Changing gamer profiles and hybrid requirements - laptops that can be used for both office work and gaming - are moving the needle for the segment.
Laptops and gaming do not mix. A laptop doesn’t ooze ‘oomph’ of gaming consoles, such as the Sony PlayStation or the Microsoft Xbox. Laptops don’t offer the ease of use smartphones pride themselves on, and they certainly can’t offer the powerful cooling or high-end graphics processing of desktop computers. But, that was yesterday.
The `gamer’ has changed and so has his needs. Today, he is around 25 years old, probably in his first job, and is on the lookout for a machine that helps him work and play effortlessly.
As per the International Data Corporation (IDC), more consumers prefer notebook PCs with enhanced mobility features. It saw the highest-ever annual shipments, with a 67.7 per cent category share last year (2019). One notable growth area was gaming-based PCs, which grew 51.1 per cent YoY in 2019.
IDC added that while most vendors increased their shipments in the gaming segment in 2019, Asus stood out as a leading vendor. One in every four notebooks shipped was a gaming one from Asus.
As per a Google-KPMG report, the Indian gaming industry is expected to reach a market value of 1 billion USD by 2021. The gaming laptop segment witnessed unprecedented growth, especially during COVID-induced lockdown.
Arnold Su, business head, consumer and gaming PC, System Business Group, Asus, told afaqs! that the company enjoyed a 32.5 per cent market share (as per IDC report), and No. 1 spot in Q1 2020. Although the share dropped to 24 per cent in Q2, Asus still led the market and aims to occupy 40 per cent market share by next year.
He also said that people played a lot of games as they worked from home and the activity became a favourite time pass. Gaming laptops were used heavily, especially by professionals in the content creator segment, and the growing e-commerce fuelled the demand for laptops as well.
John Hung, general manager, MSI India, revealed that his company received 3x inquiry on its social channels. And with its stocks listed on all prominent e-commerce platforms, it was ready for the (COVID) situation.
Lenovo India’s CMO Amit Doshi said that his company’s gaming PC business has seen an almost 200 per cent month-on-month growth in volume since June 2020.
So, it is clear that there is a growing demand for gaming laptops, but is gaming the only need?
One laptop, multiple users
There is no single type of gamer. There are non-gamers, casual gamers, professional gamers, streamers and e-sports enthusiasts.
Doshi mentioned that Lenovo has seen an increase in the number of e-sports enthusiasts streaming PUBG, Fortnite, Call of Duty (COD), Counter-Strike and other popular games on YouTube. “This is also slightly blurring the lines between casual and avid gamers.”
Today’s gamers don’t want just one big powerful machine. Performance, display and cooling are important factors that influence purchase behaviour. The consumers want a model that can support their work tasks and also provide exceptional gaming performance.
Asus' Su remarked that his company's focus has been on the whole gamer community, but “with advanced times, the product portfolio has been catering to the needs of creators and streamers as well.”
MSI’s Hung said that his company's products consider all needs, such as uncompromised performance for professionals, or a budget laptop for beginners, or gaming on the go with thin and light gaming options.
More women gamers than before
During lockdown, gaming as activity rose by almost 50 per cent. And while men have always dominated the field, the 'Think With Google APAC – Play like a Girl Report, 2020' said that nearly 18 per cent (54 million) of India’s gamers in 2019 were female, and the number is expected to rise.
Anand Subramanya, director, product marketing, consumer and small business, Dell Technologies, told us that when the category started, it was “predominantly male, and a younger demographic.” But over the years, the gender demographic has changed with “over 50 per cent of its (global) users being female” and not just limited to teenagers.
Lenovo’s Doshi said that the Indian gaming industry was male-dominated, but added that we’re likely to see a further increase in “female e-sports champions, who come forward to compete in large-scale gaming tournaments.” (Lenovo has a female-focused gaming initiative – `Legion of Valkyries’, or `LoV’.)
Su said that Asus' focus has been on the whole gamer community, both casual and professional gamers. He mentioned the `Electro Punk’ edition, which is quite a favourite among millennials and female gamers.
What do customers look for in gaming laptops?
Think gaming features, such as smart cooling systems, heat dissipation, fan speed for optimal processor performance during `intense gaming’, high refresh rate, great display and color accuracy along with audiovisual immersive movie experience… creativity-led projects, such as graphic designing or video editing, and high-performance data science jobs.
One way to go about it is to look at other industries. “We look at the emerging trends from various industries and consumer behavior and design our products,” explained Dell’s Subramanya, citing the Area-51 model, which “… is the most customisable laptop…”
MSI’s Hung spoke about pricing. Different users have different needs... pricing remains a crucial factor for Indian customers in the buying process.
The ‘price’ conundrum
Indian consumers are programmed to consider price as the final deciding factor. It’s a challenge for gaming laptop brands because one, not everyone can afford a high-end setup; the cost can start from Rs 30,000 and cross Rs 1 lakh. Two, consumers may end up choosing a gaming console.
Asus’ Su remarks that it’s important to remember that consoles are primarily a single-purpose device and there are concerns about its performance and form factor. Laptops, on the other hand, are a multipurpose device. Asus provides a whole range of offerings across all price segments.
Dell’s Subramanya doesn’t see affordability as a challenge because there are customers who look for flexibility in payments.
Lenovo’s Doshi remarked that avid gamers primarily value a premium experience in hardware and performance. The recently launched Legion 7i laptop perfectly fits the description. The entry-level IdeaPad Gaming 3i was launched a couple of months back to provide more affordable gaming options for working professionals and students.
Games designed keeping consoles in mind, a big worry
Recently, Sony released the trailer for its upcoming PS5 gaming console that featured snippets of upcoming games like Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Gran Turismo 7. As more games are designed keeping gaming consoles in mind first, do gaming laptop makers need to worry?
Not if you look at it as a `team sport’, says MSI’s Hung. He added that laptop gaming helps to bind people together on the career front, provides them with a platform for their own affinity audience…
The rise of mobile gaming
When we started working on this story, PUBG wasn’t banned in India. PUBG and other games, such as COD, had given mobile gaming a tremendous boost, and with the obvious advantages of portability and price, gaming laptops had another headache up their sleeve.
While MSI’s Hung is upbeat because with mobile PUBG being banned in India, “we will witness a major shift from mobile to laptop gaming.” Dell’s Subramanya says that the company embraces all types of gaming… “We have different set of products to meet the demand of different gamers...”
Hero image courtesy: Sean Do on Unsplash