September 11, 2007

Gaming Market - HP Makes Foray into Game PC Hardware

blackbird.jpg A year after Dell bought Alienware and started getting into higher end multimedia desktop and laptops for gaming, here comes HP with its purchase of Voodoo. They have new $2500 system named Blackbird (which is or was coolest spy plane in the world). Interestingly, stats quoted say that more than half of Americans age 12-64 play some sort of electronic game every week, and 29% of them play games on PCs, compared with 24% who played consoles.

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The world's largest personal-computer companies are launching new and cheaper gaming PCs, in a move to take costly high-performance features -- previously of interest to only the most avid players -- to the masses.

Hewlett-Packard Co. yesterday launched the Blackbird 002 desktop PC, its first H-P-branded foray into the PC gaming market. The Palo Alto, Calif., company says the sleek, black system will start at $2,500. That's roughly half the cost of many high-end gaming PCs.
Rahul Sood, founder of Voodoo PC and chief technology officer of Hewlett-Packard's gaming business, speaks about H-P's anticipated emergence into the gaming sector after acquiring the boutique computer vendor last year.

Gateway Inc., soon to be purchased by Acer Inc., plans to introduce a gaming PC in November called FX540 and follow up with gaming-oriented notebooks in January. And two makers introduced midrange machines in June: Toshiba Corp. launched its Satellite x205 series of gaming notebooks, starting at roughly $2,000. And Dell Inc. launched its XPS 720 gaming desktop, which starts at roughly $1,700.

Gaming on personal computers used to be confined to a niche of tech-savvy males and small PC manufacturers selling expensive specially made machines. With names like Falcon Northwest Computer Systems Inc., Alienware Corp. and Voodoo Computers Inc., these makers offer super-speedy systems with enhanced graphics capabilities craved by avid gamers, who are willing to shell out $5,000 and up.

Now gaming is catching on with a new group of consumers, including women, who like games that require decent graphics circuitry to work well, but don't require breaking the bank on high-end gaming systems. Even smaller boutique PC firms such as Velocity Micro Inc. are targeting more of the mainstream gamer. Velocity sells gaming PCs priced as low as $1,400 through Circuit City and Best Buy.
The H-P "Blackbird" gaming PC starts at $2,500, much less than many high-end machines.

The target audience includes people like Thais Walsh. Ms. Walsh, a stay-at-home mother in Mansfield, Mass., plays an online role-playing game called Guild Wars. She enjoys interacting with other people online, often when her kids are napping. But when her 2003 desktop computer from Dell wasn't working well with the game, Ms. Walsh and her husband weren't willing to pony up for the high-end systems they saw. Instead, they just replaced the graphics card and main circuit board.

"I am not spending thousands of dollars on equipment and games," says Ms. Walsh, who would consider one of the new midrange gaming PCs next time around. "We have kids. We know where our responsibilities lie."

Despite the proliferation of cheaper options, consumers can still get more expensive configurations. Dell, which in 2006 purchased game specialist Alienware, in May introduced a high-end gaming desktop PC dubbed XPS 720 H2Cfor $5,389 and later this year plans to announce a notebook PC dubbed "the Beast," which is designed to show off videogame graphics.

But there's no question that the number of gaming PCs priced closer to $2,500 is exploding. "H-P is working to broaden the availability of game play for a much bigger audience," says Phil McKinney, chief technology officer for H-P's PC unit. H-P last year announced a deal to buy gaming boutique Voodoo Computers.

Popularity of PC Games

The growing interest in gaming goes beyond that of console systems such as Sony Corp.'s PlayStation 3 or Microsoft Corp.'s Xbox 360. According to a recent study from research firm Frank N. Magid Associates Inc., more than half of Americans age 12-64 play some sort of electronic game every week, and 29% of them play games on PCs, compared with 24% who played consoles.

Sales of PC games are expected to grow to $13 billion by 2012 from $7 billion in 2006, according to DFC Intelligence.

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Posted by staff at September 11, 2007 12:59 PM