Ster-Kinekor CEO on Playstation 3, PS Vita and Move | Zombiegamer Interview

We were fortunate enough to chat to Ster-Kinekor Entertainment CEO, Mario dos Santos this past weekend at rAge 2012.

Ster-Kinekor Entertainment is the official distributor of Sony PlayStation hardware and Software in South Africa, as well as distributors for publishers including THQ, Bethesda, Capcom, Konami, and more.

ZG: How are digital game sales comparing to retail sales in South Africa, now that you can download games directly from the Playstation Network?

DS: In terms of the number of people that are registering, we are about half-way there compared to the countries that we benchmark ourselves against; countries like Greece, Turkey and the like. In truth it’s still a fraction of what we do at retail. It’s purely down to infrastructure [SA Internet] issues.

ZG: How is the Playstation Vita doing in South Africa?

DS: In all honesty, it’s selling a little slower than we would’ve liked, as with the rest of the world really.

There are different views as to why that is, but fortunately one thing that comes out consistently is that the Vita is a great platform – people love it. There is the element of price that is still a little challenging; it’s a fairly expensive piece of equipment.

Then in terms of material, the more ‘core’ orientated games are only beginning to launch from this coming season; the likes of Call of Duty, the new God of War in February. Once those core games are released and the more core-gamer can enjoy the Vita, then the sales should begin to grow. But at the moment it is a bit slower than we would’ve liked.

We saw the same pattern with the PSP when it was launched. Then as soon as you get to the right price-point, that’s when it breaks out.

ZG: I believe you couldn’t keep enough stock [of the PSP] last Christmas?

DS: It was crazy. From a penetration point-of-view, when you compare it to other consoles, South Africa is the biggest market for the PSP in the world. For the months of July and August, the PSP was the top selling console here.

ZG: We learned from the Eurogamer Expo that the Playstation Vita will receive a price-cut next year, but the decision of when “was still being discussed.” Do you now know more or less when we can expect the price-cut?

DS: There has been no official announcement, and it is really only my opinion, I would think it will be around April 2013. There is certainly no indication from SCEE though, this is purely my opinion.

ZG: We will be sure to be clear on that.

ZG: The basic Playstation controller’s design has carried across three generations of consoles, of course it has advanced, but the basic design has stayed the same. Will we see a completely new design for the Playstation 4’s controller?

DS: In all honesty I have had no visibility of it at all. Not at all. There are so many different rumours out there, and the truth is that it is being kept very close under wraps in Japan.

ZG: And you said the Playstation 4 is releasing when exactly?

DS: [Laughs] You probably know better than me, in all honesty.

ZG: We had to give it a shot.

ZG: Would I be correct in saying, or the perception is at least, that the Playstation Move’s popularity has slowed down?

DS: It’s done well, but it hasn’t been overwhelming. We haven’t quite been in a situation where we have run out of stock or anything. We [South Africa] are on a penetration of 0.2 or 0.3 per console sold, so it’s healthy compared to the rest of the world. I think when parents feel a little more comfortable letting their kids play with their Playstation 3; I think that’s when we’ll see an uptake.

ZG: Regarding third-party development, are we still seeing good support for the Move, in terms of future games coming out that will optimise Move?

DS: A lot of games are coming out with Move functionality. For example, SEGA’s London 2012 was a top seller for us in July. It’s a title that is very Move focused. So we are seeing that there is a definite an appetite for it, but I do think it will skew more to the ‘social’ side of things, rather than core gaming.

ZG: How are the Playstation 3 sales figures compared to your main competitors? Do you know what sort of market share the Playstation 3 enjoys here?

DS: The Playstation brand as a whole enjoys seventy percent of the market here. In terms of next-gen [Playstation 3, Wii and Xbox 360] the Playstation 3 is still by some way the leading console. But if the other platforms increase their penetration, it’s good for gaming overall. So if the various consoles do well, it helps us [Ster Kinekor]. We also represent publishers across all platforms, so it is good for us overall. It is a Playstation-centric market this [South Africa].

ZG: Do you think the new Super-Slim will have any impact on that market penetration. The price-point is still pretty-high, you can get an Xbox Slim for less, but do you think the Super-Slim will boost Playstation 3 sales?

DS: I think there are a couple of initiatives that are coming this holiday season that should see a boost. You need it to be one or two price-points lower to where it is, but the challenge that Sony has is that it is a high-spec piece of equipment. Sony can’t exactly spec the console down, to get to a lower price.

ZG: So we can expect Playstation 3 holiday bundles… and Vita bundles?

DS: There are lots coming. There’s an Assassin’s Creed bundle, a Call of Duty bundle on Vita, which is very exciting because it they will be format-drivers for Vita. The Fifa bundles [that are already available] will run through the holidays.

One of the key holiday bundles for the Playstation 3 will be the new 500 gig Super-Slim with the Uncharted and Gran Turismo Game’s of the Year editions. Those will be big, especially for newcomers to the Playstation 3.