A new generation of gaming devices wow China’s esports fans

HP is riding the surging wave of popularity of gaming in China by introducing its OMEN brand of gaming gear to a new generation of fans—and they are showing up in droves.

By Patrick Flanary — June 12, 2018

The rule is unspoken, but universally understood: Never interrupt a gamer.

Hundreds of them locked their gazes on monitors packing the tank building of Beijing’s trendy 798 Art District, which was transformed into a pop-up arcade for HP’s first Gaming Festival last month. Moments before, neon-red lights swept over the buzzing crowd as HP unveiled a new pair of OMEN gaming-ready laptops.

Then it was time to play. After all, these athletes were competing fiercely against others in a virtual world where concentration and cooperation — not necessarily physical prowess — are among the most prized skills.

HP’s new 15-inch PCs were among the products the invite-only crowd was encouraged to try. They offer improved streaming to Windows 10 devices, as well as enhanced video resolution; a matching headset even cools the heat generated by the wearer’s ears. Informal competitions and immersive VR experiences — all with OMEN devices — continued well into the evening.

Hosting the festival in China reflects the meteoric trajectory of what is today the world’s number one gaming market, and highlights how in just a few years, perceptions of gaming have changed dramatically with its entry into Chinese pop culture and its growing reputation as a sport. The event also marked the launch of HP’s fourth generation of gaming products since the OMEN brand was revived in 2015.

Courtesy of HP

A new PC consumer

While widespread excitement for gaming isn’t new to China, consumer passion accelerated in 2015 when the country ended its ban on making and selling videogame systems. HP reentered the gaming market the following year with the launch of OMEN, a growing portfolio that includes gaming-equipped PCs designed to meet the needs of an emerging subset of consumer: gamers. 

“At that time,” Jason Juang, managing director of China HP, acknowledged from the stage, “we didn’t know what esports were.” 

Courtesy of HP

HP researched its current and potential customers, and listened to them on social media, to find out which features they wanted in their gaming tech. These rigs are more specialized than everyday PCs, and are typically outfitted with turbocharged graphics, immersive sound, and other high-performance specs.

This level of engagement is important for growing the OMEN brand, explains Yam Su Yin, vice president, consumer sales and personal systems business at HP. “It is almost a responsibility of brand vendors, who are interested in staying relevant in the near future, to keep their eyes and ears very close to the true end-customer,” she says. “Learn from them, and design products that truly make their lives better.” 

“China has just blown past America in terms of gaming.” 

Kevin Frost, vice president and general manager, consumer personal systems at HP.

China’s gaming market explodes

In May, market researcher Niko Partners reported that China is home to some 600 million gamers — more than double the U.S. population — and is outmaneuvering the West in gaming growth.

“China has just blown past America in terms of gaming; as an American, it’s surprising,” says Kevin Frost, vice president and general manager, consumer personal systems at HP. “The OMEN brand has been a huge breakthrough for HP because it’s a younger crowd. Those younger folks are going to be gaming today, and tomorrow they’re going to be IT managers and CEOs.”

HP’s Beijing Gaming Festival was the first such event to showcase the company’s esports evolution, said Horacio Miranda, head of marketing, Greater China, for HP. “It is part of our reinvention story to take HP into the gaming culture and make it the most experiential brand for gamers in China," he says. 

The festival coincided with another gaming milestone in China: RNG, China’s “League of Legends” team also known as Royal Never Give Up, defeated South Korea’s team for the Mid-Season Invitational title just days before. More than 126 million Chinese viewers are said to have streamed the tournament from Paris.

HP continued its three-year sponsorship of RNG at the festival, where five members were honored onstage and greeted with the giddy screams of (mostly female) fans.

Courtesy of HP

Gaming’s growth into sport

While once considered a hobby, esports have become an official competitive activity in parts of the world. With that change has come a shifting perception — from frivolous pastime to serious sport requiring the passion and discipline exhibited by sponsored pro-athletes.

“When I was a child, my parents were very angry about me playing games,” says Zhou Zhuofan, 20, who attended the HP Gaming Festival. “And now they think that games are developing: It’s not just for wasting time; I can get some knowledge from it.”

This year, HP has contributed to esports growth by co-sponsoring and supplying PCs to Overwatch League, whose premiere in January drew more than 10 million streams. But it was the festival that further underscored the value of community and customer engagement as gaming culture goes more global.

While approaching the rows of gaming stations, Zhou Chuen Chuen, 21, said he’s been playing most of his life but now considers himself an athlete.

“People’s attitudes toward games are changing,” he said. 


Follow along on Twitter and Instagram as HP heads to E3 in Los Angeles this week.