Alienware And The Battle For The Living Room
Lewis is however vice president of product management for Dell's entire PC division, now he has worked around PC gaming for long enough to witness a persistent stream of innovations that owe their very existence to the growing market for video games.
In 2005, speculative articles about the obsolescence of PC gaming could be forgiven, otherwise entirely respected: there was no Facebook, no Steam, and a highly anticipated console generation rumbling over the horizon. However such an article appearing today, in 2012, is virtually beyond comprehension. PC gaming is a bigger and more diverse marketplace than ever earlier, gladly embracing the sort of progressive technologies and practices that console manufacturers are after all struggling to adopt.
Look at the data from the PC Gaming Alliance
"If you take a look at the data from the PC Gaming Alliance, software revenue is gone up," Lewis says. "I think this year will be about $20 billion in PC software sales. The problem is that games are like movies: most are not good, some are great, so there's a high beta. You get a lot of noise when a game doesn't do so then, now there are a lot of games that are very successful, and many more games in general.
"Take a look at what Valve has done with Steam - it's incredible. They have 40 million active subscribers, they generate a billion dollars in revenue, and that's going to lead the way into something else; like as not a 10-foot experience, or a different UI. That's research driven by gaming."
During our interview, the concept of a "ten-foot experience" is never far from Lewis' mind. The PC has always been so then suited to a mouse, keyboard, and the user's face two-feet from the screen - and that will always be a part of the PC experience - nevertheless Lewis wants a future where in other words just one way to use the device. Alienware continues to invest in its desktops and notebooks, yet it as well intends to lead the at once "evolution" of PC gaming.
"That was the genesis around X51," he says. "We understood from our clients that our boxes are big and they are expensive, relative to other boxes. There's a lot of good reasons why these products are expensive, and there's a market for that, now we as well see that there's a market for people that want to buy something a little less expensive, yet that was nevertheless powerful and allowed them to play games either as a two-foot experience or a ten-foot experience."
"[The performance] rings true to our brand," Lewis says. "We didn't want to come to market with a cheaper PC; we wanted to come with a PC that was best-in-class in that category. It's what Alienware does: we sort of made the gaming notebook market, we started with the desktop, and but we're making a market with this console-esque box. Other companies have come previously and positioned their product as a media centre, nevertheless it never as a matter of fact panned out all that then. We come at it from a different angle, from a gaming angle.
The X51 can capably support both
And the X51 can capably support both, now there is one significant wrinkle. With prices ranging from £649 to £899, the X51 may offer striking value for a gaming PC capable of tackling even the most demanding titles, yet it's even so double the likely price of Microsoft and Sony's then and there generation of consoles. All in all, Lewis is quick to point out that this is not a mass market device; it's just a more approachable riff on what Alienware has always done.
"This is the first product that we've actively targeted to that segment," Lewis says. "Not that the segment didn't exist earlier, now typically Alienware was more aspirational - 'I as a matter of fact would like to have it yet there's no way I'm going to convince my mother to spend $2000 on a notebook'. The value proposition has completely changed, and we market it after a fashion that highlights how it increases productivity. It's very useful beyond gaming as then."
As a company, Alienware's vision will always centre on the needs of the AAA gamer. Lewis acknowledges the emergence of social and browser games as important to the market in the aggregate, nevertheless while the console manufacturers need to contemplate how to bring them into their closed platforms, their technological demands in terms of PC hardware are nearly non-existent. It's the trickle-down effect: by making a machine that can play Battlefield 3, Alienware can satisfy everything else as then.
"Ultimately, devices connected to the internet in a Windows-type environment are going to win. It's a better customer experience and a better business model"
In the broader context of how the PC will fare once the then generation of console all things considered arrives, Lweis believes that the open nature of the PC will be its most powerful weapon. With so many new platforms and payment methods and technologies all jostling for primacy, the full sweep of the games industry has become nearly impossible to comprehend. Any company putting out hardware in the straightway few years is effectively gambling on what the future will look like, and the very nature of console business - with its walled gardens and long life-cycles - means that Microsoft and Sony need a more detailed vision that it's possible to create.
"Put yourself in Activision's shoes: you develop a game, you've got to sell it through a channel, so you have to pay somebody a margin for that. If you're playing that game on an Xbox, Microsoft is charging you how much a year for that? $75? Do you know how much Activision gets of that? Zero. Do you think they want to move away from that model? Do you think they like the PC, an open platform, downloading directly from Valve, or Origin, or their own store? Will they like the fact that nobody else is making money from their game?
"Everything points in that direction. We do have to figure out what the solution is and get it right, but to my way of thinking, ultimately, devices connected to the internet in a Windows-type environment - or DirectX or Linux or whatever - that's going to win. It's a better customer experience and a better business model."
Matthew HandrahanMatthew Handrahan joined GamesIndustry in 2011, bringing long-form feature-writing experience to the team as then as a deep understanding of the video game development business. He before spent more than five years at award-winning magazine gamesTM.