Acer interview: make mine mobile

At IFA 2015, Acer made its play for the gaming laptop space. Two years after the birth of Predator, Jonathan
Easton speaks with head of Product and Marketing Craig Booth, about the market and how esports will be key going forwards

When you think of a gaming PC, you think of a desktop. You think of a hulking great and often unsightly tower with dozens of cables coming out of it, a system that is immobile and largely impractical to the majority of people who are used to the sleek, streamlined tech we are accustomed to in 2017.

Acer was not the first major vendor to fly the flag for PC gaming on a portable scale, but over a relatively short period of time it’s become one of the premier names in gaming notebooks. Launching the Predator brand in 2015, the company has put a great emphasis in notebooks and the reasoning behind that is actually fairly uncomplicated.

“The simple rationale,” says head of product and marketing Craig Booth, “is that if a gamer wants a desktop they will often do a self build. They will spec it up, design it and want it built to order, whereas in laptops they are more likely to take an off-the-shelf package. You get a very technologically savvy consumer in the gaming market.”

Simply put, gamers are smart shoppers. They know what they want and they know how much it costs. If they’re looking at a desktop system from an OEM they will know how good each of the components are, how much all of those components would cost separately, and, most of the time, will know that they can get a better deal by going off the beaten track. They may go to a specialist system builder for the convenience of not having to put everything together themselves, but by and large – as Booth notes – most will be customised for a tailored purchase.

And that’s not the only reason why laptops present a greater opportunity in the gaming market. “It’s also recognising that the greater percentage of the market for gaming PCs actually sits in the mobile rather than the desktop space. Whether or not that will stay the same for us in the future I don’t know, but for the time being with our investment in product development, R&D and technology it makes sense to invest in mobile platforms than it does desktops – but that’s not to forget we have a fantastic product pedigree in Desktop and Display, as well as Mobile.”

With the medium explained, justified and exemplified in a range of critically acclaimed notebooks, Booth says that the firm has its aspirations set on more than just the traditional gamer. “I’m absolutely comfortable in saying that esports is of paramount importance. It’s probably, immediately and for the absolute foreseeable future, the single most important thing for us to be involved in.

“We’ve already been involved in many esports events over the past 12 months and we will continue to do that with our partners Nvidia, Intel and Microsoft. It is of paramount importance and the reason is the reach it already has. In terms of audience, less than 1 per cent will be sat in an arena at an esports event. The vast majority will be watching on their PCs. For us we can activate an event, whether it be the Red Bull Kumite events we’ve been involved in in Paris, or events we’ve been involved with in Poland, and that doesn’t just mean that we’re addressing an audience in those countries. Esports is worldwide.”

While esports is at the top of the zeitgeist right now, this time a year ago all anyone was talking about was virtual reality. In fact, last summer when Nvidia launched its GeForce GTX 10 Series GPUs for notebooks – with VR capabilities being front-and-centre of proceedings – Acer was one of the first OEMs to jump on board. In the interim period, the great media buzz has cooled somewhat, but Booth feels that the ‘democratisation of MR and VR’ will need to happen over the coming months to make the technology more accessible. “What I believe will happen over the next 12 to 24 months is that we will see more mass-market offerings and solutions that are more easily understood and, from a pound-in-your-wallet point of view, more accessible”.

Acer has its own headset which is set to launch in time for the holiday season, but we will hear more about that – along with the company’s grander gaming strategy moving forward – at IFA this month.

For now what is clear is that Acer is taking gaming very seriously and has a long-term plan to become a dominant force in the gaming market, a plan that is perfectly encapsulated by the ostentatious Predator 21 X that was shown off CES earlier this year.

“It was absolutely a statement piece. Products such as that are partly designed to help us raise awareness of Acer’s position in the gaming market and make a statement about our intentions,” Booth adds. “It made a very big difference to us this year in terms of a statement that we wanted to make about gaming and that was what we wanted to get out of it. We achieved everything we wanted to and more out of that device.”

It may seem like something of an irony that the 8.8kg, 21-inch notebook has become the centrepiece for a company that is looking to portray portable PC gaming as a serious alternative to the traditional desktop, but the point still stands that with Predator, Acer isn’t playing any games.

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