This week, Lenovo launched new Legion desktop gaming PCs in addition to a refresh of its existing Legion Y530 and Y730 gaming laptops in India, weeks after the products were unveiled at IFA 2018, the Lenovo Legion India launch is an interesting move due to the mix of products on offer. Most PC makers in India prefer to focus on laptops over desktop gaming PCs and Lenovo too has been guilty of this in the past. The desktop gaming PC category was left to Lenovo's Ideapad brand that targets mainstream consumers and not Legion, which is the company's label for hardcore gamers. It's a marked change in strategy from Lenovo which appeared more tentative in its approach to the Indian market before. Gadgets 360 caught up with Shailendra Katyal, Lenovo's Executive Director and India PCSD Consumer Leader to find out what's changed and what we can expect from the company.
"India isn't a large PC market when you look at global benchmarks," Katyal says when asked if there's been a change in local consumer behaviour to prompt the company to have an India launch just weeks after a global reveal at IFA 2018. "PC penetration is still at about 18 percent whereas neighbouring countries like Sri Lanka have a 60 percent PC penetration."
According to him, the PC market in India should be bigger. And while it isn't where it should be in terms of volume sales, Lenovo's India plans are for the long term, betting on the nation's large population to pick up the pace over time.
"From a future point of view, we would want to stay invested," he says. "With the population base being what it is, the PC penetration is bound to grow."
That said, we wondered why the price points on the higher side. The Legion Y530 starts at Rs. 85,585 (excluding GST) while the Legion T730 and C730 desktop PCs start at Rs. 1,34,599 (exclusive of GST). That makes them more expensive than the likes of the Acer Nitro 5 and HP Pavilion 15 that start at Rs. 72,999 and Rs. 74,990 respectively while its desktops command at the very least, a 30 percent premium versus comparable assembled builds. The rationale, Katyal claims, is to stay profitable.
"We'll not lose money doing this, the price point is higher and the volumes are small," he tells us. "As the volumes scale, may be price points will come down. If you look at the traditional gaming price points they were a little higher than this also, for real serious gamers, the PC would cost almost a lakh-and-a-half."
With that in mind we asked what would the right price tag be. To him, hitting the $1,000 (approximately Rs. 73,000) price point in India for the base models would be ideal albeit "over time" assuming increased demand.
"The number for overall penetration of gaming in India from a PC point of view is just about two percent - not just for us - the overall market is small," Katyal admits. Although he's optimistic of future prospects citing current growth rates of the gaming PC segment.
"If it keeps growing at 100 to 200 percent every year, it may be become five to seven percent of the overall PC market in a few years," he believes.
At the moment, Lenovo seems to have occupied a firm foothold in South East Asia. The company claims it occupies the top spot in the gaming PC category in countries like Malaysia and Thailand. With India yet to catch up, where does Lenovo stand compared to the rest of the pack in the gaming PC category?
"We have a 19.2 percent share of the market," he says. "Obviously we would like that to be larger."
However, one of the biggest bugbears remains content. Three of the biggest PC games in India according to popular Steam data tracker Steam Spy are PUBG, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and Dota 2 — these aren't exactly technical showcases for PC gaming as they don't really push the hardware in meaningful ways. This trifecta of battle royale, competitive shooting, and MOBA gameplay can even run on basic, middling hardware. It's something Lenovo is aware of and is collaborating with Nvidia to make PC gamers realise that there are games that can take advantage of Legion PCs.
The GPU giant is working with Lenovo on gaming tournaments to rope in audiences across eight to 10 cities as well as tapping local YouTube and Facebook streamers to use Legion PCs to help popularise the notion that Indian gamers need better hardware.
Despite this, don't expect any Lenovo Legion desktop PCs to sport Nvidia's latest GeForce RTX graphic cards at launch. At the moment, only the previous generation 10-series options are available. Lenovo says its RTX-powered line up will ship in India from November onwards.
Katyal tells us that the Lenovo Legion launch was in the works for months in order to ensure BIS certification was passed. At the time, the Indian rupee was around 65 to the dollar, and now it's been at an all time low, hovering around 73. The impact of this has already been felt in certain complementary sectors like video games. Most notably, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 received a hike in price because of the weak rupee. Could we see Lenovo raise prices due to this? Katyal left us with this.
"While we do make in India, a lot of components and most of the laptops are imported," he says. "The cost of the product does go up if there's a currency impact. We also hedge against the currencies so some part is offset by that. As and when we feel the need to pass on the price hike to the consumer we take those calls."
Disclosure: Lenovo sponsored the correspondent's flights for the Lenovo Legion launch event in Delhi.
If you're a fan of video games, check out Transition, Gadgets 360's gaming podcast. You can listen to it via Apple Podcasts or RSS, or just listen to this week's episode by hitting the play button below.