updated 06:25 pm EDT, Tue September 2, 2014
New partnerships in the works for branding, M155 hitting retail on November 2
At Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) this year, Gaems Vice President of Marketing and Co-Founder John Smith, along with partner and former professional athlete Hank Baskett, were on hand to talk about some of the new things coming from the company. While Gaems is best known for its series of Personal Gaming Environments (PGE) like the Vanguard and the Sentry, the company is branching out to new aspects of the gaming world with two brand new products for computer users, the M155 and M240.
Even with the new products coming, Gaems will continue to expand the branding and partnerships that are seen with the Vanguard and the Sentry. Like the Halo-branded Vanguard that came out to celebrate the launch of Halo 4, more partnerships are in the works with gaming titles and publishers. While Smith couldn't name many specifics, he did mention that "any games players might think that a PGE would be perfect for" could be in the works.
Rumors have filled in where Smith was being coy. Call of Duty fans are urged to follow OpTic Gaming for a possible announcement regarding the Vanguard series. It's also possible that some other big partnerships are in the works, as Gaems and Marvel have had some early discussions.
Nothing has been completed, but word was that each side is hopeful a deal can be reached. It was also heard that a Capcom deal is being worked out, which could bring some limited-edition customs to the publisher's store and possibility additional retailers. Further announcements on hardware and software partnerships are expected to come in the next three to six months.
It doesn't just stop at video games either, as the company has been able to recognize the use of the systems outside of hardcore games. Celebrities and athletes have shown interest in the PGEs, as Baskett could attest to with his traveling lifestyle.
From his experience, he was able to see the flexibility and portability the systems can bring, but also how that can translate to everyday use. From travel related to sports events and practices to looking at the PGEs in a dorm room or LAN parties, the systems have a flexibility that allows users to play from anywhere without the need to worry about lugging heavy equipment or having TVs and consoles damaged in transit.
Smith mentioned that there was a shocking figure that came up in the Gaems user base. While traditional thinking would see the units being used on-the-go, the company discovered that 70 percent of its users never use a PGE outside of the home. This gives a two-fold advantage, as it allows gamers to still spend time with their families or not take over the TV.
As Baskett pointed out, he could use a unit from the comfort of his bed without being interruptive to those around him. However, it also allows them to always utilize the technology that Gaems brings to the table. Players have taken up the Vanguard or the Sentry as their preferred method of play because of the technology. This helped push the company into a new direction to bring the "lag-free" experience to computers. Baskett said that he actually abandoned his 108-inch projector screen to game solely on a PGE.
The first new product coming from the company is the M155, a 15.5-inch ultra-lightweight monitor. The company is looking to bring the 1.7-pound device to the market as a better monitor for laptop gaming or even the mobile gaming experience. The unit still utilizes the technology found in other Gaems devices, which focuses on the technology built for gamers first. Smith revealed to Electronista that the M155 would be hitting the market on November 2 in two different pricing options.
Through Best Buy, there will be a pre-order that gamers can pick up the new monitor for $199 with a backpack that the company developed. Those that don't need the backpack can pick the M155 up for only $169, with a pre-order coming through Amazon. A second version of the M155 is also in the works, according to Smith, that takes a few twists in the design that some consumers may be able to take advantage of.
Spending some time with the monitor at the show, the M155 delivered crisp and clear visuals that are hard to find on many current laptops. Details are well-represented, as are the depth of colors when playing games like FIFA 14. The M155 has a cover that doubles as a stand, allowing users to adjust it to an optimal angle in a manner similar to an iPad case.
While the newest monitor that is aimed at PC gaming isn't due out soon, the company had two prototypes on the show floor. The 24-inch monitor has a large number of features, including a built-in sound system, mounting options and considerations for travel. Like other products from the company, it was purpose-built for gaming, but then tuned for PC use. However, by including a sound system the company is trying to "shrink the footprint, but increase the experience." Smaller details, like licensing HDCP for both HDMI ports, shows just how serious the company is about maintaining the best experience.
When asked about the PC enthusiast market, Smith mentioned that the company may not be appealing specifically to them with the newest monitor. Multiple monitor setups or panoramic configurations don't really apply to the M240, but it doesn't necessarily mean they are ruled out in the future. Single-monitor gaming or stacked monitor setups are the target applications. Then there is the idea that one product can take over multiple items, since the monitor has speakers built-in. This can be considered a cost-saving measure, as consumers don't need to shell out for an expensive monitor and sound system.
As is expected with Gaems products, the company is giving users several features and ways to use the M240. From the rugged outer casing that allows applications ranging from travel to trade shows to the one-touch VESA mounting, consumers have flexibility in how they can use it. The company plans to sell VESA plates to give users options for placement, but there are also custom lowers in the works. As it stands, the M240 will have a cover and handle for easier, protected transportation.
Two different iterations were shown at PAX, with one hand-built for the show. Some of the care that was put into the design could clearly be seen, from the carry handle that could be removed in seconds or the gap between it and the monitor to keep knuckles from banging against it. From the first design, the company decided to change the touch-capacitive buttons on the front for a better user experience. The case felt rugged, but light when carried by the handle. Smith estimates that it weighs about a pound less than other 24-inch monitors on the market.
Thief was running on one of the prototypes, showing off what the monitor was capable of. The M240 showed a good balance of dark and bright colors in the particular level that Xbox One game was running on. With games that have a dark color palette like Thief, it can be hard to keep a decent balance and still maintain shadow depth. The M240 maintained it, without dipping into pure black in the darkest corners or washing out enemies in the light. Admittedly, it was hard to hear the sound on the show floor, so the sound quality from the speakers can't be accurately accessed.
For the M240, Gaems is shooting for a first quarter 2015 release around $400 in price. Smith stated that he didn't want it to be above $400, so it would most likely see a retail price of $399. Even though it isn't scheduled until next year, Smith also let us know that consumers might see a small-volume early release of the product.