I've lost count over the years how many times I've read and reported on gloom and doom scenarios in the PC space by market analysts and tracking firms. In many cases, I tried to provide context by pointing out how PCs were evolving, not vanishing in favor of tablets as too many experts were quick to predict.
Now that Maximum PC is a part of PC Gamer on the web, I'm able to narrow my focus on a subset of PCs where the reports are much different. Instead of reading about how the sky is falling, the general consensus is that the sky is the limit when it comes to gaming PCs and related hardware. That point is reiterated by a senior executive at Dell who sees the demand for gaming PCs on an upward trajectory for at least the next five years.
Raymond Wah is the senior vice president of consumer product marketing at Dell. He oversees consumer PC roadmaps for both notebooks and desktops, including Dell's XPS and Alienware lines. For him to be effective, he has to successfully recognize market trends and plan accordingly.
In speaking with Digitimes, Wah relayed that the demand for gaming PCs is heating up, and that he expects booming growth over the next five years. That in turn will prompt Dell to focus more of its efforts on PC gaming hardware.
Just as Micro Center recently observed, Wah believes that esports is helping to drive demand in PC gaming. This is not just in the U.S., where Micro Center stores are scattered throughout (25 stores in 16 states), but a global trend.
He also credits the still-emerging VR category. Between the two, Wah says that the constant flow of gaming content updates is pushing hardware developers to upgrade the specifications of gaming PCs.
Dell has a vested interest in seeing the gaming PC market thrive. Obviously it serves the market through its Alienware division and, to an extent, its XPS PCs as well. But Dell is also a sponsor of esports events and has cooperated with movie producers on flicks based on games. On top of it all, Dell has started to set up gaming PC retail outlets at Best Buy locations in the U.S. with the goal of operating 50 outlets in all.
As a news editor now covering the gaming side of things, I'm still getting used to the positive vibe. Instead of being inundated with reports of declining PC shipments on what seemed like a weekly basis at one point, it's mostly peaches and cream when it comes to PC gaming. For example, Jon Peddie Research noted just a few months ago that sales of PC gaming hardware breached the $30 billion mark for the first time in 2016.
"Global consumers continue to embrace the PC platform for video games due to multiple factors," said Ted Pollak, senior game industry analyst for JPR. "The desktop ergonomic is popular because the display distance offers increased detail when using HD and UHD monitors. Additionally there is superior control with mouse and keyboard control interfaces. This has been validated with esports overwhelmingly being played on PCs."
Contrast that to what Gartner had to say in the same month four years prior.
"Tablets have dramatically changed the device landscape for PCs, not so much by ‘cannibalizing’ PC sales, but by causing PC users to shift consumption to tablets rather than replacing older PCs," said Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner. "Whereas as once we imagined a world in which individual users would have both a PC and a tablet as personal devices, we increasingly suspect that most individuals will shift consumption activity to a personal tablet, and perform creative and administrative tasks on a shared PC. There will be some individuals who retain both, but we believe they will be exception and not the norm. Therefore, we hypothesize that buyers will not replace secondary PCs in the household, instead allowing them to age out and shifting consumption to a tablet."
Wrong. Even when focusing on the PC market as a whole rather than just the PC gaming segment, it's now clear to most analysts that tablets are not taking over, at least not as originally conceived. Detachables and other 2-in-1 devices are proving popular, but there's no mass exodus from the PC to the iPad. Driving that point home, IDC yesterday put out report noting that tablet shipments declined year-over-year in the first quarter of 2017, and that it was the tenth straight quarter of annual declines.
"The rate at which the tablet market grew from 2010 to 2013 was unlike many other consumer-oriented device markets we've seen before. However, it appears for many reasons consumers became less eager to refresh these devices, or in some instances purchase them at all," noted Ryan Reith, program vice president with IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Device Trackers.
In any event, PC gaming hardware seems to have found strong footing no matter what happens around it.