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"We are selling PlayStations In 30-35 cities in India" - Atindriya Bose, Country Manager, Sony

Sony Computer Entertainment has had a busy quarter to say the least, with its manufacturing operations being affected by natural disasters in Japan to the most recent security breach in its PlayStation network. TechCircle.in caught up with Atindriya Bose, Country Manager at Sony Computer Entertainment, on the sidelines of the launch of a new PS2 game called Cart Kings. Bose spoke to us about the breach, sales of PS2 and PS3 consoles and the PlayStation Portable (PSP), as well as Sony's expansion plans in India.

Can you share the number of PlayStation, PlayStation 3 and PSP users in India?

We estimate an installed base of around 6,50,000 PS2 owners, around 2,35,000 PSP owners and around 95,000 PS3 owners. In terms of addition on an annual basis, PS2 is still the largest base but PS3 is leapfrogging very fast. With the recent re-pricing of the PSP at Rs 7,990, the sales have actually doubled for us.

What has been the growth of PS2, PS3 and PSP in terms of sales in India?

In terms of pure sales and market development activities, I think the growth has been fantastic and up to our expectations. The fact that we are already selling in 30-35 cities is beyond our expectations. We expected to cover 10 to 20 cities, but now that we are talking about 30 to 35 markets and actively selling the PlayStation across those locations speak very strongly about our distribution success. Altogether, it has been a good story.

Considering that the sales of PlayStation 3, the latest of the PlayStation consoles launched by Sony, touched the 50 million mark worldwide and that of the PlayStation Move motion controllers surpassed 8 million units, can you share with us how the sales of PS3 is faring globally?

Sales of the PlayStation 3, especially after we have rolled out the motion-sensing consoles, have been very positive because it has brought in a wide range of audience to the PS3 fold. At the same time, when we launched games like Heavy Rain and Kill Zone 3, core gamers also realised that they had so much to gain out of these motion-sensing games. Also, it's a fact that motion-sensing attracts both core gamers, as well as a wide range of audience, even the family audience. So, overall, it is a very positive thing.

Sony suffered a massive security breach in its PlayStation Network (PSN) that led to the theft of personal details like customer names, home addresses, billing addresses, e-mail accounts, passwords, birth dates and possibly credit card data belonging to around 77 million user accounts. How was the situation handled?

The moment we realised that a breach was happening, we acted very responsibly about curtailing the damage. First, we stopped all usage and got the server down, so that no one could use it. Now, we are in a phase of complete investigation and rectification of the same and until we are completely confident, we don't plan to switch the server on. But at the same time, switching it on is definitely on the cards. But the dateline and the timeline are not known yet. However, as a very responsible owner of this kind of crucial data provided by our consumers, we cannot switch it on till we are completely confident.

It is said that Sony knew about the breach for a week before disclosing it to the masses. What is the reason behind the delay?

No, that is just speculation. At first, you only get certain indications. But we switched it off completely the moment we realised it, within a short span of time. But you have to give it some time to figure out the extent of damage. Nonetheless, we brought the whole service down from axis in a very short span of time.

With the PlayStation Network shut down and the first of the many lawsuits already filed against Sony in a district court of California, what kind of compensation is Sony looking at?

This is very difficult for me to comment on at a local level. This is something that is done internationally and given that there is a lawsuit involved, I think it will be more of a central corporate decision.

What is the current status of Sony's manufacturing operations in Japan which have been affected by the earthquake and the tsunami?

There has been an impact, although the exact extent of the impact is not known. But as of now, the supply situation, especially for the summer sales, looks quite okay for us and we are doing pretty good numbers. But in the long run, only the global scenario can help determine the full impact.

PSP Go was introduced in India just three months ago, but there are already unconfirmed reports that Sony has halted its production. Is it true and if so, why?

In terms of the portable strategy, the PSP Go allowed us to evaluate and prove to ourselves that there is an online segment of the consumers. But if you look into the long-term strategy, you have the PlayStation Portable (PSP) which is now priced at Rs 7,990 which will go into the mass market. We already have plans for the NextGeneration Portable (NGP) coming in at a higher price, but with lots of features. And then, you have the Xperia Play, which is from Sony Ericsson. So, the product portfolio of the portable segment is pretty much complete.

Tell us about the pricing and the India launch date of Sony's NextGeneration Portable?

The pricing is not yet finalised and until we have the international launch date, we are not in a position to comment on an India launch date. But the India launch date will synchronise with the Europe launch date.

What are Sony's expansion plans in India?

We are already working with a number of game developers. Plus, we have a very strong relation with three studios and we are working on different scales with other studios in terms of game development. In bringing Indian characters, we already have a success story with ACK Media – so that gives us a lot of opportunities. Also, there's a chance of working with Bollywood. Additionally, in the future, we will be launching a game based on the Indian king Chandragupta and another on ancient wars.

The high pricing of the PS3 Game titles has seen an exodus of potential buyers of PS3 in India. Please comment on it.

There is something called running cost, other than the investment cost. Unfortunately, the PlayStation has both. On PS2, we had been successful when we created a replication plant in India which allowed us to bring down the pricing from Rs 1500 to Rs 500. As the PS3 market grows, we are already in talks with the same replicating plant (which is a part of the Sony family) in evaluating a Blu-ray replicating line. Then, we can be a lot more confident about giving a running cost to customers that should break open this market. Indian gamers are actually divided into two segments. And I don't think the core gamers will mind paying Rs 2499 because they see the value for money. But for the masses, even Rs 1499 for a platinum product becomes too much. With local replication, we can move into a more affordable zone but these are only strategies, as of now. We are actively evaluating a local replication plant and when the time comes, we will announce it.

Will a game like Cart Kings actually influence the evolved gamers in India?

I believe they will enjoy it, but it will not influence them. But if you look at the Indian scenario, you have the core gamers who are influencing a certain segment of the market and then, there are the new gamers. Since India is not a traditionally gaming market, the number of new gamers is much larger than the core gamers. So, the fun aspect of the game will appeal to them.