PAX Aus 2016 – Alienware 20th Anniversary Panel

This year Alienware is celebrating its 20th birthday. That is a huge amount of time for any business founded in tech. To help explain just how far the industry has come the panel including, amongst others, Frank Azor, who is the VP General Manager of Alienware, and Joe Olmstead, the PC Development and Planning Manager at Dell, get together to chat about the past, present and the future.

As is to be expected, the panel started off with an exploration of where the gaming industry, for the PC, started. 20 years ago the gaming IT space was tiny. It tended to consist of smaller groups of people with bigger wallets and was still very centred around console. Discovering what appeared to be an opportunity in the market, Alienware burst fourth. It was time for the PC to become a serious contender in the games race.

It was time for the PC to become a serious contender in the games race.

This was not to say that it was all smooth sailing. Moving much closer to the present there were two key moments that defined, and created, the future of the PC space; Steam and Twitch. Steam provided a platform that made working with your games super easy. It was not difficult to use, games were cheap, and it provided you with all your updates. Twitch then helped connect gamers, it brought competition to the forefront of certain games, lending legitimacy to both the console and PC industries.

It is natural to expect to see these boundaries blur. Modern consoles are becoming more modulated and iterated, while PC’s have tried to push back into the TV audiences. Alienware has been exploring the potential of the Steam Boxes and discovered, through their version, that the console market is radically different. This piece of hardware opened Alienware’s eyes to the real challenges and differences between markets.

VR has also been an eye opener. It has accelerated the need for high power beasts, but realistically we are still going through the silent film era. In a few more months time I would not be surprised if we looked back and considered them little more than tech demos. As such, they may not accurately reflect the power requirements for more developed titles that appear over the next few years. However, the biggest move might not be towards straight power, instead it might be heading towards miniaturisation. While the headsets are going to want more power, the portability related issues restrict the flexibility of VR itself, compromising the players ability to fully engage in an alternate reality.

the biggest move might not be towards straight power, instead it might be heading towards miniaturisation.

Alienware is embracing VR. It has introduced more people to a new hobby, and in some cases, their way of life. From now on out they have confirmed that all aspects of their computers (not just the CPU and GPU) will be fully VR compatible. They consider it a critical aspect in the future of gaming.

Finally, the panel turned towards eSports. One of the few forms of competition which can be honestly described as a great equaliser. Sex, age, number of identical; everyone will be playing on the same level. There are limited physical boundaries. Whether you succeed or not will be down largely to ability, nothing else. This is one of the main reasons why Alienware were keen to support the fledgling scene. Now,their on-going support of numerous teams across various games means that competitive gaming is closer than ever.

I enjoyed this panel as all the discussions that played out came across as frank and honest. As PC gaming has been dying for the last 30 years, it has been interesting hearing the transition from being the niche system to one which now rivals all the other consoles. In the past I have owned my own Alienware (for “work” purposes) and I must wish Alienware happy 20th! You deserve it!

Julian has been involved in the games industry for more than a couple of years now, from working in retail to developing board games to judging Magic: the Gathering tournaments Australia wide. Now as a writer for OK Games he likes to explore niche titles that try to approach gaming from a different perspective. Now all he needs to do is start finishing all those games in his Steam Library...