The Best-Selling Game of the Decade Skips Xbox Series X in India
Oh, and all is not well with country's biggest publisher.
Apologies for the delay on this. Turns out that launching a new game development studio is more work than anticipated. That being said, there have been some interesting updates in the interim.
The Xbox Series X is back
The Xbox Series X and S are coming back in stock after months of no activity from Microsoft. What’s more is, there’s more stock of Xbox Series X than S. It's been the reverse for the longest time, to the point where India got five or six Series S for every Series X.
That said, I'd estimate we're getting at least 2,000 consoles from Microsoft with about 1,200 to 1,500 being Xbox Series X units based on my conversations with sources in the supply chain. Don't expect every retailer to stock the consoles however, Microsoft's India distributor Redington is as corrupt as it gets. Stock should hit retail by May.
The best-selling game of the decade skips Xbox Series X in India at retail
And while Microsoft may finally be getting its act together on hardware, software tells a different story. With Grand Theft Auto 5 hitting the PS5 and Xbox Series X at retail this month, confidence in the Xbox version is so low that Rockstar opted not to bring it to India at all.
It speaks volumes of Rockstar and its parent publisher Take Two's thought process and strategy regarding the Indian market when the biggest-selling game of the decade skips the Xbox Series X on disc. In fact it's a grim indicator that this generation could see Microsoft be less relevant than it was during the Xbox One era.
Although this move came as a shock to me — GTA 5 is a no-brainer to sell regardless of platform — the writing has been on the wall for awhile sources tell me. Unit sales of popular games like FIFA 22 and Call of Duty Vanguard routinely hit five to 10 copies a month all-India on Xbox Series X. You could argue that digital sales may compensate for this, however the issue may simply lie with Microsoft’s lack of focus in India.
Reason being: despite GTA 5 for PS5 at retail being three times more of what it cost as a digital purchase via the PS Store, the PlayStation user base is big enough to support both versions existing. Hopefully with Xbox Series X supply chain issues being sorted out globally, this may not be the case with future games.
Sony brings back PS5 bundles — and losing out to the grey market
After months of winning the favour of fans across the nation, Sony has brought back bundles for the PS5 with Gran Turismo 7, forcing players to pony up at least Rs. 54,490 with the disc version of the console at the very least. In some cases, retailers are forced to bundle the game with an accessory (like a controller or a camera attachment) along with the console, taking the price up even further.
End result: would be PS5 owners in India have to pony up close to Rs. 10,000 more for a PS5. This has resulted in a spike of grey market PS5 sales since it's about Rs. 5,000 to Rs. 10,000 cheaper depending on where you're located in the country.
Considering April is usually the biggest month for Sony and Microsoft in India due to it being the end of the academic year for many students, grey sales for the PS5 are on par with those of the official units. In fact those selling both official and grey stock tell me they're dead equal, which hasn't happened since the console's launch in India last year.
Usually grey market sales have been lower, the fact that they're matching that of official product suggests that Sony does have operational inefficiencies at a global level as grey PS5 stock has come through territories such as North America, South East Asia, and the Middle East to name a few.
PS5 India quantities to stay low
The April 2022 restock for the PS5 was dismal with some retailers getting a tenth of what they would usually get. Expect this to be the same in May too due to the all too familiar refrain of supply chain shortages. This may change in June but when you consider Sony's priorities remain bigger markets like the US, Middle East, and Europe, I'm skeptical that we'll see regular, over the counter supply of the console until next year at earliest.
All is not well at India's biggest publisher
Krafton, the publisher of PUBG Mobile (known as Battlegrounds Mobile India, in well, India) announced its first LAN event in over two years dubbed as the All Stars Invitational. While this is great for the esports community on the surface, it's also bad for business.
This is because Krafton has essentially steamrolled independent tournament organiser Penta Esports. In fact, Penta was scheduled to host its own Battlegrounds Mobile India tournament which was announced weeks before Krafton decided to reveal its plans with Nazara-owned and Krafton-funded esports organisation Nodwin and the Krafton-funded streaming service Loco, forcing Penta to reschedule. It's poor form when the nation's biggest publisher running the most popular game in the country with over 50 million players treats tournament organisers it hasn't invested in like this.
Then again, sources at multiple organisations have told me that this is indeed par for the course from Krafton. Internally, its split between favouring companies it has invested in like Nodwin and its responsibility towards growing the games ecosystem — something which it committed to do when PUBG Mobile was banned in India, resulting in situations where its tough for Indian-owned companies to do business with Krafton.
When you consider how much of the Indian esports industry — and Krafton’s own valuation on the stock market — is dependent on Krafton getting its India strategy right, it’s fascinating that it would be so cavalier in this market.
With that segue into territory that’s being underserved because Indian esports sites rather pander to egos that don’t need more attention instead of looking into this (or that Loco is allegedly suing Sky Esports for breach of contract)…
Other interesting insights from the Indian games market:
Elden Ring continues to crush it at retail, sales have surpassed 7,000 units on all platforms, further underscoring that Bandai Namco and its India distributor E-xpress missed a trick or twenty by having an extremely low day one quantity.
Tiny Tina's Wonderlands sales were dismal. All India pre-order numbers totalled under 10 and the game has been languishing on store shelves ever since. No surprise when you consider that Borderlands and its many sequels were never big sellers in India to begin with. Indians aren't huge fans of the cartoonish art style.
WWE 2K22 sales have surpassed 15,000 units in India and the PS4 version remains the best-seller. Incidentally, 2K Sports, whose parent company also owns Rockstar, did bring it to the Xbox on disc, something that we didn't see with GTA 5.
Demand for Nintendo Switch-exclusive Pokemon Arceus Legends continues to hold up well despite Nintendo's lack of an India presence with some stores clocking in sales in excess of 200 units a week. This might not seem much given the juggernaut franchise’s sales internationally, but the numbers are great given the premium price and the fact that the consoles are not sold here officially.
Kirby and the Forgotten Land has also seen strong demand, with many stores restocking the game after initially bringing in just a handful of copies. It’s roughly a tenth of what Pokemon Arceus Legends does but that’s still a welcome improvement. Past Kirby games would see single digit sales in their first month and not be restocked after that.