Keeping the PlayStation 2 Alive in India

In this special GameSpot Asia feature, we analyze why the PlayStation 2 is still dominant in India and whether gamers will move on.

by

In Western markets, the PlayStation 2 is past its heyday. A look at NPD, Chart-track, or Media Create sales figures reveals that the Xbox 360, PS3, and Wii are the dominant home consoles in developed markets around the world. And yet, last quarter, Sony’s financial results revealed that 1.4 million PS2s were sold worldwide, just 400,000 less than the PS3. While developed markets have moved on to the next generation, the PS2 has now positioned itself as an entry-level home console in countries where gaming is only now beginning to gain popularity. These include Latin America, China, and, of course, India.

In India, gaming has traditionally been a luxury only the affluent could afford, but with the growing Indian middle class and its increasing expendable income, gaming as a means of entertainment is no longer out of reach. And Sony finds itself in a great position to take advantage. There's the PS3 at the high end, targeted at the serious gamer and tech-conscious consumer, while the PS2's target audience is the massive Indian middle class, particularly those residing in Tier I and Tier II cities. The same also applies in the handheld space. The PSP, particularly with the announcement of the new E1000 budget model, fits nicely into the entry-level segment, while the upcoming Vita will appeal to the high-end consumer.

The PS2's target audience is the massive middle class in India.

India is very much PlayStation territory, so much so that the brand has almost become synonymous with console gaming in the country. The PS2 is India's largest-selling console, but the numbers aren't that impressive just yet when compared to international markets. Sony Computer Entertainment India country manager Atindriya Bose recently revealed that a million PlayStation consoles had been sold in India to date; that includes all home consoles and handhelds. More than half of that install base comprises PS2s, and Sony's aim is to ensure that for anyone looking to get into gaming in India, the PS2 is the most attractive starting point.

It's All About the Rupees

The biggest hurdle towards achieving this was getting the pricing right. While keeping the price of the console itself down was important, making games affordable was paramount. But with India's high import duty structure, imported console games were always too expensive, which was a serious deterrent for anyone wanting to get into gaming. By contrast, PC games are packaged and/or manufactured within India and therefore cost a fraction of the price of the same games on consoles. To bring game prices down, Sony now manufactures PS2 games in India, which means you'll find games like God of War for as little as Rs499 ($10). Along with this, the console itself is priced at Rs6,000 ($130) with a free game or two bundled.

Sony didn’t stop there, though. With developers too moving on from the PS2 to the newer consoles, PS2 game releases were drying up, which was bad news for countries like India, where it is still the most popular console. So Sony took it upon itself to have new PS2 games developed specifically for the Indian audience, and for this it has commissioned games from several Indian development studios under the watchful eye of Sony's London Studio. To further appeal to the Indian audience, Sony has been insisting that these games be developed using Indian themes only, which would make it easier for Indians to connect with these games.

Would Naughty Dog replace Nathan Drake with a Shahrukh Khan look-alike in an Indian version of Uncharted 3?

Many have raised doubts over this approach. Walk into any large format store and you'll see just as much international music on the racks as you will Indian music. Hollywood films are massively popular in India, and they are neither dubbed nor subtitled in Indian languages. Even DVD and Blu-ray releases of Western films seldom carry Hindi subtitles. The games that are released in Europe are imported and sold as is in India without even so much as an Indian language manual, let alone in-game localization. So Indian audiences have always been perfectly comfortable with international content, and to many observers, restricting the scope of these India-developed games to indigenous themes not only limited the creative freedom afforded to the developers, but also severely shrunk the audience for these games to Indians only.

Still, many believe that developing games around themes that are recognizable to Indians has its merits. "You'll have a much easier time convincing people to play a cricket game than a football or tennis game. The same goes for other genres; a picture of [Bollywood star] Shahrukh Khan on the box would be far more recognizable than that of Nathan Drake," says Amit Goyal, cofounder of Delhi-based game developer This Way Up. Video game journalist Murali Venukumar agrees. "Given the level of recall that both the Sony and the PlayStation brands have with the public, it makes perfect sense to leverage it with locally developed content that will broaden the user base. We all want to see the product, and gaming as a consequence, push beyond its traditional market in the big cities."

You Are Not Ready

The problem, however, is that some of the studios developing these games had never released a complete game of their own before, let alone a console game. "The policy is great from the perspective of promoting gaming in India. People respond better to familiar things, but the execution has to be of the highest standard as well. A bad game is a bad game no matter what the theme is," says Goyal.

And it is in the execution that many of these Indian-developed games have failed. The first-ever Indian PS2 game, Hanuman: Boy Warrior, has become a laughing stock amongst gamers and critics alike for its bland visuals, clunky controls, and overall poor game design. It seemed like a clear case of a game developer biting off more than it could chew, and the result was a game released in 2008 that didn't match the visual quality or level of polish of a PS2 launch title from 2001.

Hanuman: Boy Warrior was a terrible PS2 game.

Several other Indian-developed games have followed, including Desi Adda: Games of India, a compilation of original Indian games; Cart Kings, a bullock cart racing game with licensed characters from the popular Tinkle comic series; and gully cricket game Street Cricket Champions. Some of these have even been ported over to the PSP, and while not all of them have been poor, none of them managed to reach anywhere near the quality PS2 owners around the world have come to expect.

What's more worrying, though, is that it is these games that are being bundled along with the PS2, and since they aren't of the highest quality, they don't quite represent the quality of game content available on the PS2. "You only need to take a look at Ratchet & Clank or God of War to see that the Indian developers are nowhere close to doing justice to the hardware. Everything from the graphics, to the storytelling, to the movements feels odd and clunky," says Roshan DSilva, longtime gamer and PlayStation loyalist.

With the Grand Theft Auto franchise, the Prince of Persia trilogy, the FIFA series, and other great games available at the same price, it may be misleading that it's these Indian-developed games that are being used to introduce someone to the world of gaming. It seems like a disservice to the PS2's extensive catalog, most of which is easily available in India.

Looking Ahead

Not all Indian game developers are sold on the idea of developing games solely for the Indian audience. Hyderabad-based Version 2 Games is set to release its first game--Smash n Survive, a combat racing title for the PSN. The studio is also hard at work on its next game for the PlayStation Move, Kinect, Wii, and Vita. When asked if Sony was extending its support for the development of Smash n Survive, which will be the first Indian-developed PS3 game release, a representative for the studio commented on Indian online gaming community IVG. "They [Sony] are exclusively looking for Indian content and they are not concerned about Indian developers making global content, which is discouraging," adding however, "We are open to Indian content, but it should be done with such finesse that the whole world looks up to it."

The Ra.One game will be released in October, ripe for download on the PlayStation Network.

To Sony's credit, it isn't restricting this policy to the PS2 and PSP games. It knows very well that the PS2 won't be around forever, so it's developing Indian games for the PS3, including a Street Cricket sequel for the PlayStation Move and a game based on the upcoming Bollywood superhero flick Ra.One for the PSN, both of which are being developed by Mumbai-based Trine Games for release around October.

While many will raise doubts over Sony's approach towards and execution of India-developed PlayStation games, few can doubt its commitment to the Indian market. Now it's up to the development talent in the country to step up and do justice to the hardware.

Discussion

70 comments
ssjfry
ssjfry

Those who does not have x360 or ps3 in India (like me)can still play newly releasing games which would be releasing also on pc.

ssjfry
ssjfry

i wish that they could continue to make games for ps2 and psp : D

mstrchf12
mstrchf12

Just bring the price of PS3 and it's games down in India too and Sony effectively will rule the roost in the subcontinent

white_wind
white_wind

wouldn't mind dusting out my PS2 if some indian company decided to make a good new PS2 game

gamerxzx
gamerxzx

An insult to a great game :( hope this never happens

chyng85
chyng85

I don't wanna play PS2 games with Indian subtitled...

salavador
salavador

yeah its all about money, in my country(Indonesia) you already have a lunch with only Rp. 8000 (about $1). My expanse in a month only $100. so if i want to pre order uncharted 3, I am unable to eat for 18 days.

yehta
yehta

Im also an indian & i myself pre-ordered 5 games UNCHARTED 3 COD: MW 3 BATTLEFIELD 3 SKYRIM SAINT ROW 3 There are hard core gamers here in india

Nexus_Gage
Nexus_Gage

Develop games for the ps2, xbox even the sega mega drive 2(yes i'm talkin abt the 16 bit console of the early 90's) but be original, don't just add the standard indian masala to great international titles.... thts all!!!

poovannaorcbane
poovannaorcbane

@Sameer Desai u got this article wrong in so many ways !!! are u the same guy in chip magazine?

mumui10
mumui10

for me its not about the graphics its about the game im sure they can make games even in the engine of ps2 , but all of the company games move to next gen ps3 i hate it. i hope they continue making games in ps2 and i will absolutely buy it. i hope all of the people will not look in how new the hardware like ps3 its not like following the waves...

Hellisunreal
Hellisunreal

I agree with Nexus_Gage. It would be futile to replace established gaming icons with (of all people) Indian actors. What would be more effective would be the development of strong local IP's (& hey you can throw in Shahruk as the lead protagoanist....if that is required).

Nexus_Gage
Nexus_Gage

Whoever this Amit Goyal of This Way up is, i have a message for him...... u even try n replace nathan drake with Shah Rukh Khan and i will hunt you down and literally rip out your heart!!!! Wat's next??? replace Solid Snake with Amithabh bachchan?!?!?!?!?!

Nexus_Gage
Nexus_Gage

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

rishi_storm
rishi_storm

We don't need Indian themes , we already have daily tv soaps giving us brain damage already. The PS2 has sold a lot since its launch and has done so in India as well. But Seriusly ppl have moved on from ps2''s. I still go over to my friends place to play games like tekken 4 or burnout or even ace combat on the PS2 but that doesnt mean Indian gamers don't known how to move with tech ( I am part of a Bad company 2 and Starcraft 2 clan so i'm quite sure i've seen many gamers move onto next gen) PS:."You'll have a much easier time convincing people to play a cricket game than a football or tennis game. The same goes for other genres; a picture of [Bollywood star] Shahrukh Khan on the box would be far more recognizable than that of Nathan Drake," says Amit Goyal, cofounder of Delhi-based game developer This Way Up." This guy obviously doesn't know about the FIFA madness that goes on in India. I've seen many FIFA 11 contests myself . Also i'm quite sure ppl will recognize Nathan Drake.

khalood87
khalood87

@BraveArc hahahahhahaha, I feel sorry for your parents already!

BraveArc
BraveArc

The reason why the PS2 sell as much as it does in India is because the pirated copies are easier to find than the orginals and they only cost Rs.50($1)-Rs.75($1.5). So parents are happier, I got the PS3 n 360 and it is hard when every game costs Rs.2500($55) so can't buy much and with the releas of Driver:SF, Deux Ex, Warhammer40000:SM, FIFA12, FM4 all coming out soon, my parents are not gonna be happy :-P

Skargamer
Skargamer

The price of imported goods are probably the biggest factor. I live abroad and got my Xbox 360 for a reasonable price at the time. Came to India to find the price of the exact same thing is about 2000Rs more than the product I got abroad (KSA to be exact). So yeah, cost is by far the most defining factor, along with the fact that video games are not really India's driving form of entertainment, with Cricket and Football being the obvious attractions. I even found that the Kinect is 3000Rs more than it was in KSA. However there is a growing base for the gamer, with more and more of my friends and relatives getting the latest generation of consoles. So yeah, people with move on to the PS3, 360 and Wii soon enough, but by that time the next generation will probably be out. :P

voidrummer
voidrummer

Its mainly cost.... the ps2 is soooooo much affordable and readily available to a larger audience over here.. but PS3 is still.....PS3 :)

true_gamer007
true_gamer007

here in India, almost all the people play games for fun sake and not for any hardcore passion. Only a few gamers all over India are ready to splurge out for their gaming so why wud they go for a complex PS3 if they can enjoy PS2 to the fullest. But i assure you i'm not from the majority gamers in India.

the_requiem
the_requiem

Wow, this article is so mis-informed and full of typical "arm chair" journalism that it almost borders on racism.

Black_Id_Jenova
Black_Id_Jenova

well India still better compare with my country.. Good job INDIA!!

zinoalex
zinoalex

The PS2 is such a great system I can't imagine why any gamers would not want to keep gaming on it. Ih ave a PSP and a PS3, but sometimes i just need to get my game on with a PS2. As the PS3 does not support PS2 games, (Some early models did) it is stilla needed part of any gamers collection. Kudos to all Indian gamers!!

rocksetr_7
rocksetr_7

@SameerD Sony Advert? Old consoles like the gba during the ds era were available cheap in India and many of my "middle class" friends had them. Same was the case for the GBC during the GBA era. This has been the case since quite a while now in India. Most of us have also played NES/SNES games on chinese knock off consoles. If I understood you correctly... playing old games on old consoles(as you mentioned the ps2 and psp) means gaming is accessible to the masses, which I don't completely agree with. All they are getting access to is some old tech and old games. This has been the case for the Indian gamer for a long time now. Nothing new here

Jekyl87
Jekyl87

I've been gaming for some time now, and the reason I think that PS2 continues to do well here, despite several years after the release of ps3 and xbox 360 is that its much easier to get pirated games for ps2. If only people stop pirating, it would attract sony and microsoft to India to sell their stuff. Also, most of the PS2 library focuses on single player experience and the present generation consoles have a multiplayer component. As the tier I and tier II city gamers usually do not have a decent net connection, so they probably would buy a ps2 rather than an expensive new console, which may not be so attractive to them without the online features.

rocksetr_7
rocksetr_7

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

suvodeep12
suvodeep12

Kinda great idea, but yeah, you are wrong on that "Hardcore Gamers" one...Really...

yehta
yehta

THERE ARE HARDCORE GAMERS HERE IN INDIA AND myself pre-ordered 5 games UNCHARTED 3 COD: MW 3 BATTLEFIELD 3 SKYRIM SAINT ROW 3

pg_nilay
pg_nilay

I guess you are right but I don't like a PS3 as I own a high-end PC!

Armored_
Armored_

I think you're generalizing too much. India has its fair share of hardcore gamers, and as the new generations are getting jobs of their own, the rupee factor is beginning to matter lesser and lesser.PS3 and Xbox sales haved picked up like crazy over the last few years.i completely disagree with your article Desai, on the grounds of having kept a watch on the Indian console market myself. people like you writing for gamespot give indians a bad name, make us look like stone agers playing games of yesterday-when that's clearly not the case.

papan_roy
papan_roy

@k_h_a_n :: you cannot be serious about a kaante game but the dabangg game sounds awesome. PRESS X FOR SMARTASS REMARK but the main problem with game development in India is that its still thought of as an industry for kids and retards. That's why very few people will actually go into and and there wont be enough talent to make a proper game

anwar1998
anwar1998

@randomthinker35: apparently its all modded or hacked 360's here in Malaysia,its extremely hard to find an oirginal 360 :|

EPaul
EPaul

Excellent, I hope the ps2 lasts till the PS4 comes out

Thorpe89
Thorpe89

PS2 - the console that just doesn't want to die.

randomthinker35
randomthinker35

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

NodakJo2010
NodakJo2010

Playstation 2.....Let it live on baby!

rocky_aj17
rocky_aj17

there are hardcore gamers in india...count me too in this category...i dont own a ps3 or xbox 360..i had ps2 but sold it as i was getting bored with it...but i do play all kind of games on PC from oldies to the current once..playing dues EX human revolution now. and pre ordered battlefield 3 on origin,mw 3 on steam,playing Black ops right now multiplayer....and BTW there are so many games that are outsourced here in india for animation and asset development as i also work on them...i am a technical lead in animation and i have worked on loads of gaming titles,like medal of honor (new one),upcoming gears of war 3 god of war 3,uncharted drake fortune...yeah u heard that....all these games invloves asset development and animation and mocap animation..so our industry is well aware of all the latest buzz happening in western part...there are now dedicated shops only for gaming which sells games,consoles and accessories and all are doing legit work .apart from some pesky people who pirates the game and sell in market

Stellarvore
Stellarvore

@k_h_a_n :Totally agree with you on the not taking it serioulsy part buddy,i think the developers in india are more concerned about rebranding already made out games like what they are about to do with this drake-shahrukh thing if at all they do it,and obviously they dont want to start big projects on their own with totally genuine stories and characters,which is a pity,given so many good movies and our own religious stuff for that matter.I mean we do have lots of epic fantasy stuff lying their in our religious stories itself.

Stellarvore
Stellarvore

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

dantefenix
dantefenix

seeing shahruk on drakes body will only spoil the game......wen it comes to movie drake cannot replace shahruk

k_h_a_n
k_h_a_n

there are hardcore gamers in India man! with deep knowledge of international content and characters, like me, but yes we are still back compared to developed nations. If Indian developers take serious interest in developing games with stunning graphics, we have numerous stories and themes in Indian taste which will draw both local and foreign gamers alike. Kaante - can be developed as a bank robbery game Race - another Indian movie can be developed as an action packed racing game these were few that got into my head, there are numerous other movie titles that can be developed as a game, just imagine if Dabangg is developed into a game, a game of the PS3 standard, that will certainly take India to new level in Gaming World. The only thing is to take the subject seriously which no Indian developer does.

Saurabhko8
Saurabhko8

NO MAN NO DRAKE IS MUCH GREATER THAN SHAHRUKH KHAN

GodBladeMegaten
GodBladeMegaten

"a picture of [Bollywood star] Shahrukh Khan on the box would be far more recognizable than that of Nathan Drake".............*facepalm*.......*headdesk*.......*rages and goes to emo corner to QQ*

Stellarvore
Stellarvore

@rohanthedreamer : Ha ha,Bad form,Doga dint come to my mind,yeah it wud be kickass with the intro cutscene having Doga announcing "Mai kutta hoon".

rohanthedreamer
rohanthedreamer

@Stellarvore yup....but more than dhruv i would like a Doga game.....he'll be quite a kickass with all those guns n moves...

rohanthedreamer
rohanthedreamer

well ps3 and 360 are now quite popular in india but pc gaming still remains the main thing.....

piyush18
piyush18

ps2 is seriously popular in India. But mostly pc gaming is found all around because every one got a pc and pirated pc games can be found everywhere at a very low cost.

Stellarvore
Stellarvore

And i'd rather prefer a "Super Commando Dhruv" game then one featuring Shah rukh with watever the heck powers he has.

Stellarvore
Stellarvore

And hindi voicing would be much appreciated if the Indianisation of games do happen eventually :D