The PlayStation Store (PS Store) is Sony’s digital storefront for the PS3, PS4, and PS Vita, allowing purchase of games, downloadable content (DLC), and PlayStation Plus, Sony’s subscription service that grants you access to multiplayer, cloud saves, and monthly games. Globally, the PS Store launched alongside the PS3 in 2006 with India getting it four years later in 2010. Since its inception in India, gamers have been clamouring for expanded payment options. And almost eight years later, Sony has done just that with PlayStation Store prepaid cards finally available in India.
Right now, PlayStation Store prepaid cards will be available via sites like Amazon India and Flipkart alongside other participating stores. What this means is you will no longer need to use your debit or credit card to make PS Store purchases (not like you could most of the time anyway, though we'll get to that in a moment). Instead, you can walk down to your local store and purchase prepaid cards in denominations ranging from Rs. 500 to Rs. 4,500.
This moves keeps Sony relevant when you consider that digital sales are quickly becoming a large part of not only the games industry but even Sony's overall business. The Indian PS Store payment gateway issues are so severe that it's near impossible for most gamers in the country to buy PS4, PS3, or PS Vita games digitally with a debit or credit card issued in the country. So much so that some prefer creating and using a US account to get their games.
While Sony India has been aware of the issue, the solution so far has involved users having to email Sony customer care their PSN ID and email address for it to whitelist the linked payment option. Even then, it's not guaranteed that to work, something I can report from personal experience, and that of many of my friends and colleagues. Comparatively, Steam has every payment option under the sun functional including cash on delivery and the Xbox Store works painlessly with local credit and debit cards. The availability of PlayStation prepaid cards makes them a viable workaround.
As for why this is happening a full eight years after the PS Store's India launch, Sony stated local taxation issues were a problem in the past. Evidently the company found a way to sort this out now. Previously, Sony has claimed that India wasn’t a big digital market for fully-fledged AAA 40GB downloads, with most gamers (at least the rare few able to use their debit or credit cards on the Indian PS Store) preferring to sample DLC — add-on content in the form of levels, maps, and the like — for games that are typically bought at retail.
"There's a huge growth in the DLC part of gaming," Robert Fisser, Vice President and General Manager Middle East, Africa, Turkey, and India at Sony Computer Entertainment Europe (SCEE) had told Gadgets 360 over a year go. "Something that was hardly there on PS3 and nothing like that on PS2 so there's where we see additional or new behaviour. The consumer appetite seems to be really positive, [although] most games are still bought physically."
This could change as PlayStation Store prepaid cards make it easier to access content, giving them a chance to pick up critically acclaimed games that don’t see wide distribution or in some cases, never made it to India at all, such as Persona 5 and Sony’s own Gravity Rush Remastered.
At the moment, the widely accepted install base for the PS4 in India sits in the range of 270,000 to 300,000 units, including grey market sales as well as the limited PS4 Pro quantities sold via various channels (official or otherwise) sold till date. In terms of games, multiple insiders speaking to Gadgets 360 state that biggest title to date has been Sony’s own God of War with around 40,000 units brought in day one, though most other games average approximately 12,000 to 15,000 units in their first month.
If distributed well enough, PlayStation Store prepaid cards could allow Sony and its partners — publishers like Take-Two, EA, Ubisoft, Square Enix, and Sega — access to a wider audience, beyond the current maximum of 40,000 units seen with God of War alone.
Sony itself has stated that around 70 to 80 percent of PS4 owners globally connect to the Internet with India being considerably less than that. In fact, it could just be a big enough reason for more people to connect their PS4s to the Internet and loosen their purse strings with easy, in-reach payment methods for online purchases.
Plus, Sony has had frequent digital sales this generation while the first official discount on physical games is the PS Hits programme that launched globally only recently. What users choose would be a point of interest for all involved and could shape how we get our games going forward with possibly a greater emphasis on DLC, digital downloads, and even micro-transactions such as Overwatch loot boxes or Fortnite V-bucks.
Speaking of choice, it also means that games available both digitally and offline will have to work harder for your attention. For example: Spider-Man pre-orders. Would you prefer buying it offline with a free DLC and the ability to resell your game after purchase? Or would you want it pre-loaded and ready to play the moment it’s out? Granted these options existed before, but with a relatively frictionless payment method available for digital purchases, it will be interesting to see what gains more traction.
Most importantly, it gives Indian gamers a valid option in the face of some questionable decisions from Sony, such as delaying Shadow of the Colossus and Horizon Zero Dawn — two hotly anticipated PS4 exclusives that never made it to India in time. PlayStation Store prepaid cards could, ironically, save Sony from its own logistical issues that even plagued the special editions of its marquee title, God of War.
Of course none of this means we're suddenly going to be a nation that hits the million mark this year in terms of PS4 install base. No, that will only happen with a steady flow of exclusive games and hardware price drops. The advent of PlayStation Store prepaid cards results in a situation where there’s more of a reason for you to stay invested in Sony’s ecosystem, which might just pay off for the company and its partners in the long term.
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