The Xbox brand was launched in India in a big way in 2006. Microsoft pulled out all the stops, roping in celebrity endorsements from the likes of Akshay Kumar and Yuvraj Sigh. Seven years on, we're set to welcome the 360's successor, and we don't expect anywhere near that level of marketing spend from Microsoft this time around.
It isn't required either. The Xbox brand is now far more recognised than it was in 2006; thanks in no small part to Kinect. The Xbox 360 India Facebook page has over half a million Likes and while the console's install base itself is only a fraction of that, it's testament to the fact that Xbox is now an established brand in India.
While Microsoft no longer needs the big marketing spends it did in 2006, there are a few things that it can do with the new Xbox to make it more attractive to the Indian customer. So here are the five things that we believe will help the new Xbox stand out in the Indian market.
Complete offline support
Globally, we may well be in the age of digital distribution, but that doesn't quite apply to countries like India, where high speed internet is hard to find, and where it is available, it's unreliable and expensive. In such an environment, a console that isn't fully functional offline would be dead on arrival.
One of the rumours surrounding the new Xbox that just doesn't seem to go away is that it will be an always-on console, requiring users to be connected to the internet at all times. Industry veterans havetalked about it, a Microsoft executive was fired because of it, and there have been countless reports confirming and denying this functionality. If the next Xbox is indeed an always-on console, it's going to be very difficult to convince even the urban Indian consumer to take the plunge, especially since most of the entertainment features and apps on Xbox Live aren't available to Indian Xbox Live users.
Xbox 360 backwards compatibility
Prices for new Xbox 360 game have seen a steady rise in India over the years. First-party games started out at a super-competitive Rs 1,895, but they're now at Rs 2,999. Not too long ago, prices had crept over the Rs 3,000 mark. With games for the new Xbox rumoured to be on Blu Ray discs, we'd expect prices to at least hover around Rs 3,000, if not more. In this scenario, it would be nice to have a range of games that are compatible with the new Xbox but priced at less than half that price.
Microsoft India recently announced re-releases of older popular Xbox 360 games at price points like Rs 699, Rs 999, Rs 1,199 and Rs 1,499. If these games were also natively supported by the new Xbox, it would be a far more attractive proposition for buyers, especially those new to Xbox. Besides, backwards compatibility would give the new console a massive games library for customers to choose from at launch itself; something Sony can't offer on the PS4, having confirmed that the PS4 will not support PS3 game discs.
More aggressive India pricing
It says a lot that the premium Xbox 360 model was priced at Rs 27,750 at launch in 2006, and is still priced at Rs 24,990 seven years later. While price drops have been a regular occurrence in the rest of the world, Xbox 360 price drops in India have been few and far between, In fact, Microsoft India actually increased the console's price last year. The competing PS3, on the other hand, launched at Rs 40,000 and its top-end SKU is now available for Rs 22,990.
Microsoft is going to have to be more aggressive with pricing this time around, especially because this time, there will be a direct competitor entering the market as well. Microsoft introduced the Xbox 360 in India almost a year before Sony came in with the PS3, so at launch, it was the only HD console on the market. With the PS4 and new Xbox set to arrive at the same time, Microsoft no longer has that advantage. It's a level playing field, and as is so often the case in India, pricing may well be the differentiator.
Non-proprietary accessories and peripherals
Xbox 360 users have had to come to terms with the console's absurdly expensive accessories, but consumers won't take too kindly to having proprietary accessories forced onto them a second time around. With hard drive prices dropping constantly, what Microsoft has been charging for its Xbox 360 hard drives borders on criminal, and there's no place for accessories like play-and-charge kits for consoles that come equipped with USB ports.
Console manufacturers are going out of their way to make their devices more user-friendly in the face of competition from mobile devices, and allowing the use of third-party accessories and adopting non-proprietary connectivity standards would definitely be a step in the right direction for the new Xbox.
More Xbox Live Silver features
As it stands, Xbox Live is a slap in the face to an Xbox 360 owner with an internet connection but no Gold subscription. Aside from locking away online multiplayer, having a Xbox Live Silver account also means that you'll get game demos late and you also won't have access to some of the most basic apps, such as Internet Explorer.
Sony's PSN has played catch-up to Xbox Live all through this generation, but in PlayStation Plus, it has a premium service that provides good value without taking away core features like online multiplayer and game demos from customers who don't wish to pay. India is still a country where people don't like paying for online services, and by making Xbox Live Silver a more attractive proposition, it will get more Xbox users online, giving Microsoft a better shot at selling them on the Gold subscription.
Will Microsoft actually grant us any of these wishes? We could find out tomorrow, when the new Xbox will be revealed at the company's headquarters.
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