The PC is an invaluable work tool, but one of the key drivers behind the technological evolution of the platform has been its application for entertainment such as video games. One company that has made a niche for itself in PC gaming is Florida-based Alienware, whose PCs are renowned for their processing power as much as for their “little green men” themed computer cases. Like many PC manufacturers, Alienware rode the PC gaming boom at the turn of the century off the back of the graphics card arms race between nVidia and ATI, until it was eventually acquired by Dell in 2006.
Over five years have passed since Dell acquired the gaming PC manufacturer, and Alienware A/NZ brand manager, Matt Hayler, says that both companies have worked well together in developing and cementing a strong relationship over that time. “As a result of the acquisition, we were able to leverage the components and manufacturing, logistics and marketing that Dell is known for,” he said. “In return, Alienware has expanded Dell’s product portfolio.” This has meant that consumers have wider access to the “ultimate gaming machine.” Alienware is renowned for offering power, performance and ability to “handle almost anything you throw at it.”
Dell may be known for its affordable Inspiron line of PCs, it also offers a premium selection of notebooks and Ultrabooks under its XPS moniker. Computers that fall under the XPS umbrella are usually high performance models that could appeal to gamers, which was one of the initial concerns surrounding the Alienware acquisition by Dell, as it had the potential to put the two brands into competition with each other.
Hayler, however, sees a clear distinction between Alienware and the Dell XPS range. “The ethos behind the XPS range is ‘crafted without compromise,’” he said. “They are high performance laptops designed for the professional who needs portability and style without compromising on the level of performance ability.” Design-wise, Hayler points out that the XPS range of Ultrabooks and laptops are different because they are aluminium, bonded with Gorilla Glass and a silicone base for increased durability when travelling.
Alienware systems, on the other hand, can be purchased in a range of platforms from notebooks to desktops for gamers looking for a balance of mobility and performance. “The Alienware range dominates the gaming market because of the powerful hardware and superior graphics,” Hayler said. “They also allow for seriously powerful upgrades and have a one of a kind cooling system which uses liquid cooling technologies to ensure you never burn out your unit.”
As further proof of how Alienware differentiates from Dell, Hayler points to the Aurora Powerhouse, which he describes as “the most powerful MicroATX gaming desktop” ever forged by gaming PC vendor. A claim not to be taken lightly for sure, considering Alienware has developed numerous cutting edge desktops in the past.
While the technological innovation in the PC can not be contested, the same can not be said of the state of PC gaming. Namely, there have been murmurings in the industry that PC gaming, at least on the core and not social end of the scale, is playing second fiddle compared to dedicated gaming consoles such as the Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Xbox 360. As a key player in the PC gaming space, Alienware is the most likely candidate to provide an insight into the real state of the PC gaming space.
Hayler sees PC gaming being healthy, and points to a recent Bond University report from 2005 to 2011, titled Digital Australia 2012, that found that the average age of gamers has increased steadily to 32 years of age. “We are also seeing a significant increase in female gamers, as well as more households owning at least one game playing device,” he said. “This exemplifies the growing trend towards a broadening gaming demographic, one that we don’t anticipate to drop off in the foreseeable future.”
While consoles are vying for the attention of consumers and their wallets, Hayler says that Alienware is keeping itself relevant in the current market environment by continuing to provide an “immersive and fun experience through state of the art design.” “This is along with simple and easy customisations and upgrades, specifically designed with gamers in mind,” he said.
In the PC space in particular, there are very technically savvy gamers that are always endeavouring to build their own high performance PCs. It is this market that Alienware found its success with since it was founded in 1996, and Hayler expects this continue to drive the vendors popularity in the years to come. “We recognise the desire by people to customise machines, so we give these gamers the opportunity to customise their rig without having to build from the ground up,” he said.
Despite optimism outlined in reports such as Digital Australia 2012, the last few years have seen an increasing number of reports about the “death of the PC” due to the growth of the smartphone and tablet industry. The rise of both of these products has prompted more than one industry pundit to wonder whether the hardcore PC hardware market is still going to be around in a few years. Hayler, however, says there is no need for concern, as “it’s the evolution of the PC that we are seeing, not the end.”
When it comes to PC gamers, Hayler says that it is about power, quality graphics and high resolution, and in some instances 3D, screens that “deliver the immersive experience gamers desire.” “You can’t get this for something like a first person shooter on a tablet or phone,” he said. “Our laptops are one of the most popular units gamers purchase because they offer premium specifications, graphics and screen resolution which make them the ultimate in gaming nirvana that create an unbeatable experience.”
Even when framed in this way, the concerns expressed by industry insiders and consumers must indicate that there are at least some issues with the market. While it would be difficult to lay the blame at the foot of a single issue, it has prompted some to wonder if there a marketing problem afoot when it comes to promoting PC games and gaming in general.
Fortunately, Alienware has been on top of this, as the company's gaming focus has meant that it has been quite proactive over the years in marketing its hardware at gamers. “Gamers want high performance and high resolution for a great gaming experience and Alienware delivers on this,” Hayler said. “We are here for the gaming enthusiasts and we market to them.”