PlayStation Plus India Sales Break Records
However long-term impact is unknown.
Earlier this month Sony finally launched its all-new PlayStation Plus subscription service in India. There are three tiers to choose from: PlayStation Plus Essential, PlayStation Plus Extra, and PlayStation Plus Deluxe. The only difference compared to developed markets like the US and UK is that they get PlayStation Plus Premium instead of Deluxe. Premium brings a host of games from the PS1 to the PS4 era available via streaming.
Aside from missing streaming (which was expected), PlayStation Plus Deluxe has a lower price compared to Premium, and includes a catalog of PS1, PS2, and PSP classics coupled with time-limited game trials as well as everything else Extra and Essential have to offer.
Week one PlayStation Plus sales were strong across the country — and in May too
In the run up to launch, stores saw a massive uptick in older PlayStation Plus subscriptions. Multiple sources in retail and distribution speaking to me under condition of anonymity claimed that May 2022 sales of PlayStation Plus subscriptions in stores (both offline local retail and online like Amazon and Flipkart) were twice of what they usually were. This was majorly due to FIFA 22 being one of the games on PlayStation Plus for the month. FIFA is one of the best-selling franchises of all time in India so this led to a huge boost in subscription sales.
Interestingly, more than half of the sales happened during the last week of May, suggesting that Indian customers were more than happy to hold off till the very last minute to pick it up. What most stores didn’t expect was a backlash from customers that weren’t able to activate codes from June 1. Sony had failed to let retail know that codes wouldn’t work, though the issue was resolved a few days later after the company allowed purchased PlayStation Plus codes to be activated.
With strong PlayStation Plus sales in the lead up to the new PlayStation Plus tiers, you’d think there would be no appetite from Indian gamers to bother upgrading. However this was far from the case.
Stores in major cities like Mumbai, Bengaluru, and Delhi saw strong week one sales, around seven times more than usual. Meanwhile stores in smaller cities like Pune, Ahmedabad, and Nagpur saw solid week one revenue as well, close to four times more than normal.
Different parts of India buy differently
There are differences in purchasing behaviour as well. Most stores situated in major cities that I spoke to claimed that customers were mainly existing PlayStation Plus subscribers upgrading to the Extra tier and that too for a maximum of three months rather than opting from the 12 month option.
“Buyers aren’t interested in being locked in for a yearly subscription until there’s more confidence on what games are coming to the service,” claimed one Delhi-based store owner. “80 percent of our sales were for one and three month subscriptions. They don’t see much value with the Deluxe Edition at the price it’s at just yet.”
This is in line with what other stores in bigger cities have told me. It probably indicates that the Indian PlayStation consumer in a tier 1 city is acutely aware of what Sony has on offer and prefers to be a bit more careful with how they spend their money. Factor in regular PS4 and PS5 game price drops at retail and digital storefronts as well as a healthy used game market, and there are more than a few options for players in these cities to get their fix.
That said, the consumer behaviour in smaller cities differs. It seems they preferred opting for the highest available Deluxe tier, though mainly for three and 12 months as per the stores I spoke to. However with the PS5 and PS4 sales concentrated to major cities for now, I’m curious to see if this trend sustains. It’s quite likely that with a younger audience consisting of first or second-time console owners (versus bigger cities that have console buyers since the PS2 era), there’s more of a willingness to spend now, if for anything, in the hope that bigger and better games come to the service.
“Several customers picked up the Deluxe tier for the year, in fact they asked if God of War Ragnarok is coming to it day and date,” said one Pune-based store manager. “We made it clear that nothing of that sort has been announced. They still went ahead anyway seeing how much they’d save on other already released PS5 exclusives like Returnal.”
For many this resulted in wallet top-ups for PlayStation Plus breaking sales records — sometimes on a weekly basis if tracked from FIFA 22 hitting the service in May.
So why isn’t Sony pushing PlayStation Plus PS Store sales in India heavily?
And while strong sales give Sony yet another revenue stream, the retail push is a business necessity. The company is dependent on its network of distributors and retailers rather than going direct to consumers via the PlayStation Store due to Reserve Bank of India regulations that prevent them — and many others including Apple, Google, and Microsoft — from storing customer card information.
However, not everyone is pleased despite the initial sales success. When PlayStation Plus cards were the norm, stores would earn between eight to 10 percent per unit sold. Now, with all sales being wallet top-ups, the margins have reduced to around five to six percent at best.
“We’ve broken sales records on wallet top-ups for PlayStation Plus but margins have effectively been halved, and even to get an extra percent we need to prove to Sony we’re marketing this heavily,” said one Bengaluru store owner. “At least they provided a few PS5 t-shirts for offline buyers as an incentive.”
All of this marks a fascinating period for the games business here. June to August are slow months with few big game releases. Initial signs suggest slower game sales with familiar favourites like Grand Theft Auto 5 and WWE 2K22 ruling the roost. Margins on games are usually in the 18 to 20 percent range. Microsoft is a small part of sales due to inconsistent supplies. Nintendo is non-existent officially and PC hardware prices are finally normalising. How much of an impact Sony’s new PlayStation Plus subscriptions eventually have in the long term, is yet to be ascertained. For now though, they’re largely seen as a welcome addition for many.