Christmas 2013 is looming, and the most widely celebrated gift giving holiday in the western world will soon be gone for another twelve months, scattered on the winds, replaced by stories about spending habits, annual rituals, and New Year’s Resolutions. In reality, we Christmas-celebrating Americans are just catching up with our neighbors; India’s big gift giving holiday came and went on November 2nd. Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, ended long before the new console launches that dominated the video game landscape here in the home of Jetsetter. While the PlayStation 4 wasn’t yet available as a Diwali gift this year, the holiday did shine a light on the PlayStation’s unusual history in India, one of the fastest growing gaming markets on the planet.
Little known fact: While Sony halted production of the PlayStation 2 in January of 2013, giving the console a remarkable 13-year lifespan, the PS2 has remained on sale in a lot of places, but mostly to clear out stock. Sony announced, however, that the PlayStation 2 would remain a regularly stocked item in India through Diwali 2013. While production of the PlayStation 2 died almost a year ago, this holiday season marked it’s true passing.
The PS2 actually played a significant role in growing the Indian gaming market. Sony released the PS2 in India not long after releasing it in Japan and the United States back in 2000. It went on to become the best-selling home console of all time, but well before it broke that milestone, it had become the best-selling console ever released in India by 2008.
Despite it’s popularity though, there weren’t many Indian game developers working on PlayStation 2 games. There simply wasn’t much development capital for it. In October 2008 though, the PlayStation 2 got a new lease on life in the country when Sony Europe declared the PlayStation 2 an open development platform. This meant that even though developers would still need a PlayStation 2 development kit (a specialized version of the console used in making games), they would no longer need to pay licensing fees to Sony to distribute them. “This has never been done before,” said George Bain, Sony Europe’s developer relations manager, at the time, “[Indian developers can now] create low-development cost titles and release them in their market.”
As a result, brand new PlayStation 2 games came out in India in 2013! Check out Don 2 (image on the right). Based on the film of the same name, you get to control Don, a crime lord trying to take over all of Europe, who’s actually played by Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan. Don 2 is the work of a small studio partnered with Gameshastra in the city of Hyderabad. All these years later, the PS2 platform remains a viable outlet in India.
It’s impressive how the PlayStation 2 has endured in the country. When the PlayStation 3 released in India in 2007, it was even more expensive than when the console came out in the States. People balked at the $500 to $600 price of admission when PS3 came to the U.S. in 2006, but Indian gamers had to plunk down 39,990 rupees. That was just about $1,000 at the time. And while the price was lowered eventually, PS3 game prices in India remained high for years. In 2012, Electronic Arts notoriously jacked up the price of its hugely popular FIFA series by 80-percent. It’s no wonder the PS2 remains so potent in the region.
With the PlayStation 2 passing on in India though, it’s time to look to the future. Sony announced on Wednesday that the PlayStation 4 will go on sale in India on Jan. 6. But if any console is going to step into the role the PS2 enjoyed, it won’t be Sony’s new machine. Just like the PlayStation 3, the PlayStation 4 will cost 39,990 in India. That’s not quite as forbidding a price tag as it was in 2007, as the current exchange rate equates to about $640. Still, that’s a massive price hike from what we’re paying for the console here in America.
So we end 2013 here at Jetsetter much in the same way we ended 2012, by saying another goodbye to Sony’s late, great PlayStation 2. Even if it loses it’s last stronghold in India, the console’s history will remain enshrined. For anyone that got a PS2 as a Diwali present, Jetsetter raises a glass. Salud.