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Friday, October 26, 2007

Live for India? W.. T.. F..

Gamasutra is reporting that Microsoft will be launching Xbox Live in India on November 5 this year. Now for those of you that don't know, the '360 was launched in India the day after it was launched here, at the end of September last year. While both Indian and South African Xbox 360 owners have been lobbying for Live support in their respective countries since then, Microsoft's argument has always been (to the South African community at least) that player numbers did not justify this.
What little digging I did revealed an investigation by that revealed by February this year only 839 Xbox 360 Consoles had been sold in India. This is despite a rather large and expensive marketing campaign at launch which included Bollywood-style TV ads aired on Indian TV. Even with the recent Halo hype I very much doubt that number has even approached 5000 by this date.
By contrast, South African sales numbers are estimated to be well beyond 10000, possibly exceeding 15000. An online petition by the local online community to have a South African Locale launched for Live has to date garnered over 1300 signatures. While this may not seem like a particularly impressive number, keep in mind that this is limited to people that are knowledgeable enough to have investigated the problem online and be active in the community. This does not include the countless average consumers that turned on and plugged in their Xbox 360, pressed 'Connect to Live' and gave up when the console reported there was no support for their locale, or got as far as claiming to be American and got stopped short at the address entry stage. Even taking local broadband into account, we must have more online players (and potential online players) than India.

One possible argument that has been suggested in local forums is that the cost to Microsoft (and possibly Telkom) to establish Live locally is not worth it. I have two counters for that. The first is simply that if it's worth it in India with their minuscule install base it should sure as hell be worth it here. My second argument is that the cost need not be that high. Microsoft does not have download servers and maintenance staff in every country in which Live is supported. Sure it would be nice to have a local download and matching server that could be used with a (relatively) cheap local only ADSL account, but the main call from the community is for a South African locale that would allow us to successfully use the awesome Live matching service to find local players and (legally) use our credit cards for gold accounts and Microsoft points. Let's reiterate that second part: we want to give Microsoft our money. Now anyone that has ever done any kind of web based system with multiple locale support knows that this isn't a big deal AT ALL. We're not talking support for a new language here, US or UK english would be just fine thanks. We just want that locale table in the Live database to include a row with "South Africa","en-uk" in it. Please MS, give me remote access to your DB and I'll do the damned work for you FOR FREE. I know it's not quite as simple as that, but you get the idea.
Finally, the only reason I can think of that makes some iota of sense is that Microsoft is perhaps doing this to boost sales of the console in India. If Live support in India will include video marketplace, and specifically offer the hugely popular local (Bollywood) content, I could see how that functionality would boost sales. The same can't really be said here. Microsoft can't (legally) offer us content to compete with local TV. Of course if my theory a couple of months ago that Telkom Media might use the 360 as a set-top box when it launches it's IPTV services next year, that may change-though I'm more doubtful of it at this stage as I'm sure we would have heard some whispers of this. Even if this is the approach that's being taken, it still doesn't explain how the cost (which if localized video marketplace is offered will require additional hardware and manpower outlay) is more justifiable in India than here.

Microsoft, I'm a huge fan of your platform, but you really are being bastards at this point!


Andrew said...

Microsoft really seem to be losing the plot!?

And they've just outranked themselves as my least favourite company thanks to their European integration patent tax.

Justin Paver said...

d00d, ur 2 quiet. u n33d to be /\/\0r3 0bn0><i0u5 l1|<3 /\/\3


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