While industry analysts and companies have reported declining PC sales in recent years, Dell has had a remarkably different story to tell. The company has enjoyed 17 consecutive quarters of year-over-year (YoY) share growth, and it shipped over 11 million PCs last year with 6.2 percent YoY shipment growth. The company is looking to continue that trend by investing heavily in gaming using its premium Alienware products and its newly launched Inspiron Gaming brand.
“We are making significant investments in the gaming business and in the Dell consumer client business,” said Frank Azor, vice president and general manager of Alienware, gaming and XPS at Dell in a press briefing. According to Azor, Alienware leads the market with its 13-inch gaming notebook, which launched over a year ago. Among other technological leaps forward, Dell was also the first to bring 8K monitors to market. Dell also takes pride in having the largest selection of VR systems, with all Alienware notebooks being VR-ready and its desktops having a path toward VR support.
The Inspiron Gaming desktop was introduced at E3, and it is the first Inspiron model that is built for gaming, designed around the new AMD Ryzen processors at a price that starts at $600. This is in stark contrast to Alienware’s one-year exclusive OEM partnership with AMD to be the first to offer an Area 51 gaming desktop that features the insanely powerful 16-Core Ryzen Threadripper processor and up to three graphics cards to handle everything from VR gaming, to 12K gaming and livestreaming at the same time—pushing the boundaries of high-end desktops.
The need for two separate gaming brands came from listening to its audience.
“We at Alienware have been listening to our customers, and one of the things they’ve been asking for have been more affordable gaming systems, and we’ve been responding to those requests with the Inspiron gaming line,” said Azor. “They’ve been asking for more VR-ready systems, and we’ve been doing that with the entirety of the Alienware portfolio, and brought it into XPS for folks that want a gaming and VR capable system but without all the flash an Alienware or Inspiron Gaming system has to offer. And they’ve been asking for Alienware peripherals, which we haven’t had for a while now, but we’re bringing them back this year.”
Alienware peripherals, which include gaming mice, keyboards and high-end monitors, will be high quality and will feature the brand’s iconic designs such as custom lighting. Dell plans to showcase these peripherals at esports events, and Alienware designed headsets are currently being planned. In the meantime, the company is focused on distinguishing the Alienware brand from Inspiron Gaming for consumers.
“Alienware is focused on driving innovation and performance, which is what it has been doing for over 20 years, and that will not change,” Bryan de Zayas, director of marketing for Dell Gaming, told AListDaily. “One example of that is our leadership from a VR perspective and making all of our products VR-ready. We’re the first to launch an entire line of notebooks—including the Alienware 13—that are VR-ready out of the box. We’re going to continue driving that innovation, and as you would expect, that comes with things that are more expensive, but we’re not going to pull back and compromise.
“So, we had a choice. Were we going to address this ever-growing market with the Alienware brand by cutting things out or were going to leverage a very well respected and established brand we have with Inspiron? That choice was very easy. We decided to develop these products from the ground up, brand them, and market them as Inspiron Gaming products. The key difference is that Inspiron products will focus on the lower price band growth segments of the gaming market.”
“The Alienware brand is something that we built 20 years ago, and there’s a certain expectation when it comes to buying and owning an Alienware product,” Azor added. “We have to invest a considerable amount of cost into delivering and meeting those expectations. Those costs go into innovation, performance, the industrial design and so on. As a result, Alienware products are at premium price points. In order for us to preserve the promise of what Alienware has delivered, we have to make those investments. If we don’t make them, then the brand will no longer meet expectations. That’s a large part of the reason why the Inspiron Gaming products are not branded Alienware. The approach for how we designed those products is for them to be very good gaming products but not necessarily premium gaming products. It was very important for us to set proper expectations with customers and that’s why we decided to brand the two products differently.
The AMD Threadripper OEM partnership does much to set Alienware up as a premium brand. When asked how the partnership came together, de Zayas said: “The exclusivity from an OEM side came together because of the platform that we have. Alienware Area 51 is a top of the line desktop in the marketplace and it has the full performance capabilities. Our customers expect that from us. In discussing with AMD, it made sense for them from an engineering and timing perspective to partner with Alienware and bring it to market.”
In comparison, the Inspiron Gaming brand is being promoted in partnership with Sony and is reaching a different segment of gamers with the movie Spider-Man: Homecoming, as shown in a TV commercial featuring Dell’s new Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming laptop.
“The broad popularity of the Spider-Man franchise and its relevance with gamers presented a real opportunity to launch Dell’s Inspiron Gaming line as part of the campaign and bring Dell’s expertise in high-performance gaming to more people,” said Gerri Tunnell, senior vice president, consumer and small business marketing at Dell in a statement. “Spider-Man fans care about authenticity to the brand, character and storytelling, so partnering with Jon Watts on the TV spot allowed Dell to uphold a seamless look and tone, stay true to the film and deliver to the Marvel community.”
Meanwhile, Alienware remains fully committed to community engagement to promote its products.
“We have critical engagement with our customers through avenues like Twitch, Twitter, YouTube and Alienware Arena,” said Azor. “We’re engaging about 10 million customers at any given time. We’re listening to what we’re doing well, where we can improve, what are the new things they want to see from us, and where we can help drive the gaming industry.”
“We want to talk with, work with, and engage with gamers around the world in a real way,” said de Zayas. “It’s very easy for a company to come and try to sell somebody a product by trying to win on price and things like that. The way we want to win is by working with our gamers and engaging with them.”
Dell has invested in a number of key areas, with one being Alienware Arena, which was started over 10 years ago and now has over six million members. It started as an amateur tournament location, which is a precursor to many things you see today in esports.
Another area of expansion over the past year is with Alienware.tv, which is designed to engage with the community every day. Livestreams take place on Twitch, Twitter and other platforms, but Alienware wants to “go beyond that to where gamers live and breathe every day,” said de Zayas. The company has an Alienware.tv studio based in Austin, Texas, which produces content six hours a day, four times a week to engage with gamers by talking with them and answering questions in real-time. Complementing it is a mobile broadcast studio, which will be traveling across the US and working with esports partners like Team Dignitas and Team Liquid.
“For Alienware and Dell, it isn’t just about what’s going to sell products. It’s also about making sure we’re proactively engaging with gamers,” said de Zayas. “You will get solid gaming performance at more affordable price points from Inspiron Gaming, and from Alienware, you’re going to get the best technology out there.”
The Inspiron Gaming tower was shown for the first time at E3 2017 in a dual booth setup that showcased both it and the Alienware brands together. The Area 51 desktop featuring the AMD Ryzen Threadripper processor was also being showcased for attendees while Alienware.tv presenters broadcast their show from a different part of the event.
AListDaily sat down with de Zayas at the show to discuss how the brands benefit from being shown together.
“E3 is the third time that we’re at an event with this kind of setup,” said de Zayas. “We were at PAX South and PAX East with two different booths, and you’ll consistently see that from us for the remainder of this year. Why that’s important is so that people understand that both of these brands have different promises to gamers. We’re fully committed to this and we’re investing more than we ever have into gaming, including in esports—where you’ll see both brands. There is a commitment from Dell as a company in the gaming space, not just from a product side, but there’s investment in marketing, esports, and community engagement. Those things require a focus on both Alienware and Inspiron Gaming to tell a complete story.”