Gambling is a niche in India as gaming retail is disrupted
The game has a good presence in India and while there is a lot of excitement among the fans, the crowd is largely indifferent. But is it easy to say that Indians are not interested in gambling? Mobile games are big business here and local game development studios are starting to make an impact on smartphones.
Why are consoles not the best selling item in India? Part of the reason is that apart from a few specialist stores like Games The Shop and Game4u, the vast majority of stores selling video game consoles and software don’t seem to really understand the business. Specialty stores only sell games, and game-related merchandise doesn’t depend on other products, so they understand what they’re trying to change, but mass stores are largely clueless.
Unfortunately, most of the consoles sold in India do not go through these specialized stores. Most official game console sales in the country take place at large format retailers, or LFRs as they’re known in retail parlance. These include stores like Landmark, Croma and Reliance. Most people buy their tech from here if they don’t buy from Flipkart or Amazon.
(See also: Why you can buy FIFA 16 and other EA games only from Amazon India)
This is where the problem begins. Walk into a consumer electronics store and look for something like a PS Vita and you’ll be met with blank stares and whispers that something might be from a bygone era. Unfortunately, if you go back to launch your PS Vita, you’ll realize that the exact same thing happened when the console was brand new.
Companies like Sony rely on brick-and-mortar outlets to generate most of their sales, but stores have their own agendas. It’s usually about providing people with a solution that takes the least amount of effort. Retail in India relies on a wave of quick transactions from a relatively large number of customers rather than building trust and loyalty. This is more obvious in a category like games.
For example, the PlayStation Portable (PSP) sold steadily until the end. Yes, it’s outdated, but retail management doesn’t care. From their point of view, consumers want something affordable that can be hacked, so you can always hack games that look premium, and the PSP is exactly that.
“Sir you should get a PSP instead of a Vita, you can hack and install games. Free.” Some time ago, a seller of a well-known electronics chain told this reporter as if opening the eternal fountain of youth, forgetting that the PSP games in the store are covered in thick dust.
He doesn’t care about software sales or the fact that his lack of them will lead to fewer games in the future, which keeps me from buying games from him. He just wants to make a quick trade.
Unfortunately, it works. The sales pitch is likely to convince a large portion of the public, many of whom still don’t know that gaming has evolved beyond Mario and Tetris. With that said, the rumor that Sony has released several thousand new PSP units a few weeks ago sitting in the service centers of the major Indian e-commerce player is starting to gain some weight.
(See also: The best PlayStation Vita games of March 2015)
In the long run, such a decision only serves to feed ignorance. For Sony, the move is aimed at clearing inventory and making up for shortfalls in PS Vita sales. For retailers, it rewards their complacency and neglect of a much better category. The only time the PS Vita had decent retail sales was three months after launch for reasons unrelated to the game.
“The LFRs didn’t want to sell the Vita because it couldn’t be hacked. So we told them if they want to buy Bravias, Vaios [which were very popular at the time]and Xperias, so they had to keep the Vita,” a former Sony employee told this reporter a year after the Vita was launched.
And they put the Vita front and center, but that was it. A quick Google search helped the customer make an informed buying choice rather than talking to a salesperson.
What you get is a great device with a great lineup of games that wouldn’t have had a chance at retail because whoever sold it didn’t try it. Sony’s pricing may not be the best, and that’s an excuse you’ll hear from many sellers.
(See also: Xbox One leads US Black Friday deals, dominates India)
By that logic, the PS4 shouldn’t be a success at local retail. You can’t pirate games, you can’t hack it, and it’s “too expensive” (but that will change). But Sony’s international campaign and the value of the PlayStation brand meant there was demand for the console, even if retailers weren’t particularly investing in the category.
Ignorance is not limited to offline retail either. Retailing video games online is one mistake after another. Amazon’s exclusivity for the Xbox One and EA’s games list, as well as Flipkart’s exclusivity for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, have had a negative impact.
Therefore, gambling in India remains a niche market even as other emerging markets are growing. This is not only because of mobile games, but also because of the high price. No. We’re still a small market for games because the people who have to sell them don’t care. A wave of indifference is choking the game in India – retail is at a standstill and there is no one to fix it.
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