An alien environment?

Top executives from US gaming vendor, Alienware, were in Dubai this week to assess whether or not to bring their brand and lusted-after hardware to the UAE. Having met with them as part of this visit, the editor of Windows Middle East’s English edition outlines the reasons they should say yes to Dubai and the challenges they’ll need to overcome…

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By  Matthew Wade Published  March 13, 2007

|~|Alien-feat---m.gif|~|The experience of Windows Middle East's editorial team is that PC gaming is hot in this region...|~|Alienware has led the US and European PC gaming charge, hardware-wise, for the majority the last decade. Its otherworldy, high-performance and customisable rigs look and do the business with grunt to spare (as you’ll soon learn if you click here). The impression I got from the Alienware guys (read my news story here) was that they were, how shall I phrase this, ‘conservatively pumped’ about the Dubai and UAE market and will, more than likely, be here in some form or another within months. The big challenge from Alienware’s point of view is not about working out whether it would sell machines here then. The Windows Gaming Competition we held in the UAE last summer for example was a huge success, so much so that we’re planning a regional version for this year, so it’s clear to my Windows team and I that the PC gaming community exists and, we reckon, is growing. Therefore I’m sure that gamers would pull Alienware rigs off the shelves, despite their high cost. I also believe Alienware would be surprised how many high-revenue window shoppers might grab a few laptops just for the heck of it too. No, whether the kit would sell isn’t – for me - the quandary Alienware now faces. The question is exactly how to sell its products here. In the US and Europe, where Alienware is currently officially represented by authorised resellers rather than forward-thinking opportunists such as CompuMe, the majority of the firm’s sales are done online, with the additional help of telephone support. I’m not sure that would be the case here however. Of course tech-savvy hardcore PC gamers are likely not to have a real problem with internet use and trust, particularly e-commerce-experienced expats from highly developed markets, but the majority of shoppers here do their buying in the real world, not the cyber world. Those of us who live here know the reasons; e-commerce trust is limited (Souq.com anyone?), shopping is this nation’s favourite hobby, it’s a chance to be sociable, plus in the summer what else is there to do other than sit at home at crank up the AC? This means that Alienware must address the retail market. So it will be interesting to see, if going down this route, which mall or store complex it chooses. Crucially for bit-chomping gamers in the UAE, whether Alienware does arrive here is likely - to my mind - to come down to this retail side. But not from this easily solved ‘where to locate’ angle however, but from a staffing/support perspective. In my meeting with them this week, Alienware’s directors went to pains to point out that the Alienware ‘experience’ was part product and part valuable support and community building (via gaming events, contests etc.). Now I know ‘value adding’ sales speak when I hear it, and this is partly that for sure, but I don’t think it’s 100% of the matter as by all accounts (such as those of my European gaming friends), Alienware’s pre- and post-sales support in other markets is genuinely second to none. When was the last time you experienced sparkling customer service combined with extensive product knowledge in Dubai? My point exactly. If that’s you and live in Dubai, I almost urge you to send them your resume. They might need you. ||**||

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