Updated: August 30, 2021 10:15:07 am
When you hear about gaming laptops, the first thing that comes to your mind is the image of a geeky nerd playing DOTA in a dark room and having a chilled beer. This is how brands sell uber-cool gaming laptops with RGB lighting and flashier aesthetics to consumers for years, giving them a taste of the life of a gamer. But Lenovo says it wants to ‘normalise’ gaming laptops and has taken a conscious decision to build its Legion brand as part of a mass-market strategy.
“Some companies in the gaming industry tend to go with the messaging of winning and it’s all about the hardcore, professional eSports. I think that’s fine for the target market. But for us, we are really trying to appeal to a wider group of people who love games, but they don’t necessarily want to become eSports athletes,” Ian Tan, the Asia Pacific Gaming Lead of Lenovo, tells indianexpress.com how its gaming laptops are designed for those who want to go online and have fun playing games with either friends or strangers.
The market for gaming laptops has risen steadily in recent years and during the Covid-19 went through the roof. According to the IDC Worldwide Quarterly Gaming Devices Tracker, Q4 2020, the gaming PC market in the APeJ region posted a 12.3 per cent year-over-year (YoY) increase in 2020 – reaching 21.7 million units. That’s phenomenal growth for the segment where the average cost of laptops is higher.
You can watch below the full interview with Ian Tan, the Asia Pacific Gaming Lead of Lenovo
“For a lot of people, when they buy their first PC, it’s probably going to be a laptop…and it’s also likely to be a gaming PC,” he says, adding that the market for gaming laptops is no longer niche. Tan says contrary to the belief that young consumers between the age group of 18 and 35 buy these gaming laptops, in reality, the average age is around 40 years. “The first thing to address is that gaming is no longer something for young people.”
Tan says the company is seeing a lot of momentum lately in the gaming laptops that cost anywhere between $700 and $1000. In fact, half of the gaming laptops sold worldwide are entry-level laptops. This is also the segment that is getting the most attention from brands and chip makers and there is a massive opportunity to tap into a large number of consumers who are looking to buy their first gaming laptop.
“This is where there’s been a lot of advancements in technology and filtering down of high-end technology to the masses. It’s also the most competitive in terms of pricing,” Tan replies when asked why the entry-level gaming laptop segment is getting all the attention lately. Lenovo has divided its gaming laptop segment between the IdeaPad lineup and the Legion brand. Although different in terms of pricing, he says as you go up higher, you get more powerful processors and have better thermal solutions that require more cooling for the components.
Whether it is Lenovo or any other PC brand, everybody is trying to bring fast refreshing screens and better GPUs in the entry-level segment. Tan emphasises that the new laptops aren’t just made for gaming, but for everyday work as well. To do that, the team of designers and engineers decided not to go with the traditional gaming laptop aesthetic and this new design philosophy can be seen on the Legion Slim 7. “The whole idea is really to not have those lousy designs. Because the designs can be very defensive, some people like it, and some people don’t,” he explains.
The point Tan is making is that people work in the day and play games at night and the design language of their laptops reflects what consumers expect from a gaming notebook. “On the outside, our laptops are designed to be as minimalistic and as clean looking as possible. This way, they fit well in any environment and can appeal to the widest group. But on the inside, we make sure they have all the components and all the cooling solutions and all the AI to give the best performance for the money,” he adds.
Tan adds that consumer tastes have changed and they want a gaming laptop which looks just like a regular mainstream notebook. But how does Lenovo determine which design works with consumers and which doesn’t?
“What we found with our designs, and we have done with focus groups every year is to make sure that whatever designs that will go into production, we have focus groups and different countries telling us which version they prefer. For the future laptops that we are going to launch next year, our research department has already conducted focus groups in different parts of the world across Asia, Europe, and America. We asked different groups of consumers of different demographics, which one do they prefer? We presented them with a few options and we also asked them to tell us what kind of designs on the market they like. Based on the amount of customer feedback, we first affirm that this direction that we’re going is correct.”
Although Lenovo only launched Legion-branded devices four years ago, Tan claims it has been the fastest-growing gaming PC brand for the past two years. But Tan does not want the Legion brand to be limited to developing gaming PC hardware. Lately, Lenovo’s gaming brand has diversified into other product categories, including smartphones. Is India not on the radar for Tan and the team to launch the Legion gaming phone in the world’s second-largest smartphone market?
“There are no plans to bring a Legion phone to India at this point in time,” Tan says. According to Tan, Lenovo is not in a rush to bring the Legion phone into the Indian market. “We have two generations of Legion phones in limited markets across the world, because we first want to build a strong foundation for the product and in doing so, right now, we have a particular order to learn what is the market looking for?”
But Tan does seem to be excited about what is yet to come from the Legion brand. The success of Nintendo Switch and the arrival of Steam Deck later this year have once again put the spotlight on the portable gaming market. “I understand that gamers play games on multiple platforms and they have different expectations of each platform,” Tan says when asked about what he thinks of Valve’s Steam Deck, a portable gaming PC that looks like the Nintendo Switch. Although Tan did not reveal whether Lenovo is working on a Steam Deck-like device internally, he did mention that if the company decides to get into a new platform for gaming it will have a good experience.
“Different genres will have different demands on screen sizes,” he says, adding: “The PC market is always about how we can squeeze out the most performance and the best graphical details versus other platforms… the PC market is pretty large, and portable gaming, if the platform is right and the hardware and software all go together, there’s a sizable market for it.”
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