesting to look back at the reveal of the PS4, when the former Chair of Sony Interactive Entertainment, Andrew House took the stage at E3 2013 and showed the world a little black box called the PS4.