The year was 2002. 16-year-old me stepped inside a dark and dingy cafe with computers all around. There was no fancy RGB lighting back then, nor were monitors competing with you for the slimmest fellow in the room. There were no mechanical keyboards and the mice needed you to remove the ball and clean it so you don’t blame the hardware for a missed headshot. The game of the hour was Counter-Strike and it was the first time 10 friends divided into 2 teams battled it out for hours on end to see who is the champion.
That was online gaming for me when I was growing up and Nitish Singal, Category Head – Consumer Personal Systems, India, Bangladesh, Srilanka at HP chuckles as he shares his first memory of gaming. When Nitish was in school, in Dehradun, he would travel to Mussoorie and go to a “gaming parlour” to experience arcade games like Contra, Mario and more.
A new Playground for gamers
At the time of our conversation, we are sitting at the HP OMEN Playground at Nehru Place, New Delhi, an experience zone for gamers to come and experience the best that HP has to offer from the world of PC gaming. This experience zone is far different from the one I experienced as a teenager. It has RGB-lit keyboards, uber-comfortable gaming chairs, state-of-the-art hardware for a 5v5 Valorent match and of course, the option for you to purchase HP’s suite of gaming hardware.
My first question to Nitish is to understand the source of inspiration behind the OMEN Playground. After all, HP plans to have 40 OMEN Playgrounds open by the end of 2023. 8 OMEN Playgrounds are live in Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore, Trivandrum, Ludhiana, and Hubli with OMEN Playgrounds set to open in Lucknow, Hyderabad, Nashik, Bhuvaneshwar and Chandigarh soon.
Talking about his source of Inspiration Nitish tells me that “the gaming ecosystem in the country is evolving at a very fast pace. We thought this was the perfect time for us to put in place, a platform where consumers and gamers can come in, and really play, because that’s what gaming is all about. So if you’re a hardcore gamer, there are games for you to come and play here. But more so if you’re a casual gamer, or you’re just getting initiated into gaming, this is a great place to come and see the PC gaming experience”.
The beauty of the OMEN Playground experience is that there is no time limit for you to play a game, nor do you need to pay any money. All you need is time on your hands to come and enjoy some immersive virtual worlds from the comfort of a very plush gaming chair. Nitish also highlights the showstopping experience at the store – a gaming PC with three monitors offering gamers an enveloping experience.
HP + HyperX = A complete gaming package
Back in 2021, HP acquired HyperX. So naturally, all the gaming experiences at the OMEN Playground were married to some of the best headphones and mice from HyperX. While Nitish didnt tell me if we’ll get to see an OMEN laptop with a built-in HyperX mechanical keyboard anytime soon, he says “we’re looking at gaming as an ecosystem. And to be fair, hardware is one element of that whole ecosystem. When HP acquired HyperX, the whole idea was to expand our portfolio and give consumers, all the solutions they’re looking for within the HP umbrella. As we speak, when you buy an OMEN device, there is a very cool HyperX headset that comes along with it. So the whole idea is to give consumers a seamless experience”.
The right HP gaming laptop for you?
Speaking of the HP family of gaming laptops, There is the Victus and OMEN series of laptops and I asked Nitish, which laptop is right for what type of gamer. He tells me, “So if you look at our gaming portfolio, there are broadly two brands – OMEN, and Victus. The Omen brand is positioned for best-in-class gaming. If you’re a pro gamer or hardcore gamer, or you aspire to be one, then OMEN is the best PC for you. And we’ve worked on the technology side extensively to ensure that the same happens. There are two or three aspects that we’ve really focused on. One is the whole screen experience. All OMENs come with a 16.1 screen on a 15.6 form factor, and we’ve focused on the quality of the screen along with offering the best refresh rate and panel quality. Second is the inside of the machine, in terms of processing capability, the graphics and how they integrate together. Thirdly, how the heat flow happens in the machine. I think that’s possibly the most crucial aspect of a gaming device as to how the integration happens, and heat flow, not just from a point of view of the laptop not heating up, but also in terms of staying at peak performance at all points in time. OMEN is, in our view, the best gaming device that you could go for”.Nitish goes on to highlight the value-conscious buyer in India which is a large chunk of the laptop-buying population. The Victus lineup of laptops is for the value-conscious buyer who is also a casual gamer looking to initiate or get into the gaming journey.
HP’s gaming landscape in a post-pandemic world
We are in a post-pandemic world where life has started going back to normal and IDC reports indicate a market slowdown for laptops. Nitish is positive about the gaming laptop business in a post-pandemic world. He says, “If you look at how the gaming industry is shaped up, the PC moved from being PC for the family to becoming actually a personal device. From a user’s point of view, consumers have moved from spending two hours a week on a PC to spending 10-12 hours a day. In the post-pandemic, people still spend three to four hours a day and there’s no going back”.
While Nitish admits to a “softness” in the market from its peak but also says that “the absolute size and scale of the industry are extremely strong.” He also says that consumer buying behaviour has also evolved. He recounts how he saw a consumer raise a specific requirement for a laptop for 4K editing. With the evolved customer demanding more powerful machines for specific requirements, Nitish says, “with people upgrading to better devices, we really believe that the PC market is gonna continue to be extremely strong. Also, PC penetration in the country is still sub 30% leaving a lot of headroom for new users to enter the category.”
Making a career in gaming
According to the HP India Gaming Landscape Study 2022, “56 percent of female gamers now prefer to turn their gaming hobby into a career. At the same time, 50 percent want to turn their hobby into a profession, while 45 percent consider playing games as a good way to earn money”. The study goes on to say, “39 percent of mobile gamers planning to migrate to PC for gaming”. It’s safe to say that the future of PC gaming is very bright.
Nitish tells me that the data from the survey was an eye-opener for HP as well. Gaming is a more interactive medium than traditional content consumption. Players stream their games, interact with one another and more. Considering the opportunities at hand and the growth of the industry, it is a lucrative opportunity for those looking to turn their passion into a profession.
He tells me that there are more than 400 million gamers in India. Let that number sink in… 400 million people playing games. A large chunk of them play on mobile and then there is PC and console gaming. When I ask about the mobile vs PC gaming scenario, Nitish says that more than competition, mobile gamers look to migrate to a more immersive gaming experience and the PC is there, ready, waiting for these gamers to jump in. Additionally, the PC is also a multi-purpose device letting you do a lot more. He says, “We believe that the PC is going to source a lot of consumers from mobile phones, as these consumers look for an immersive experience, better graphic output, and just sheer performance”.