First Indian company to launch handheld consoles, set to compete with international brands like Sony and Nintendo
Delhi-based HCL Infosystems became the first Indian company to enter the handheld gaming console market earlier this month.
The move is part of the company's plans to expand its hardware, services and ICT systems integration and distribution business.
These handheld gaming consoles launched under the ME brand, will compete with market leaders like Sony's PlayStation Portable and Nintendo DS.
George Paul, executive vice-president, HCL Infosystems, insists that he is not competing with either Nintendo or Sony. He says the HCL ME devices are intended to trigger logical thinking at an early age.
"We believe that casual games still have a huge market in the pre-teens segment and HCL is readying various devices and games to target this segment," adds Paul.
Beginning with a range of low-cost gaming consoles, HCL ME are custom-made for children between the age group of four and 15 years.
Ficci-KPMG's recent report on the Indian media and entertainment industry pegs a compounded annual growth rate of 19 per cent for the console gaming industry (handhelds, hi-end consoles and software), making it a Rs 1,160 crore (Rs 11.6 billion) market by 2014 as against Rs 490 crore (Rs 4.9 billion) in 2009.
According to various industry estimates, there are about 300,000 handheld consoles in India and the segment is witnessing a year-on-year growth of around 35 per cent.
To garner a bigger pie of the segment, HCL Infosystems will price its products competitively. HCL ME handheld gaming devices have been priced between Rs 799 and Rs 4,990.
The Sony PSP and Nintendo DS base models cost Rs5,000.
HCL has also stepped up its technology ante with the launch of two new HCL ME-converged devices that comprise multimedia options like imaging, voice recording and recording TV programmes on the consoles.
The company has also introduced a wide range of products that caters to different sections of the target group.
For instance, the HCL ME F25 has a heart-shaped design to target girls, while HCL ME D75 and HCL ME K28 with its black-shade and strong built will appeal to boys.
HCL's attempt to include more than just games in its handhelds resonates analysts' sentiments. KPMG analysts, in their report on the entertainment industry, have reasoned that console gaming companies are moving away from a product to a services oriented model, enabling users to not only play games off the console but watch movies and upload photos among other options.
Paul reckons that the handheld gaming segment is headed for a fragmentation with basic converged devices for pre-teens and graphic-intensive handheld consoles for serious gamers.
To be able to compete with other handheld devices, HCL is bundling about 25-100 game titles free with its consoles.
"We are also developing newer game titles and will release them as 'Game Packs' in both retail stores and on our website," he said.
If HCL is going after the first time casual gamer, Nintendo is eyeing the experienced gamers with its new 3DS handheld that enables 3D gaming without the need for glasses or a large 3D-enabled television.
While Nintendo has not put a price tag or release date on the 3DS, company executives have confirmed that consumers should expect the handheld before the end of March 2011.
Jaspreet Bindra, who heads retail, entertainment & devices for Microsoft India, said the company would introduce motion-sensor based Kinect for the Xbox users, this November.
"While we have no plans to enter the handheld game console market, we do see casual gamers moving to Kinect with its launch. We will ensure that it is priced attractively as against the casual gaming devices."
HCL's closest competitor Sony, according to industry reports, too is developing a portable device that shares features of a handheld game machine, E-book reader and netbook computers.
However, Atindriya Bose, country manager at Sony Computer Entertainment, denies any such development and underlines that HCL devices would not dent Sony PSP sales in the near future.
"Sony has a strong connect with gamers as a platform, with hundreds of game titles to choose from." Sony, according to Bose, sees its future in 3D gaming and its upcoming motion-controller, PS Move for PlayStation3 consoles in India.