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Smartphones taking gamers away from Playstation, Xbox

KOLKATA: The duel for survival, scoring goals in an international soccer match, chasing goons or racing cars may still pump adrenaline for kids and young adults, but are played more on smartphones and tablets than gaming consoles.

As a result, sales of gaming consoles such as PlayStation, Xbox and Wii has come down by up to 30% in the first six months (Jan-June) of this year as compared to last year, which electronic retailers and console makers Sony and Microsoft attribute to the flooding of large-screen smartphones, tablets and postponement of purchase for new models.

The console makers and retailers say this is the first time that sales of consoles has taken a hit, forcing them to re-look at their strategy to bring back growth.

"There is a deferment of purchase of gaming consoles with consumers either upgrading their smartphones for large screen or buying a tablet which fulfills their instant gaming urge," says Sony Computer Entertainment country head Atindriya Bose, who says the handheld console PlayStation Portable (PSP) and the flagship PS3 consoles are hit badly.

Sony, which claims to control 85% of the Indian gaming console market by volume, report sales growth of PS3 and PSP has come down to 30% and 20% respectively from some 45% in the last two years. The growth of the older console PS2 has become flat this year after reporting more than 20% growth in last two years, with Sony now planning to discontinue sales of this model in India by October.
Smartphones and tablets taking the game away from Playstation, Xbox There is a screen size war taking place in the Indian smartphone market with ​global brands such as Samsung, Nokia and BlackBerry along with domestic ones like Micromax, Spice and Karbonn launching models in the 4-inch plus display size at prices starting from 6,000. There is also a sudden spurt in the entry-to-mid segment tablets which are sold anywhere between 5,000 and 20,000.

Videocon group's mobile-gaming-entertainment retail format Planet M Retail CEO Sanjay Karwa says monthly sales of gaming consoles and games has come down from 2 crore to 1.2 crore at its outlets. "This is in stark contrast to the 200% jump in tablet sales and more than 100% growth in large screen smartphones," he says.

Microsoft India business group lead (interactive entertainment business) Anshu Mor says consumers are delaying purchase of consoles in past six months more due to anticipation of launch of next-generation devices and prices going up marginally due to fall of rupee against the dollar. Both Sony and Microsoft are expected to launch their new models, PS4 and Xbox One, later this year. Year-on-year sales growth of Microsoft's Xbox consoles in India has comes down to around 8% as compared to 27% earlier.

Retailers say smartphones and tablets has grown the base of casual gamers in India, since several popular mobile games like Angry Bird and Fruit Ninja are available for free download and popular titles like Fifa, Grand Theft Auto, Need for Speed and Max Payne sold at much lower cost than their console version.

Console makers are now trying to insulate their business by lowering prices of games by 15-30% to lower the consumer's total cost of ownership.

Sony has started local manufacturing of PS3 games from April bringing down price of popular titles like God of War III and Infamous from Rs 1,600-1,700 to Rs 1,000-1,200. Even Xbox has brought down prices of some titles like Alan Wake and Crackdown 2 from Rs 2,000-2,500 to Rs 699 and 1,199.

Sony and Microsoft are also selling their PlayStation and Xbox consoles as products which would play BluRay movies, offer video-on-demand, watch YouTube videos and even browse the internet. Sony's Bose says there is a lot of effort on promoting the advantage of buying a gaming console at the shop floor level. "We are trying to sell the consoles jointly with LED televisions in the shop floor," he says.


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