First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.
Take Me to Your Leader: A look at Alienware with Dell
- — 30 August, 2012 13:35
The Alienware logo: Would you buy a PC from this alien?
Alienware’s reputation of high powered gaming PCs has been well earned; it was quick to incorporate the latest technological innovation into its products. While this served PC manufacturers like Alienware well whenever cutting edge games such as Doom 3 and Half-Life 2 were released, the reality is that these types of games form a minority of overall PC game sales. The highest selling games of all time are not hardcore titles such as the Quake series or Crysis, but casual ones such as The Sims trilogy and Minecraft, neither of which require a high-end rig like an Alienware to run well.
While Hayler admits that some games are versatile and can be played on any format, he adds that consumers who are vested in and love gaming will want to improve their experience. “A designated machine provides this to them,” he said. Nowadays, Alienware products are powered with GDDR5 mobile graphics, which is designed to be powerful yet discrete at the same time. “More immersive and first person games definitely cry out for great hardware, so we provide the most advanced graphics memory available.”
Beyond the hardware discussion, Hayler adds that Alienware stands out by providing customised units. The way the PC maker has aimed to further capitalise on this space is by offering its Alienware Command Centre software that consists of a suit of customisation options. “For example, the lighting behind the keyboard is one of a kind and Alienware’s own personal touch,” Hayler said. The AlienFX system lighting technology has also been designed to provide users with access to a variety of themes and up to 512 trillion distinct lighting combinations.
To further step up its gaming credentials through personalisation, Hayler points out how the vendor has added a new AlienAdrenaline feature that enables Game Mode, which lets the user assign each of their games a unique profile on the system. Not content to rest on its laurels, Alienware has also been dappling into 3D and has now designed a 3D-enabled gaming machine, which Hayler says is the “next step in gaming evolution.” “The broadening audience of gamers is reflective of the diverse entertainment that we offer,” he said.
However, all of this powerful hardware and customisation does not come without a price. Alienware products are premium in nature, not unlike exotic sports cars like Ferrari and Lamborghini in the auto market, and this has meant that consumers traditionally associate the vendor with higher prices. In the past $1500 for an Alienware system was considered quite conservative. The price continual drop in PC hardware components has meant that that price could be viewed as being on the high end of what one actually needs to spend to build a solid system.
Hayler admits that there are always commodity movements in the IT field, and Alienware tailors its pricing structure to suit this market. “Like any hobbyist, gamers want the best equipment for their leisure,” he said. As for whether the vendor is looking to aim downwards over time, Hayler says that the vendor already has a range of products that cover “all price points for consumers.” “This starts with the entry level, powerful X51 desktop from $1299,” he said. “For a gamer wanting mobility, the M14x laptop is for $1499.”
Intergalactic price war
Alienware’s parent company Dell is no stranger to the price war that goes on in the PC market, since it has its own entry-level and high-end PC products fighting for market share. The affordability of Dell’s solutions is how the vendor made a name for itself in the market, prompting questions of whether the mass-market company is putting some pressure on Alienware to offer affordable price points as well.
Hayler says that Dell’s influence extends more to providing Alienware with access to the latest technologies, ensuring that the company and its customers have access to a product of high quality and service of excellent value. “This means that Alienware is component-rich for the price and that consumers can chose from products at a range of price points which are specialised to create an enjoyable and immersive gaming experience,” he said.
The open nature of the PC has meant that it flourished over the years with support from numerous software and hardware vendor, but for the same reason a lot of added complexity has emerged. As there is no single entity in charge of the platform, not in the same way as Apple is overlooking its Mac operation, some have speculated better cooperation between the various hardware and software providers has the potential to improve the situation. “Publishers are constantly improving and updating software, and our job is to create the best equipment to support our gamers,” Hayler said. “Dell and Alienware have always risen to that challenge.”
Taking cues from the success of Apple with its iTunes store, companies such as Valve have aimed to bring a much needed uniformity to the PC games platform with its Steam service. The online platform makes the PC gaming experience easy to understand by providing the user with an almost a console-like experience, in that all the user’s games launch from the same place and they can obtain them all in the same way.
Recognising the influence Steam has had on PC gaming, Hayler says that it comes pre-installed on all of Alienware’s units. “Steam is the ultimate online game platform and a benefit for both us and our customers,” he said. As proof, he points to how there are over 100 games available to purchase, download and play through the service. Users can also find someone to play with, meet up with friends, connect with groups of similar interests and join chats, matches and tournaments. “Steam gives Alienware several benefits, but the main one is that it allows us to catalogue our games,” Hayler said.