Saturday, March 20, 2010

How To Launch A Game Console In The Philippines (Non-fanboy tips)

UPDATE: I wrote this post a few days before Sony officially announced their local launch. Sony Philippines is launching the Playstation 3 in the Philippines on March 27-28, with a launch event at the Glorietta Activity Center. It's great news for Filipino gamers everywhere! For more information, check out this page.

For a few years, me and my wife have learned a lot about gaming here in the Philippines. With the birth of our son recently, our priorities have changed. We do still love gaming but we no longer can devote that much time to promoting it as a hobby.

That said, all that wealth of experience that we learned as Xbox MVPs would just go to waste if I didn't write this post. I write this not as an Xbox fan, but as a gamer, and personally if it really does come to pass that Sony is launching a game console here, it's nothing short of a miracle, and to have it happen after we did all those things before feels like one of those 'you get what you wished for, but not exactly what you expected' type of events. It's funny, it's ironic, but I'm just glad that it actually HAPPENED.

Anyway, straight to the point.....if any hardware maker were to launch a game console locally, what points should they consider?

1. GROW THE MARKET - The reality of it is, the games market here in the Philippines is VERY SMALL. It's a niche market that only appeals to less than 1% of the country's population.

That 1% is the one with enough disposable income to actually afford buying original console games every month.

There is also a market that buys pirated games. While it is a much bigger market, it is also a niche and is not really that significant because games are just one other pastime that Filipinos enjoy playing.

That said, I think there is a significant lack of information and awareness about CONSOLE GAMES IN GENERAL with Filipinos. People may have some vague idea of what they are, but the truth is, it doesn't appeal to a lot of people because it seems there is very little in the way of social interaction when one plays games. Filipinos like to socialize and enjoy their time with other people, so a solitary activity like GAMING can come off as anti-social to most people.

2. ONLINE GAMING FAN COMMUNITIES ARE NOT ENOUGH - Reaching out to gamers here in the Philippines will take a lot more than going through online channels. I know a lot of game players who don't spend a lot of time on the Internet posting on online gaming forums. The truth is, online gaming communities comprise an even smaller segment of the gaming market, and they often send the wrong message in terms of defining who your customers are, and what they really want.

Online channels for marketing the PS3 become quite viable only after the market has grown to a significant size.

So to sell your product effectively, you have to use a combination of traditional marketing methods, in addition to just going online and talking to individual game players. Feedback from players is crucial but with the size of the gaming market here (which is very small), gaining feedback through online channels won't get you far in terms of finding who might be interested in the gaming hobby.

Basically....

3. Understand what the product is, what it can do, and who it appeals to - Let me just say that, it surprised me to meet a executive who works in a game-related field once, who didn't know what FINAL FANTASY is. You must know why your product will appeal to people, and the reason is simple - GAMES. Yes the Playstation 3 can play blu ray movies and do all sorts of other things....but at the end of the day, its ability to play games is its best selling point.

Stay in touch with what's going on in the game industry. Know what the opposition is doing, know what they're selling....and in turn, understand what YOU are selling, and how you can prove that it's better.

4. Match Grey Market Pricing - to really grow the industry, build on what was already established. I hope that Sony Philippines will match (or have competitively lower) pricing than what is already on grey market retailers in Greenhills. In a way, the grey market already understands at what price players are willing to pay to buy their games and accessories. If the officially supported Playstation games and accessories are going to be more expensive, it could send the wrong message to consumers, and it also severely lowers the potential of the (already quite small) market to grow.

That said, Sony Philippines has surprised me that they have the initiative to sell the Playstation 3 in such a challenging market environment. I do hope that they understand the sales potential of their product, and that they can only really succeed if they create the market and grow it further, beyond its current status as a niche. Their success could usher in the creation of a whole new industry in the Philippines; let's all hope for the best!

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