It might be better known for its ThinkPad and Yoga series, but there is a lot of gaming blood running through Lenovo’s computer veins. And some very interesting new devices too. Nimish Dubey picked the brains of Will Fu, Director of Gaming Business, PC & Smart Device Business Group, Lenovo, to find out what game was afoot in the Lenovo camp. Literally.
The obvious question to start matters off: how was 2016 for gaming in general and Lenovo in particular? Any specific trend that you would like to highlight?
2016 was a good year for Lenovo gaming. Lenovo ranked #2 in the global gaming market – a great testament to our increasing focus and investment to bring the most immersive experiences to gamers. From a trend perspective, the evolution of PC gaming has significantly shifted in recent years as the quality of gaming device specs become even faster, more powerful and responsive and, better connected.
Portability changed the game, meaning ultra-fast processing power could be found beyond traditional gaming PC towers. For example, last year we launched the VR-ready IdeaCentre Y710 Cube in a portable cube form factor. Gamers will continue to want more immersive gaming experiences, which is a big focus for us when developing products. In addition to key performance features like powerful processors, SSDs, memory, and graphics cards, I think we’ll continue to see more innovation around audio and visuals. This is why we launched the Lenovo Legion Y720 Laptop as the world’s first Dolby Atmos Windows-based PC, with an optional UHD IPS anti-glare display and optional Xbox One controller, to give gamers the immersive experiences they crave. Curved screens will also continue to take off, like the Lenovo Y27g Curved Gaming Monitor we launched last year.
For many people, this year was the one which saw AR return to the spotlight with Pokemon Go, even as more advances were made in VR. How do you see the two technologies going ahead when it comes to gaming?
There’s a lot of opportunity for growth in VR and AR. Games like Pokemon Go have the potential to help further develop these high-growth markets and ultimately enrich the entire ecosystem.
VR (virtual reality) is an area we are hearing gamers talk more about and we expect it to be a key growth driver over the next few years. Most of our gaming PCs, including the new Lenovo Legion Y720 Laptop, are already VR-ready to power the amazing VR experiences consumers want. But many customers have told us that the two biggest barriers to mainstream VR adoption are its high cost to entry and lack of VR content.
With these two pain points in mind, we developed the Lenovo Entertainment Hub in partnership with Beyond Media and announced it at CES this year. It’s an app on Lenovo Legion gaming PCs that give users access to a vast catalog of popular movies, TV shows, and game codes, with an industry-unique benefit of VR upscaling technology, or translating non-VR games into a VR experience on VR-ready systems. In addition to launching more content, we showed Lenovo’s own mainstream VR headset under glass at CES this year that will retail at a much lower price point (officially launching later this year). We’ll continue to invest in bringing immersive VR and AR experiences to gamers and mainstream users alike.
We were told about a study from Lenovo that showed that 47 percent of PC gamers were moving beyond the confines of their desk, thanks to more mobile technology. What effect do you think mobility has made on PC gaming?
Portability is a big factor for a more personalized PC gaming experience. From speaking with gamers, many of them are looking for more compact options that let them take their gaming experience virtually anywhere at home and beyond. Our global research further revealed that two-thirds of global millennial gamers enjoy gaming with others in-person. The portability factor also allows users to spend less time setting up their system and more time on doing what they enjoy – gaming. That’s why the latest gaming PCs we launched – Lenovo Legion Y720 Laptop, Lenovo Legion Y520 Laptop and IdeaCentre Y710 Cube – can all be easily carried around the home or to a friend’s house, without compromising performance.
Staying with the issue of mobility, but from the point of view of mobile phones, there is a perception that phones are taking some of the gaming crowd away from their PCs, especially as graphics get better and gameplay more immersive. What is your take on this?
PCs are increasingly relevant today, driven by societal and technological trends, including the emergence of video game streaming, VR, and AR as a means of enhancing and expanding interactive entertainment. Players will find that PC gaming offers a level of immersion and precision that’s hard to replicate on other devices.
From PCs vs Mobiles to an older battle – PCs vs Consoles. Where do you think PCs stand in comparison to their own rivals, the dedicated gaming consoles now?
I think that many of today’s PC gamers who grew up playing consoles will find that PC gaming offers a level of immersion and precision that’s really unrivaled. PC gamers aren’t tied to a single ecosystem like consoles are, and the hardcore gaming community knows and appreciates this. We’re seeing these players turn from limited consoles to PCs because of better performance, greater control, and flexible gameplay options. And PC gaming is as much about tweaking the hardware as it is about the community that revolves around the games themselves.
Lenovo’s gaming devices offer the best of both worlds – an easy to set up, pre-built machine that offers an immersive gaming experience with a range of specs and price points to suit different gamers’ needs, as well as an engaged community of gamers whose feedback is taken into consideration for future product development. The Lenovo Legion Y720 Laptop and IdeaCentre Y710 Cube gaming PC come with the option of an integrated Xbox One wireless controller too – offering players the option of console control.
If someone wanted to buy a gaming PC today, what would you advise them to keep in mind as very general parameters?
Gamers all have different needs and preferences, but many gamers agree with us that high-performance graphics, the latest processors, a high-resolution display, and crystal clear audio are crucial for an immersive gaming experience. Our latest gaming offerings are a reflection of this feedback from our gaming community. Take the new Lenovo Legion Y720 Laptop, for example. It’s the world’s first Windows-based Dolby Atmos PC with amazing audio and up to UHD IPS anti-glare display for an uncompromising audiovisual experience. We’ve also made it VR-ready with up to NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 6GB DDR5 graphics and up to 7th Gen Intel Core i7 processor for speed.
For those who like to game in the comfort of their own home, I’d recommend a high-performance gaming desktop like the portable, easy-to-carry Lenovo IdeaCentre Y710 Cube or the sleek IdeaCentre AIO Y910 all-in-one desktop. Not only are these two desktops VR-ready with up to NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 graphics, their minimalist form factors let gamers take their highest settings nearly anywhere, from the couch in the living room to the desk in their bedrooms.
Moving on to Lenovo, the products that tend to make headlines for the brand are the Yoga and ThinkPad series, which are not really known for gaming. Why do you think gaming products seemingly get pushed to the background?
For over two decades, our ThinkPad sub-brand has been known for high quality, durability, and purposeful innovation. We were also the first to innovate the industry’s first 2-in-1 convertible form factor with the Lenovo Yoga in 2012. As the PC gaming market matures, we feel now is the right time to also invest and grow in this segment. We started two years ago with the creation of the Lenovo Y series, a gaming line-up of PCs and peripherals for working gamers who want great performance, sleek design that’s ready to play right out of the box, but with the option of future upgrades. At IFA 2015, we launched the IdeaCentre Y900 and IdeaCentre Y700 desktops, the IdeaPad Y700 laptop, and Lenovo Y gaming accessories, and haven’t looked back since.
Over the past two years, we spent time building and listening to a growing community of gamers to better understand what they value most. We then turned their insights into real gaming products and launched the new Lenovo Legion Y720 Laptop and Lenovo Legion Y520 Laptop at CES earlier this year. We have the ability to scale R&D to bring new technologies to our devices and are in a great position to build a gaming reputation with the global gaming community. We’re pumped, and 100 percent committed to engaging with the gaming community to co-create future gaming experiences with them.
And as we are into Lenovo’s gaming products, which was your favorite of 2016 and which one do you think is the one to look out for in 2017?
This is the hardest question of all! Each Lenovo gaming device was built from the ground up to suit specific gamer needs, so it’s really hard for me to choose just one. But if I had to pick one, my favorite product of 2016 would be the Lenovo IdeaCentre Y710 Cube, because it’s a truly unique form factor that we innovated for our community. As many as 47 percent of gamers surveyed told us they’re playing in settings beyond the confines of a desk, and that two-thirds of global millennial gamers enjoy gaming with others in-person.
With these insights in mind, at Gamescom last year we launched the IdeaCentre Y710 Cube, a high-performance gaming PC with a built-in carry handle for easy transport between gaming stations. The IdeaCentre Y710 Cube is housed in a compact, cube form factor weighing only 7.4kg, with up to NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 graphics, up to 6th Gen Intel Core i7 processor and up to 32GB of DDR4 RAM to handle today’s most resource-intensive releases. The IdeaCentre Y710 Cube lets players easily handle 4K gaming, VR and high-quality streaming with massive computing capabilities in real time, as well as multitask between editing a spreadsheet and streaming a movie. For those who want even more control over their gaming setups, the Cube also comes with the option of an integrated Xbox One Wireless receiver with one Xbox One controller. The receiver supports up to eight Xbox One controllers simultaneously for gaming sessions with friends, which is something we know gamers will enjoy.
On the gaming front, what can we expect from Lenovo in 2017 and beyond?
Our mission is to offer customers the most immersive PC gaming experiences, and we’ve spent time building and listening to a growing community of gamers to better understand what they value most. This year, we decided to launch Lenovo Legion, a new gaming sub-brand dedicated to all of Lenovo’s PC gaming devices. We believe our growing community deserves gaming devices with a sub-brand of its own. Lenovo Legion was inspired by this community of gamers and their passion for immersive gaming.
Our first Lenovo Legion offerings embody the modern gaming experience, starting with the new Lenovo Legion Y720 and Y520 Laptops – two powerful gaming PCs designed for mainstream and enthusiast players launched at CES earlier this month. The higher-end Lenovo Legion Y720 Laptop is VR-ready, with up to NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 graphics for truly immersive gameplay. It’s also got up to a UHD IPS anti-glare display and is the world’s first Dolby Atmos Windows based PC to give gamers the immersive visual and audio experiences they crave. Better yet, the Lenovo Legion Y720 Laptop comes with the option of an integrated Xbox One Wireless receiver that supports up to four controllers simultaneously for players to game with friends. But CES is just the beginning for Lenovo Legion. We’re excited to bring more immersive gaming experiences to customers later this year, so stay tuned!
This is something that a lot of readers – especially gamers – asked is when we talked to you: what do you do [in your role for Lenovo’s gaming business]? There are so many gamers that want your job. Any tips?
Yes, I love my job! We work on so many exciting things and I love talking with gamers to create next gen experiences. My passion lies in understanding what gamers and customers want, anticipating their needs and then innovating with them. That involves planning future products and helping customers better understand our wide breadth of offerings. But the best part of my job has got to be turning gamers’ requests into real products – some of which you’ll see more of later this year.