With the launch of the next generation of consoles mere weeks away, Sony and Microsoft are dumping vast sums into advertisements and promotions to get the attention of those willing to put their disposable income towards videogame hardware. After the longest and most profitable console generations in recent memory, the stakes have never been higher, so it’s unlikely that many will escape the marketing blitz from one side or another, but Alienware believes that PC gaming’s prospects have never been better.
The hype level for the new consoles is currently at fever pitch, with all kinds of rumours and tidbits sneaking out and setting enthusiast sites ablaze as gamers snaffle up morsels of what the future holds. In the midst of the drama, it’s easy to overlook that PC hardware has been benefiting from regular updates all along, and by the time the new consoles launch, a high-end PC will offer comparable or better visuals, a vast back-catalogue of classics, and a wider range of traditional and experimental game-play opportunities. To discuss PC gaming’s evolving role as ‘the other choice’, Alienware hosted a roundtable in Toronto, with panelists Eddy Goyanes from Alienware, PC gaming blogger Bambi Blue, as well as Victor Lucas, Raju Mudhar, and Steve Tilley from Reviews on the Run.
The 90 minute conversation covered a lot of ground; but what kind of a picture ultimately emerged? The representatives on hand from Alienware clearly believe that the PC market is the most exciting space for gamers, and they’re proud of the benefits that their products offer. Alienware has long been synonymous with powerful, cutting-edge technology, and since being acquired by Dell, they have gained access to various production resources, as well as tremendous economies of scale that allow them to bring out competitively priced and strikingly designed machines that launch first (or simultaneously) with the newest chipsets.
PC gaming certainly has all genres covered, but Alienware has made it clear that they want to be the vendor that appeals to all kinds of mindsets; regardless of whether you’re a newcomer looking to pick up a quality machine with the safety-net of Dell’s customer service, or a tinkerer who wants to be able to upgrade your rig when the time comes, Alienware notebooks and desktops come in a variety of upgradeable configurations that should satisfy lower (from $5991) to higher ends of the market.
The incentives to stick with console have been eroding lately, since most multi-platform games launch simultaneously, with robust controller and mouse/keyboard support in PC games that cater to any preference. Furthermore, the hassles of hunting for drivers and troubleshooting hardware are being allayed by hardware vendors getting a bit more proactive about the user experience.
Of course, since most PC gamers are relying on digital distribution, it means that there is little retail footprint to spread wider awareness. Alienware works with developers by providing them with hardware for testing, as well as spiffy machines for tradeshows, so many fans will get their first taste of upcoming games on an Alienware machine. The team at Alienware hope that the combination of best-in-class performance and “really cool” design will foster brand loyalty and drive interest from other gamers.
The console business model is reliant on setting a standard and keeping it alive as long as possible. Console manufacturers (traditionally) make a loss from the hardware, but recoup profits from licensing software, and the longer the generation lasts, the greater the economies of scale benefit the manufacturer. However, as the console hardware is increasingly left in the dust by contemporary PCs, greater numbers of gamers will switch to a more capable PC. Based on the information that Alienware has collected, PC gamers will spend $200 – $400 on their PC every other year, whether it’s a new graphics card or an SSD, and many will buy a new system every 4 years; vastly outpacing the intentions of Microsoft and Sony.
Coming away from the panel, it’s clear that Alienware have an answer to almost every hesitation around why it’s a good time to jump into PC gaming, backed with a range of aggressively priced quality hardware and a guarantee of top-tier after-sales support. Whether you want to indulge your long-held curiosity about PC gaming with an affordable mid-range setup, or pump out graphics at a level of fidelity that’s likely another console generation away, it’s clear that Alienware hardware is a safe bet.