The big computer companies seem to have one thing in common right now: bring computer gaming to the masses. Last week HP launched the Blackbird 002 desktop PC, the company’s first HP-branded gaming PC. The starting price is $2,500, roughly half the cost of much of the high-end gaming competition.
Then there’s Gateway (soon to be purchased by Acer), which plans to introduce a gaming PC in November called FX540 with a gaming-oriented notebook line planned for release in January. And let’s not forget that both Toshiba and Dell released new, more affordable gaming computers this summer. Toshiba, with its Satellite x205 series of gaming notebooks which start at around $2,000, and Dell with its XPS 720 gaming desktop, which starts at roughly $1,700.
Traditionally, PC gaming has been a niche market of avid gamers willing to spend upwards of $5,000 for the latest gear. But now gaming is catching on with a new group of consumers, including women, who still enjoy their games with good graphics, but aren’t interested in breaking the bank for high-end gaming computers. Even stay-at-home moms are getting in on the action. Thais Walsh is given as an example of a stay-at-home mother who plays Guild Wars (an online role-playing game) often while her kids are napping.
Interestingly enough, even though cheaper options are on the rise, the big companies are releasing them in conjunction with keeping the existing extra-expensive systems. The mainstream may be interested in computer gaming at a different price point, but the niche of deep-pocketed extreme gamers is still there. Phil McKinney, chief technology officer for HP’s PC unit explains that “HP is working to broaden the availability of game play for a much bigger audience.”
This move into mainstream gaming seems to make sense. According to a recent research study, more than half of Americans age 12-64 play some sort of electronic game every week, and 29% of them play games on PCs, which is still higher than the 24% who play games on consoles. Also, sales of PC games are expected to grow to $13 billion by 2012 from $7 billion in 2006.