ISSUE October 2021 www.pcr-online.biz
GAMING ISSUE #211 October 2021
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TheEditor The future world of gaming
he future world of gaming continues to evolve as next generational tech such as the metaverse and blockchain technology sweep in. Find out just what this will bring in our industry comment from the likes of EZVIZ UK’s Simon Buckingham and LiveArea/Founder, Collabsco Val Vacante. In this month’s Big Interview, Kingston Technology’s Ann Keefe reveals more about the company’s next generation FURY release. Tech specialist BOX recently celebrated its 25th anniversary. We caught up with the company’s Marketing and Content Manager, Mike Hart to find out about the hottest gaming trends and where the future of gaming is headed. Omar Fakhri, Director of AMD EMEA Component Channel explores the overall hardware market and what steps he is taking to strengthen AMD’s relationships with channel partners and integrators. Rich O’Neill, Product Development Manager at Stormforce Gaming, EZVIZ UK’s Simon Buckingham, Brand & Marketing Manager and Luke Sear, ASUS – UK Gaming Marketing Lead discuss the world of gaming- from peripherals, to security and beyond in our gaming, industry roundtable. Ed Barrett, Vice President of Sales EMEA, at HubSpot discusses how the worlds of marketing and IT are merging and what this means for the channel proposition in our Life in the channel interview. The latest gaming peripherals pack some punch to give you the ultimate in enhanced game-play – from gaming headsets, mice and high performance processing power to smart lighting and advanced gaming routers, find our more in this month’s sector guides. That just leaves me to say a very big thank you to all of you who took part in this year’s PCR Awards and congratulations to everyone who scooped an award. It was a fantastic night enjoyed by all. We look forward to welcoming you all again next year.
Michelle Winny, Editor
Editorial: 0759 529 8729 Advertising: 0787 259 4600
October 2021 | 3
October 2021 06 Retail Analysis: The Future of Fulfilment- The darkstore 14 Industry Opinions 22 PCR Awards Winners
24 Big Interview with Kingston 27 From Fortnite to the Future of Work 30 Out of the BOX 32 AMD’s Omar Fakhri 36 It’s more than just game play! 39 HANNspree’s Winning Touch 43 Sector guides: Gaming peripherals and accessories 43 Life in the channel: HubSpot’s Ed Barrett
39 43 PCRmag www.pcr-online.biz
The Future of Fulfilment
Roger Sowerbutts, SVP of Product and Marketing, Go Instore considers the changing landscape of ecommerce and the role of the darkstore
R Roger Sowerbutts, SVP of Product and Marketing, Go Instore
etail as we knew and loved it has altered dramatically and been replaced by a landscape shaped by changed consumer behaviours and a demand for different shopping options for in-store and on-line that very few retailers are equipped to deliver. Since investing in their online offering, many forward-thinking retailers have realised that they do not need to rely so heavily on physical stores in prime retail locations. Efforts to map out the post-pandemic retail landscape have unearthed many different approaches, one of which being the emergence and rethinking of the ‘darkstore’ or studio without customers physically present. Darkstores are physical hubs dedicated purely to showcasing product and fulfilling eCommerce sales enquiries. Some retailers have transformed their traditional storefronts into darkstores to support online shopping and ship items out to customers quicker than they have been able to before. Others have moved out of town to low-cost locations to both reduce cost and attract staff.
The Rise of the darkstore
Retailers like HP, Whole Foods and Lush have dabbled in their own darkstore offering, with the latter using its flagship on Oxford Street as a pilot for its ‘Lush Local’ scheme in lockdown. Technology giant HP created its own virtual experience by building a darkstore in Barcelona and is keeping customers connected through www.pcr-online.biz
live video calls with product experts. Calls are intelligently routed from the country and language of origin to the right language and product expert automatically in the Barcelona dark store to provide the optimum customer experience and maximise efficiency. The move has seen customers spend on average 47% more and increased customer satisfaction scores. HP has cited the darkstore as being vitally important to its online operations during the pandemic. A dramatic increase in on-line conversion rates is also being achieved from a typical 1-2% online through to 20% to 50% sales conversion rate using live video advisors. In large countries with big populations spread over large distances, such as the US, the darkstore concept makes perfect sense, allowing retailers to convert shopping spaces to distribution hubs. These stores can then operate as regional fulfilment centres and thus speed up deliveries while reducing the strain on the main fulfilment hubs. The same concept is also working on a smaller scale in the UK where stores are transformed into micro-fulfilment centres to allow local communities to get their deliveries faster. The pandemic has been a catalyst for more retailers to investigate the idea, but many retail premises ended up becoming darkstores out of necessity as their doors shut and customers forced to shop online by mandatory Covid measures. As with several accelerations in trends caused by the pandemic, such as remote working, companies have started to see the advantages. October 2021 | 5
darkstores. This gives retailers and store staff more flexibility in the way they work, as product experts do not need to be in stores to provide demonstrations and advice to customers, meaning staff can still drive sales, just from their own homes. One of the most intriguing aspects of the movement towards darkstores is the way that it enables retailers to develop a new form of customer engagement with the online audience. It humanises a traditionally inhuman experience and marries the convenience of online shopping with the engaging interaction of being in a store.
Live Video at the heart of the darkstore
As opposed to warehouse-based operations, darkstores have conventional retail spaces at their disposal. This means that customers can connect with in-store experts, who have the products available to demonstrate, via live video. Customers click on a link and can either talk one-on-one with a sales representative, receiving personalised advice, recommendations, and product demonstrations as if they were in-store; or join a larger audience for a livestreamed demonstration of products and the chance to ask questions. This interest is even more marked in the retail verticals where detailed product knowledge is an important part of customer engagement, like jewellery or consumer electronics. Customers can easily be connected to an in-store expert where they can then enjoy a dialogue enabled via HD video. The darkstore can also serve more than one geographic territory at once, supporting different languages, product lines, and time zones. Perhaps even more intriguingly, the product does not even have to be physically present in the darkstore. The developments in Augmented Reality (AR) mean that in the future, virtual products can be blended seamlessly into the live video, negating the need for products to be in
A Competitive Edge
The pandemic has changed the way that consumers interact with retail forever. It will never return to stores dominating the industry and online taking a step back. Online is here to stay and retailers need to respond. Footfall in retail locations around the world has plummeted and, while there is a rebound underway to an extent, it is not as strong as was once hoped. Equally, research shows that more consumers are not only happy with online shopping, but they are increasingly happy to buy bigger ticket items via online channels than they were before. Technology like live video is making this easier as research and the chance to ask questions can be done online, giving the customer confidence that their considered purchase can be made online. Darkstores are more than just a way for retailers to simply ride out the aftershocks of the pandemic. Their increased efficiencies, lower costs, and useful location in the fulfilment chain make them a central part of the future retail fabric. Their ability to offer the best of both worlds and blend the physical and online retail spaces, together with the use of new technologies such as live video and AR, will give retailers that deploy them a valuable edge when it comes to customer engagement and satisfaction.
“The darkstore can also serve more than one geographic territory at once, supporting different languages, product lines, and time zones. Perhaps even more intriguingly, the product does not even have to be physically present in the darkstore. The developments in Augmented Reality (AR) mean that in the future, virtual products can be blended seamlessly into the live video, negating the need for products to be in darkstores. This gives retailers and store staff more flexibility in the way they work, as product experts do not need to be in stores to provide demonstrations and advice to customers, meaning staff can still drive sales, just from their own homes.” 6
PCR Sept21 Cyberpower:Layout 1 25/08/2021 08:59 Page 1
Exertis has appointment Sam Williams as Director of Sales, B2B. Williams has been with Exertis for 15 years and has been instrumental in building high-performance teams across the business. He brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the role, having spent four successful years in B2B and ten years in retail. Most recently, Williams has been the Director of Sales (Accessories & Own Brand) for the last 18 months. Based in Exertis’ Basingstoke office, Williams will report into Mike Buley, Chief Sales Officer.
TP-Link has appointed Kalam Meah as its ISP Director for the UK & Ireland. Kalam joins TP-Link having spent the last 20 years working in various positions in telcos and vendors including Orange, T-Mobile & ZTE, amongst others. As ISP Director, Kalam will be responsible for TP-Link’s ISP division.
ZetaDisplay AB has appointed Robert Bryhn as CMO. “The newly created role of a CMO will have a clear focus on supporting ZetaDisplay’s offering and market position in a complex international market environment. Robert’s assignment will be to create conditions for growth, communicate new innovations and support the team in reaching and engaging with new markets globally.” says Per Mandorf, President & CEO at ZetaDisplay. Robert Bryhn, 50, has a long and solid experience from managerial positions within leading international advertising agencies with a focus on digital media (Country Manager McCann, Managing Director Ogilvy, Nordic Director Saatchi Saatchi). Robert has also worked with Digital Signage/DOOH media for several years and has a deep understanding of both the industry and its driving forces.
8 | October 2021
This month’s movers and shakers in the tech industry...
Maverick AV Solutions Maverick AV Solutions, a specialist business of Tech Data has appointed Tesse Van Veldhuyzen as Maverick International Business Manager. Veldhuyzen holds seven years of experience in the AV industry and joins Maverick in a new role on its Pan-European team, leading international sales and roll outs alongside its partner global integrators. She will work across all of the 15 Maverick countries and its manufacturing brands to facilitate installations which span international borders.
ConnectWise has appointed Amy Lucia as chief marketing officer. Lucia brings over two decades of marketing leadership delivering exceptional outcomes in the Fortune 100 enterprise and SMB spaces. Prior to ConnectWise, Lucia served as vice president of corporate marketing at Blackbaud (Nasdaq: BLKB) during a season when the brand rapidly catapulted to one of the 40th largest SaaS providers worldwide. She spent 11 years at Microsoft and served in various leadership roles across marketing and sales.
Glide Group has appointed Chris Bates as the organisation’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO). Chris Bates joins Glide having previously worked in Private Equity owned businesses covering technology, engineering, contracting & construction and service sectors. With over 35 years of experience in finance, Bates has spent the last decade within CFO roles for organisations such as VPS Holdings, Survitec Group, Hydro International and Supplier Assessment Services.
Prepare for basics shortages as 23% of News Body text stores report low stocks NEW UK TRADE FIGURES released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) are extremely concerning, says the home delivery expert ParcelHero. They reveal widespread shortages for retailers and tumbling profit margins for transport companies, as the Brexit-created driver shortage bites deeper. A Business Insights and Impact on the UK Economy report, for the fortnight ending 5 September, saw 23% of retailers and wholesalers report lower stock levels than expected, with over 10% unable to get some key goods entirely. Transport and storage companies reported similar problems, with 20% of businesses either closed entirely or pausing trading. ParcelHero’s Head of Consumer Research, David Jinks M.I.L.T., says: ‘These ONS figures are bad news for shoppers needing staple goods. Many retailers should now be in their Christmas build up period, instead of which they are struggling to meet today’s demands for basic items. With available drivers seemingly as rare as hen’s teeth, there’s huge demand for every inch of space on those trucks that are on the move. That means higher value items are being prioritised, and bulky staples are going to the back of the queue. “While some goods will be completely out of stock, shoppers may have to switch brands to get other items. 12.5% of shops and wholesalers say they have had to ditch their normal suppliers of some products and find alternative sources because they can’t get deliveries. This will have an impact on prices and the choice of products available in store.”
Increased Investment in Digital Transformation and Sustainability AVEVA has found that 85% of businesses plan to increase their investment in digital transformation over the next three years in order to tackle climate change, embrace automation and unlock the performance benefits of advanced technologies. Nine out of ten industrial companies see combining advanced technologies such as the industrial Internet of things (IIoT), AI and cloud with their teams’ insights, as key to driving better performance in a post-pandemic world. Furthermore, the pandemic has increased focus on the need for urgent climate action and the majority of industrial enterprises (90%) cite this as a core action area. Nine in ten (89%) are committed to achieving net-zero carbon emissions across their businesses and to tackling climate change within a five-year time horizon. Sustainability-led demands will consequently drive innovation across the value chain, 85% of companies say. These companies are planning to increase visibility and performance assurance to sustainability related metrics as a result. About 80% of industrial companies are focused on meeting or exceeding environmental regulations, while 83% say they will prioritise the transition to renewable energy sources. Supporting circularity and recycling within the value chain is important for 83% of customers.
Bocada supports Redstor Redstor is partnering with Bocada LLC to provide MSPs with greater visibility over customer environments and increase their revenue opportunities. MSPs managing customer backups with 10
Redstor’s cloud-native solution can now use Bocada’s single pane dashboard to oversee these environments alongside those protected by other cloud, on-prem, or hybrid implementations.
Emplifi Go Instore acquisition will bolster ecommerce experience EMPLIFI has acquired UK-based live streaming video platform, Go Instore. Go Instore uses immersive HD live video technology to provide brands with a new channel to engage with their customers. Livestream shopping experiences are a lucrative way for brands to provide stand-alone livestream solutions to build faster connection-to-conversion experiences for their audiences. Live video can be used to provide customers with a number of personalised services, including sessions with virtual stylists, fashion consultants, product experts or sales people - or use it to host one-tomany streamed video events from your own website or via social platforms such as Facebook, TikTok, Instagram and Twitch for product launches, seasonal campaigns or influencer marketing promotions.
Brightpearl acquires Inventory Planner Brightpearl has acquired Inventory Planner, a demand-planning tool that enables e-commerce retailers to forecast inventory and optimise stock. Inventory Planner will continue as a separate division of Brightpearl, with planned investment from Brightpearl to evolve and enhance the brand and expand its business. Inventory Planner and Brightpearl’s collaboration will support merchants to connect historical sales data to Brightpearl’s built-for-retail operating system. Derek O’Carroll, CEO of Brightpearl, said: “The last two years have shown the importance of demand forecasting expertise for today’s fast-growing merchants, so we’re delighted to be able to offer this solution as an extension of the Brightpearl network.” www.pcr-online.biz
Anzu and HUMAN ink in-game advertising partnership ANZU AND HUMAN SECURITY, INC. are partnering to safeguard the in-game advertising space by detecting invalid traffic (IVT), general invalid traffic (GIVT), and sophisticated invalid traffic (SIVT) among Anzu’s programmatic gaming inventory. Losses due to ad fraud are expected to continue to cost the industry billions of dollars each year, and sophisticated bots pose a significantly increasing threat to the gaming world. By leveraging HUMAN’s pre-bid and post-bid solutions, MediaGuard, Anzu ensures that campaigns run across its inventory retain low fraud levels, allowing them to continue to harbour a safe space where both advertisers and publishers can feel confident working together to effectively reach gamers around the world. At this stage, IVT is less likely within in-game advertising environments than other advertising channels, and this new partnership will help safeguard the space to keep it that way. The initial data protected by HUMAN showed that out of 23.5M events, Anzu’s IVT averaged out at 0.16% on mobile and 0.47% on PC. The Media Rating Council considers any score below 5% for invalid traffic as insignificant. Itamar Benedy, Co-Founder and CEO, Anzu, said: “We continue to partner with the world’s brand safety, transparency, measurement, and data privacy leaders to ensure our clients can measure media value across channels and build their media strategy accordingly. This new partnership with HUMAN will take our commitment to create a brand-safe, fraud-free ecosystem to the next level.”
Game on with CMS Distribution and BraZen CMS DISTRIBUTION has joined forces with UK Gaming chair brand, BraZen to offer its full range of British designed PC office and sound chairs. The chairs are user centric and are designed to fit the gamers specific requirements be that mobile, console or PC user or whether they are eSports professionals or hobbyists.
Jonpaul Warren, PC Components Product Sales Manager at CMS Distribution, said: “BraZen is the first gaming chair brand we’ve signed, and we’re thrilled to be extending our portfolio in this direction.” “We are excited to be working with CMS Distribution as we feel they are the stepping stone BraZen need to grow. Our mission is to provide a great experience for our customers not only with our products but the service that is offered from our distribution partner too – this is a very important part of our business. I see a great future for BraZen and CMS Distribution as we enter a new chapter in the Gaming Chair market.” adds Gary Beresford, Founder & CEO at BraZen Gaming Chairs.
Tech Data aligns Cynerio cybersecurity healthcare solutions TECH DATA is now carrying Cynerio Healthcare Internet of Things (IoT) cybersecurity solutions. Cynerio’s IoT Cybersecurity Platform enables healthcare organisations to implement clinically contextualised, real-time insights to identify and manage risk, optimise device functionality, and ensure patient safety and smooth operations. “The rapidly accelerating digitalisation and connectivity in our public services brings the potential for huge benefits, but it also brings risk with increased opportunities for cyberattacks and data breaches.” said Craig Smith, vice president, Analytics & IoT, Europe, Tech Data. “Cynerio’s solutions help hospitals to keep their connected medical and IoT devices secure, enabling them to focus on patient care and well-being. It’s a compelling mission and we are looking forward to extending their reach among our community of partners in the region.” www.pcr-online.biz
Exertis Launches New Learning Platform for Microsoft Teams Exertis is partnering with Boxlight, provider of online, self-paced professional development courses around MS Teams. Boxlight offers CPD-certified course content, relevant and to a high standard of quality. In partnering with Boxlight, Exertis is extending its capability around MS Teams as it continues to provide full solutions for its channel partners. October 2021 | 11
Being a champion at your desk Paul Butler, Regional Sales Director - UK & Ireland · AOC & Philips monitors considers the rise in popularity of esports and how this is fuelling the demand for gaming hardware.
ompetition in gaming is nothing new, but it has never been tougher than now. I remember the days of humble LAN parties, which have long transformed into million-pound prized tournaments that attract an abundance of viewers. But did esports fare well during the pandemic? Well, even before the pandemic, esports had been growing rapidly already, with events that filled stadiums and audience sizes that easily rivaled traditional sports tournaments. Today, the global esports market revenue ($1.084 billion in 2021) is comparable to significant sport organisations such as F1 or the UEFA Champions League. With AGON by AOC, we witnessed how gaming became more accessible than ever. Just as in any other sport, watching pro players compete at the highest level in the games I’m playing myself is thrilling. In fact, the esports audience covers not only Gen Z, as some might assume, but a much wider community with 30% being 25-34 years old, and 35% up to 65 years old. As an avid fan of racing games myself, I definitely see the appeal – and it’s no wonder to me that esports has grown to its current popularity. It is accessible, makes it easy to track your progress, and lets you see if you’re fit for the competition or are even able to join a professional esports team. On top of that, the esports community is known to be very welcoming, ready to adapt and embrace new challenges. The pandemic proved exactly that. It had a devastating effect on so many other sectors, but not on esports. Unlike other segments of sports and entertainment, where events had to be cancelled or played without fans, esports continued online and even grew significantly in popularity and fan base. A survey from June showed that 66% of the respondents in the UK spent more time watching esports since the pandemic, second largest after Spain with a whopping 70% increase. The worldwide audience of esports also grew to 474 million viewers in 2021, and is forecast to reach
577 million by 2024. As the esports community continues to grow, so do expectations and hopes for gaming hardware. The evolution of technology is extremely fast and it is very interesting to be a part of it. It’s almost funny to think that in gaming displays, only a couple of years ago, a 144Hz refresh rate used to be top-notch – and today it constitutes the mere entry level for anyone who wants to play games seriously. Instead, 240Hz is the go-to for esports enthusiasts. And expectations will only rise. As gaming hardware specialists, we at AGON by AOC love this challenging atmosphere and enjoy riding this wave of innovation – and have therefore recently overhauled the entire branding and portfolio. We recently announced a dedicated category for esports players and professionals, the AGON PRO line up, to provide major leaguers with the most outstanding gear on the market. It is crucial that players are not held back by their equipment but encouraged and supported – so they can showcase their skills, strategy and teamwork. Watching esports teams enable and empower each other also inspired the team at AGON by AOC to massively expand our portfolio to provide an entire gaming ecosystem. With all components, from mouse to monitor, meticulously fine-tuned and adjusted to one another, we aim to provide the smoothest gaming experience. Just like a well-matched and well-attuned team, every component of a gaming setup provides its part to the whole system – to then produce results that exceed the capabilities of its individual parts. These times might be challenging but for the gaming industry it is an invitation to grow and exceed what we previously thought was possible. It’s a great time to be part of this community and even better to provide excellent gear for every single player in it.
“We recently announced a dedicated category for esports players and professionals, the AGON PRO line up, to provide major leaguers with the most outstanding gear on the market. It is crucial that players are not held back by their equipment but encouraged and supported – so they can showcase their skills, strategy and teamwork.”
The gaming projector revolution Damian Trendall, Line Of Business Manager B2C Projectors, BenQ UK Ltd explores how the gaming projector has come of age and is rapidly becoming the next ‘big thing’ in gaming peripherals.
hroughout lockdown there was a significant increase in Providing 96% coverage of the Rec.709 colour gamut, the people getting creative with their home set-ups as we all big screen entertainment possibilities are limitless. That means sought to find imaginative ways to manage this new way movie marathons with friends and family are still on the cards. of life sprung upon us. From 4K webcams and new monitors for Switch from mowing down zombies to an epic movie night before working from home to the latest projectors for thrilling heading over to YouTube to watch some funny videos movie nights in, we invested more in our home without any fuss. experiences. Whilst hardcore gamers typically keep “The advancements in One specific trend that we’ve seen their entertainment and gaming display emerging from this is the gaming as two separate entities (usually with a projector technology have projector revolution. As people dedicated gaming setup), the more seek the ultimate ways to equip casual gamer is happy to combine come a long way. BenQ’s TK700STi their homes for all entertainment the two. The previously overlooked gaming projector is the world’s first 4K scenarios, they want to be able to projector has similar usability as seamlessly switch between the a TV, and might actually be the UHD gaming model with 4K quality at 60Hz, different entertainment formats. perfect solution to take home 3000 lumens brightness and a 16ms response This new generation of entertainment to the next level. multi-purpose, short-throw 4K The future of projectors is time. Imagine joining your team on the pitch projectors allows households to exciting but our enthusiasm immerse themselves entirely in about the gaming projector and feeling the genuine atmosphere of a roaring their story-driven and sim racing revolution isn’t about trying to stadium or stepping into the driver’s seat and games by employing the big screen replace the monitor. For some, experience for some real escapism. the obvious choice will be the feeling the adrenaline of the race on an Of course, the more serious PC monitor and for others the projector and console gamers, who need the will be the next phase in their set-up immersive 100” image. That’s some lighting fast response times to excel in evolution. We just want the two to live serious gaming!” competitive play, will still want to stick in harmony, platforming the projector is with their gaming monitor set-ups. about making sure the contemporary gaming The advancements in projector technology have projector is given the same respect as the classic come a long way. BenQ’s TK700STi gaming projector is gaming monitor, allowing customers to consider every the world’s first 4K UHD gaming model with 4K quality at 60Hz, option and make the right choice as they design their perfect 3000 lumens brightness and a 16ms response time. Imagine set-up. joining your team on the pitch and feeling the genuine atmosphere Having said all this, I’m not suggesting that gaming culture of a roaring stadium or stepping into the driver’s seat and feeling is about to go through a dramatic shift as the world all abruptly the adrenaline of the race on an immersive 100” image. That’s throw their monitors away and run to buy a shiny projector. some serious gaming! Rather, this is about what the gaming community has to gain in But the fun doesn’t stop there because the gaming projector isn’t the future with continuous improvements and a growing market just a gaming projector. Although they are specifically designed to of choice. meet the needs of gamers with improved response times, they Whilst the gaming monitor might always be the community are still, fundamentally, projectors. BenQ has an exceptional standard for gaming, the gaming projector has earned its stripes reputation for producing colour accurate projectors, and the and deserves the opportunity to prove itself as a larger-than-life TK700STi is no exception. portal to immersive entertainment. 14
Ready Player One EZVIZ UK’s Simon Buckingham, Brand & Marketing Manager gives his personal view on where the world of gaming is headed and why blockchain is at the centre of this.
f you have not seen the film Ready Player One, I highly recommend it! This is the dream world of many gamers out there and the concept is actually closer to turning into reality sooner than you think. Being an avid gamer myself, I always look for new and exciting developments in this sector, we have seen the gigantic uprise of eSports, which by the way is not new, even when I was a kid these elements of LAN tournaments etc. were in existence, but the power of WiFi, easier Internet access and continuous development of both PC Gaming and Console has allowed a worldwide expansion and opportunity. So much so, many players can now play to earn, build communities, play for prize money and generate income at home from playing games. So what takes us to the status of Ready Player One? The ability to put on a VR headset and transform yourself into a virtual World? What will allow even bigger growth in play to earn aspects as well as have the ability to truly own your items and take them into the different worlds and games as you see fit, that are portrayed so amazingly in a film, like we just mentioned in a Decentralised manner? The answer is a combination of new technology and application methods utilising such things as Blockchain, NFT’s, coding platforms, Smart Contracts, Tokenomics and more. The creation of the Metaverse is here and it will replace the existing gaming world you know today, mark my words! Some of you may know this kind of tech, some may just be reading this and wondering what on earth I am going on about. I will not go into major detail of Blockchain (you can check out my channel for that on YouTube: “Whales Of Wall Street” for more details), the tech behind this has allowed new levels of coding and development, more and more gaming producers are moving to blockchains to encourage a decentralised method, they in turn benefit more in terms of recognition, payment and control of their gaming creations. It is cheaper, faster and greener to use Blockchain. Another layer to this is things like the clothes, skins, in-game items etc. traditionally locked within a specific game. Using NFT’s methods (Non-fungible tokens) blockchains allows not
only the creation of items like this, but the ability to take them with you wherever you go in the metaverse (the gaming world of tomorrow). Within blockchain is transactional data, essentially digital fingerprints, of anything and everything you do when it comes to purchasing NFT’s, creating or building, as well as typical uses such as Cryptocurrency etc. NFT’s can be “minted” meaning they cannot only be created (the object/item) they can also be melted down if sold in a game, and created as something new, but historic data will remain within the chain. Furthermore, the allowance to take YOUR items, with full ownership, to not be dictated to by centralised existing gaming platforms, you the gamer are in control of your own assets and avatar (within reason of course ensuring you behave yourself in these worlds!) NFT’s do not stop there, this principle of maybe going to a gaming event or any event for that matter, would allow you to use a scan of a QR code to collect an NFT. It could be a game character, an item, a limited edition object. Think of the advertising/brand power this can bring to the world. The NFT, could be sold on, but with blockchain you can identify its validation, removing any fraud, fake copies etc. along with historic data as we already mentioned. Blockchain also allows the format of “Tokenomics” meaning you can swap cryptocurrency for in-game currency and visa-versa, with various stores of value but unique differences of what you can buy/ sell in each land or game. Buying/Selling land, taking your assets to other games to sell/swap on different tokens, it is a whole new level. Play games to earn tokens, that can be swapped for Crypto – MIND BLOWING! My suggestion is you take some time to research games like Decentraland, NetVrk (which has more than just gaming aspects) and the likes of SandBox and Terra Virtua, all built on Blockchain, unshackled from traditional constraints and development barriers, and Interoperability is occurring where YOU the player, have control. To throw another spanner in the works, imagine being able to sell off some processing power of your GPU when not using it? This is now a thing, thanks to blockchain. Trust me, you think you know gaming…. Wait until you see what is coming!
Trust me, you think you know gaming…. Wait until you see what is coming!
October 2020 | 15
Why a ‘frictionless’ experience is the new priority for partners Simon Thompson, SVP Global Customers, Westcon EMEA looks at the increasing focus on the partner experience (PX), and how it’s never been more important to deliver an exceptional digital experience.
procurement process must be easy-to-use and frictionless. Going e’ve all seen the increasing importance placed on the above and beyond to provide an exceptional experience to partners customer experience (CX) over the past few years. is helping to elevate the outdated perception of distributor from Consumers today expect exceptional customer service, ‘shed’ or ‘box-shifter’ to technology service provider. tailored to specific needs and preferences, and if a company fails to impress, we don’t hesitate to take our business elsewhere. As such, suppliers are investing in providing the best possible Fast and frictionless experience for users of their site or services to guarantee a smooth When it comes to improving the partner experience, the rate transaction and encourage customer loyalty. The same applies of innovation has been rapid. Having the right automation and to the channel. The result is that channel partners today are platforms in place is the bedrock for being able to deliver a better overwhelmed by a choice of distribution options, and are therefore PX. A typical example of a frictionless experience in the expecting on-demand, ‘frictionless’ experiences. This channel is being able to place an order and for it to includes the ability to buy, track, negotiate, and be processed via the distributor and vendor’s “Our partners are see availability and delivery times of products systems without any touch. at the press of a button. able to view upcoming events But we need to take this further and Of course, this expectation of digital that trigger purchasing decisions for focus efforts on making the quoting delivery has been amplified by the customer, such as when it is time for process for the partner fast and Covid-19. One McKinsey survey licence renewals. By having all their customer frictionless. This is particularly reports that companies have important now for small and data in a unified system, the partner can not only accelerated the share of digital midmarket businesses that have proactively manage renewals, but identify upsell and or digitally enabled products in been under significant pressure cross sell opportunities. Moreover, when a partner lands their portfolios by seven years. during the pandemic. Even a new piece of business, they can look at the customer’s Providing an exceptional level for lower value transactions, use of the software, for example, and expand the various of digital engagement – whether the technology stack can seem in a B2B or B2C environment – elements of the deployment – such as additional licensing overwhelmingly complicated has never been more important or different types of renewal. This ensures that partners – without factoring in new for organisations. enjoy predictable recurring revenue streams, increased procurement models and supply profitability and enhanced customer loyalty chain complexity. A focus on Partner We’re deploying automation and and retention. From pre-sales all the way to Experience APIs to enable the partner to quote implementation, design, planning strategy, and At the heart of this is the partner and engage with the end-customer, post-sale support, providing a experience (PX) – a concept that quickly and simply – despite the frictionless experience is elevates the needs of the channel partner complexity of the order. paramount today.” over the vendor (or distributor). According They can see quotes, renewals, order to analyst Forrester, “Brands that provide an tracking and history, all in one place, 24/7. enhanced partner experience grow faster than their For partners looking to add cloud-based services to peers, are more profitable and drive higher customer satisfaction their portfolio, we can simplify procurement and provisioning, and retention downstream.” The reality is that any engagement or 16
industryopinion billing and analytics, compliance and service delivery – giving partners visibility and control over the entire cloud supply chain. The frictionless experience is also especially relevant to the solution lifecycle management: the land, adopt, expand, renew model. By harnessing the power of data to enable partners to drive more value in their services at every stage of the lifecycle – we can bring together learning, purchasing and billing, adoption and consumption, expansion, tech refresh and renewals. Automation of processes to make data available quickly and seamlessly is
system, the partner can not only proactively manage renewals, but identify upsell and cross sell opportunities. Moreover, when a partner lands a new piece of business, they can look at the customer’s use of the software, for example, and expand the various elements of the deployment – such as additional licensing or different types of renewal. This ensures that partners enjoy predictable recurring revenue streams, increased profitability and enhanced customer loyalty and retention. From pre-sales all the way to implementation, design, planning strategy, and post-sale support, providing a frictionless experience is paramount today. In today’s digitally transformed environment, businesses need to
particularly relevant to partners’ ability to be proactive when it comes to driving sales. We leverage an API integration-based approach to draw critical transaction data from our vendors and integrate it with our own systems, as well as offering our channel partners opportunities to integrate their own e-commerce and marketing systems with our data. APIs drive business outcomes: organisations using APIs benefit from operational improvements such as increased productivity, increased innovation and greater agility. They also drive innovation through ecosystems with partners and external developers by exposing them to third parties. Our partners are able to view upcoming events that trigger purchasing decisions for the customer, such as when it is time for licence renewals. By having all their customer data in a unified
be able to pivot quickly to respond to customer needs and changes in the competitive landscape. APIs allow them to access data from our platforms and display it in their choice of application. There’s no need to learn new paradigms or switch between systems, thereby reducing investment, time to market, training and ongoing costs. This unlocks a vast amount of real-time transactional data. Data used across the business by different teams across different time zones, saving the customer considerable time and delivering a better customer experience. In fact, we believe that making services simple and easy to use is the cornerstone to distribution. Investing in innovation that puts valuable customer information at the fingertips of our partners, is indeed, the future.
Solution lifecycle management
October 2020 | 17
Why now is the time to get into PC gaming Rich O’Neill, Product Development Manager at Stormforce Gaming explores the burgeoning prospects currently presented by the gaming industry.
emand for gaming systems is stronger than ever. The last the mass long-term adoption of mobile PC gaming devices like the 18 months have seen ground-breaking product launches SteamDeck are yet to be seen, it is important to consider that this in both the PC and Console sector with free to play games sort of product could shift the focus of games development into and subscription services coming to the forefront as a viable entry the future if successful. point for new gamers. The industry has seen a shift in focus on high end too, with the Whilst traditional content delivery services on PC have seen ever expanding adoption of NVIDIA DLSS and AMD Fidelity uplift in player counts, it is becoming increasingly obvious FX upscaling technologies, 4K and VR applications have never that the games as a service model presented by Microsoft with been so accessible. Games that were previously difficult to run their excellent XBOX Gamepass for PC product is increasing in at high resolutions and refresh rates are now able to mitigate the popularity. The prospect of a monthly fee to access hundreds of performance deficit and still look sharp. well optimised PC titles drastically reduces the upfront cost Accessibility in PC gaming has improved enormously over of owning a gaming system and provides a strong the past decade. Back in the days of the 8800GTX entry point into the world of PC gaming with a and Q6600, PC hardware started to become The industry has seen library of quality titles. far more standardised, easy to assemble and The market has been focused on high-end easier to troubleshoot technical issues. This a shift in focus on high end video cards since the launch of the NVIDIA has introduced a healthy market with lots too, with the ever expanding RTX 30 series and AMD Radeon 6000 of competition to stand out. Individual adoption of NVIDIA DLSS and AMD series with supply issues being a very real components are adorned with RGB Fidelity FX upscaling technologies, 4K problem for DIY enthusiasts. Many gamers lighting and gaming design language and VR applications have never been so to entice customers towards most bigwho have been planning an upgrade for years have been left disappointed with the ticket products. Whilst fancy lighting accessible. Games that were previously inability to source a new video card easily. and screens on the side of GPUs doesn’t difficult to run at high resolutions and In many cases, pre-built solutions have improve performance in games, it certainly refresh rates are now able to mitigate helps to sell hardware. become a much more viable alternative to self the performance deficit and still built systems. For system integrators, the simplification Stormforce Gaming has been supported of hardware standards has some downsides. look sharp. extremely well and leaned on the strength of Anybody with access to Youtube can assemble relationships with key vendors like ASUS, AMD an advanced gaming system by following along with and Intel to ensure we are able to deliver a strong offering a video and this means that adding value into prebuilt consistently. systems is more important than ever. Cable management, Fortunately, the launch of new APU products from AMD are optimised component installation and cooling configurations are helping to ease the demand on entry level video cards somewhat. all considerations, which most newcomers will not understand or At first glance, an APU desktop may not seem like a viable solution be hesitant to learn. for gaming but with the low cost of 1080p panels and the wealth of Investment into the ongoing chip shortages and goals to meet less demanding and older titles in the PC Gaming catalogue, these supply demands will eventually see a return to normality in the products provide a fantastic starting point for gamers who want an market but this could take some time. For now, the current crop of entry point into the hobby with a view to upgrade with a discreet hardware remains highly sought after and for good reason. Healthy GPU in the future. competition in the CPU and GPU market has provided gamers with The announcement of the Valve SteamDeck shows promise for choice and pushed manufacturers to produce compelling hardware the future of entry level PC gaming with a potential for more PC offerings that provide immersive experiences at any budget. titles to be optimised to run well on lower end hardware. Whilst There has never been a better time to get into PC Gaming. 18
HOW TO GET INVOLVED!! In the November issue of PCR we will be focusing on Biometrics & Identification, Online Payment and Personal Security. We are interested in hearing about topics including: password security, email security, personal data security, personal device security and biometrics. INDUSTRY OPINIONS If you are involved in any of these areas then we would like to hear from you. Industry opinion piece word count is 700 words with an image of the commentator and the deadline is Friday 8th October.
We will need 100 word product description, quick specs list, high res image of the product, contact details. Deadline for sector guides is 8th October. COMPANY FEATURES AND COMMENTARY Each month we run Q&As with companies in the sector we’re focusing on for that issue. We also always welcome commentary on the industry from experts. If you would like to be considered for any of these features and guides, email Michelle Winny at email@example.com by Friday 8th October. ADVERTISING IN THIS ISSUE
SECTOR GUIDE: PERSONAL SECURITY From password management software to biometric reading hardware, security cameras and locks, we’ll be featuring the latest in personal security tech. If you’re a vendor or distributor in this arena, get in touch!
If you would like to get involved commercially in this issue there will be a variety of packages available. Please contact Sarah Goldhawk at firstname.lastname@example.org by Wednesday 18th October.
PCR Awards 2021 The Winners Circle On Wednesday 29th September, hosted by Gabby Logan, this year’s PCR Awards took place at The Grand Connaught Rooms, London. Many thanks to everyone who attended, but for anyone who was unable to make it in person on the night then here’s who scooped an award, celebrating the very best of the industry, across five key categories: retail, reseller, channel services, distribution and vendor.
Channel Services Dealer Services: Synaxon UK Ltd Marketing and PR Agency: Jargon PR Distribution ` Consumer Electronics Distributor: CMS Distribution Hardware Distributor: Tech Data Ltd Software and Services Distributor: QBS Software Gaming Vendor Gaming Monitors Vendor: MSI Gaming Peripherals Vendor: MSI Reseller Corporate VAR: SCC MSP Specialist: SCC SMB Reseller: Ebuyer Retailer Gaming Retailer: Go2Games.com Independent Retailer: The Powerhouse (Jersey Electricity) Online Retailer: OnBuy System Builder: PC Specialist Vendor Business Monitors Vendor: Philips Monitors / MMD Business Peripherals Vendor: Kingston Technology Europe Networking Vendor: TP-Link UK Ltd PC Vendor: AMD Security Hardware Vendor: Seagate Technology Security Software Vendor: BullGuard Smart Home Vendor: TP-Link UK Ltd Rising Star: Ben Clark PCR Company of the Year: HANNspree
KINGSTON TECHNOLOGY’S ANN KEEFE Ann Keefe, Regional Director - UK & Ireland, Kingston Technology Europe reveals more about the next generation Kingston FURY release.
ack in July Kingston Technology Europe announced Kingston FURY as the new name of its latest high performance gaming brand: Formerly HyperX memory products. Michelle Winny, Editor of PCR speaks with Ann Keefe, Regional Director - UK & Ireland, Kingston Technology about the rebrand of its DRAM, flash and SSD gaming line.
Tell us a bit more about the Kingston FURY brand?
Kingston memory and storage hardware that brought you HyperX DRAM, flash and SSD products for two incredible decades has been THE choice for gamers. Kingston FURY is the next generation of this quality engineering in terms of performance memory and storage solutions for PC enthusiasts, gamers and content creators.
Why did Kingston release this?
Kingston FURY is the next generation of quality engineering in performance memory and storage solutions for PC enthusiasts, gamers and content creators. Our products are backed by Kingston’s engineering, manufacturing and customer service 24
expertise for more than three decades. With an established legacy in the gaming market, Kingston FURY is not just a product category but a fully-fledged performance and enthusiast gaming brand. Kingston’s global leadership as a manufacturer of quality DRAM and flash solutions brings innovation and enthusiasm to the next chapter in our commitment to deliver quality products and legendary customer service as Kingston FURY.
Who is the target audience?
Kingston FURY has a wide range of solutions for PC builders, gamers and content creators. Our fast and reliable memory and storage options are an excellent choice for any new PC builds, whether you’re building a full-tower content and streaming workstation or the smallest mini-ITX gaming rig. Kingston offers the speed and capacity solutions you need to get the most out of your system performance. Today’s streamers create content at ever-increasing rates. Whether it is recording the latest sessions in 4K, prepping B-roll for upcoming streams, or downloading the latest AAA games, these digital environments demand more storage than ever. Kingston SSDs provide the reliable performance, durability, speed, and capacities that your creativity needs to get things done. Nothing is worse than running out of storage when the latest title or DLC is available for download. With Kingston SSDs, console gamers can upgrade their limited built-in storage to guarantee enough space for even the most storage-hungry games coming out. www.pcr-online.biz
What is new and exciting about Kingston FURY?
All our new Kingston FURY products are high speed paired with low latencies for unrivaled performance. Then we back this performance with a lifetime warranty. The new Kingston FURY memory kits have new designs and new heat spreader styles. We have also included features as Plug N Play auto-overclocked memory and XMP profiles. Our Kingston FURY RGB products allow you to personalise the lighting effects or to use one of the preset profiles. This can be done easily with Kingston FURY CTRL software which is available on our website. Kingston FURY supports some of the best gaming teams in the world including esports teams such as Cloud9, Isurus and Team liquid.
Does Kingston FURY as a brand now replace the preexisting HyperX memory products brand?
HyperX, the leading gaming accessories provider and gaming division of Kingston was acquired by HP in February 2021. Kingston retains the DRAM, SSD and flash products. HyperX DRAM, SSD and flash products will continue under the Kingston FURY brand for PC enthusiasts, gamers, and content creators. Kingston’s continued global leadership as a manufacturer of quality DRAM, SSD and flash solutions brings innovation and enthusiasm to the next chapter in our commitment to deliver quality products and legendary customer service as Kingston FURY. HyperX DRAM, SSD and flash products warranties will continue www.pcr-online.biz
to be honoured and supported by the Kingston technical support team around the world.
Can you tell us a bit more about Kingston FURY DDR4 and DDR3 offerings? The Kingston FURY Beast DDR4 provides a powerful performance boost for gaming, video editing and rendering with speeds of up to 3733MHz. This cost-effective upgrade is available in 2666MHz– 3733MHz speeds, CL15–19 latencies, single-module capacities of 4GB–32GB and kit capacities of 8GB–128GB. It features Plug N Play automatic overclocking at 2666MHz and is both Intel XMPready and ready for AMD Ryzen. FURY Beast DDR4 stays cool with its stylish, low-profile heat spreader. 100% tested at speed and backed by a lifetime warranty, it is an easy, worry-free upgrade for your Intel or AMD-based system. Get your notebook or small-form-factor machine fully equipped with Kingston FURY Impact DDR4 SODIMM and minimise system lag. Ready for AMD Ryzen and Intel XMPready in capacities of up to 64GB Plug N Play, Kingston FURY Impact DDR4 automatically overclocks to the highest frequency published, up to 3200MHz, to support Intel and AMD’s latest CPU technologies. Slot in the sleek black PCB for a hassle-free boost, no need to tinker with the BIOS. Upgrade your system’s performance and still run coolly, quietly and efficiently, thanks to FURY Impact DDR4’s low 1.2 voltage.
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thebiginterview Tell us about Kingston FURY Renegade DDR4?
Any AMD or Intel-based system can be given the performance needed to stay at the top of the food chain with ultra-fast Kingston FURY Renegade DDR4. Boost your frame rate, keep your streams broadcasting smoothly and plough through your highlight reel editing with speeds of up to 5333MHz paired with quick CL12-CL20 timings. The aggressive, stylish black heat spreader and matching black PCB will allow you to beat the heat and strike fear into the hearts of your foes.
of UK adults played some form of video game in 2020. Under new conditions people searched for a new form of entertainment. Kingston is supporting new or returning PC gaming fans with our technical expertise and unrivaled performance in the gaming DRAM segment.
What do you in envision for Kingston FURY in the next 1-5 years?)
What can you reveal about the anticipated Q4 launch of Kingston’s DDR5 memory modules? In May 2021 Kingston sent DDR5 memory modules to our motherboard partners to begin qualification on nextgeneration memory platform. The memory validation process requires cooperation of the entire computing ecosystem and Kingston has forged close ties with the leading motherboard manufacturers and chipset makers throughout its 33-year history. This step continues the critical process of bringing leading high-performance and overclockable memory solutions to market later this year.
What is the current state of the gaming industry from a Kingston perspective?
In 2020 and 2021 the PC gaming segment experienced a boost in popularity. The UK video gaming market hit a record with a £7bn value. According to the results of research by Ofcom nearly 62%
“Boost your frame rate, keep your streams broadcasting smoothly and plough through your highlight reel editing with speeds of up to 5333MHz paired with quick CL12-CL20 timings” 26
We are bringing exciting new entries into Kingston`s gaming products range in Q4. In our gaming segment it will be the most anticipated arrival of the new FURY Renegade DDR5. We are also enhancing our presence in the NVMe SSD segment with our new entry with Renegade gaming SSD. For Kingston, the NVMe segment is traditionally the area where we are experiencing strong and continuous growth. We have seen our NVMe unit sales more than double in growth year on year for the past two years and this is expected to continue into 2022.
How are you going to follow up with the product launch?
Kingston is investing into a programme of activities with our channel partners to promote the new Kingston FURY line of our products. Our long-term relationships with them are helping us to communicate Kingston’s core values of fairness and responsibility, which are embedded into all our products. Before the launch of the Kingston FURY product lines, Kingston’s systems integrators confirmed systems compatibility with the new line of our high-performance gaming products. Their effort ensures that Kingston Technology can deliver smooth experience and customer satisfaction with our products. We also support our customers with our multilingual customer service and technical support teams. During the Kingston FURY product launch we invested in our digital presence and social media platforms and collaborated with professional esports teams and gaming influencers. Our plan for Q4 is to launch promotions to boost our presence for Black Friday and the Christmas shopping period.
XBOX GAME PASS ULTIMATE Play 100+ high-quality games on console, PC, and mobile* Connect and play with friends online with Xbox Live Gold New games added all the time EA Play membership included Play from the cloud with no download required *Terms and exclusions apply. Game catalogue varies over time, by region, and by device. See xbox.com/gamepass and ea.com/ea-play/terms and ea.com/ea-play for details. Xbox Cloud Gaming (Beta): streaming limits apply. Requires compatible controller (sold separately) and supported device; see system requirements.
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Stream If You Want To Go Faster Ross Holt, Global Head of Gaming at Exertis, discusses digital gaming and what this means for the industry. What does the shift to digital mean for the gaming industry? The shift to digital gaming has evolved drastically now that gamers can download or stream games instantly. The shift to the digital era has been especially fast-tracked during the Covid-19 pandemic and the rise of gaming services such as Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass. Video games have been transitioning towards the digital model for a number of years now, and we’ve seen a huge rise in the popularity of plug and play. Digital distribution has enabled people to access high quality games across a variety of compatible devices such as console, PC and mobile. According to UKIE (UK Interactive Entertainment), the UK market for video games reached a record £7bn in 2020, an increase of +29.9% from 2019, beating 2018’s previous record by more than a billion pounds. What are the benefits of online gaming subscriptions? Gaming has changed dramatically from the days of requiring a disc or cartridge in order to play. Online gaming subscriptions work in a similar way to Netflix or Spotify, providing gamers with a large library of games for a monthly subscription fee. New titles are added all the time and gamers can connect and play with friends online. Playing new releases on day one is a huge benefit of subscription gaming and with a range of different packages available, there is something to suit everyone.
Do you predict any changes to consumer experience caused by the shift to a digital subscription model? Mobile and subscription gaming is becoming a huge part of the market, namely due to how we interact with the media, how accessible the platforms are, and how smartphone technology is developing. Newzoo report that $77.2 billion of mobile game revenues in 2020 will account for 48% of the global market, an increase of 13.3% year on year. Another shift is that consumers are trying out different genres as a library of games are included in their subscription package, rather than them having to purchase titles as individual games. The ease and accessibility of the platform is enabling people to play a wider selection of games than ever before. What does the future hold for digital gameplay? Cloud gaming also gives people easier access
to more high-end games, vastly increasing the quality options for everyone as the latest and greatest games are accessible via tablet and phone instead of a gaming PC. And of course, as infrastructure like 5G and fibre optics steadily improves, the experience of gaming is going to get better and better. The changing face of game enthusiasts opens new opportunities and will drive innovation moving forwards. Newzoo predict that 15% of the market are ‘lapsed gamers’ returning to gaming, while 21% are ‘subscribers’ and 23% are ‘time-fillers.’ Being able to game on different form factors and through wider media channels, from wherever you are in the world, will make gaming even more accessible and enjoyable as the future unfolds. This combination of easy access to the highest-quality games, along with the sheer quality of the gaming experience on the most popular and portable hand-held devices, makes gaming an even more compelling proposition than it’s ever been.
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Discover the Razer Wolverine V2 Chroma, plus all the accessories you need to enhance your gaming experience. email@example.com 01256 348 950
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From Fortnite to the Future of Work: The next generation of innovators, moonshots and the metaverse Val Vacante, Director of Strategy, LiveArea/Founder, Collabsco discusses the launch of HeadOffice. Space, a metaverse for businesses to remotely connect and collaborate.
ortnite, the cultural phenomena that started out of a game jam back in 2011, with a successful launch in 2017, has evolved into one of the most popular games in the world with over 350 million monthly active players. I spoke to a few members of our future workforce, kiddos ages 11-14 about their love for Fortnite. The common thread, according to James (age 12), “instead of a basic game, there are lots of places to go, things to do, everything from aliens and visiting the mothership or cube monsters this season. Also, players can play independently or with friends” The group further discussed how although they played Fortnite well before the pandemic, during the pandemic, Fortnite was the way that they could meet up, hang out and game on together. Fortnite goers continue to attend virtual in-game events like “Short Nite” a short film festival in Party Royal, Travis Scott Astronomical concert, complete with physical merch for sale at the launch of the event including,Cactus Jack for Fortnite AR-Goosebumps NERF Elite Dart Blaster from Hasbro and Cactus Jack for Fortnite 12-Inch Action Figure Duo Set from Jazwares. Most recently, universes collide with The Batman/Fortnite: Zero Point - Limited-edition Comic Book Series complete with redeemable codes for bonus DC-themed Fortnite virtual goods encouraging physical and digital play and purchasing. With The Rift Tour featuring Ariana Grande and events like the most recent Chapter 2 Season 7 event finale “Operation Skyfire,” the team at Epic Games continue to work with collaborators to push the boundaries with collaborative partners so the community can experience the wondrous and unexpected in Fortnite.
Mixed Worlds and the Metaverse
While the “Metaverse,” might be one of the most popular words of 2021 among academics, tech aficionados and evangelists, what is it really? Ruling out all of the standard dystopian definitions and references from sci-fi novels, we will focus on www.pcr-online.biz
October 2021 | 27
setting on “Moon Valley.” Companies can scale from a single room what the Metaverse is and how it’s creating better connections. In the or build an entire campus or planet and host as many people as words of Niantic’s John Hanke, “Let’s build a better reality.” they like. Venture Capitalist and Essayist, Matthew Ball’s defines the HeadOffice.Space is interoperable so people can join from PC, Metaverse as “an expansive network of persistent, real-time Mac, VR, mobile with accessibility to almost every web platform rendered 3D worlds and simulations that support continuity of possible. Participants are astronaut avatars with the ability to create identity, objects, data, and entitlements, and can be experienced their own custom avatars through HeadOffice.Space’s synchronously by an effectively unlimited number of partnership with Ready Player Me as a premium users, each with an individual sense of presence.” “With the rise in feature. In an interview with GameMakers, Tim HeadOffice.Space ensures industry Sweeney, CEO and Co-Founder of Epic remote work, companies are leading privacy and security, so Games notes, “the Metaverse is going looking for new ways to collaborate, advanced, a publicly traded cyber to be some sort of real time 3D social and create a better-connected culture; security company is transitioning medium where instead of sending their entire workforce to the messages and pictures to each other we continue to see significant growth in HeadOffice.Space metaverse. With asynchronously, you’re together remote events, collaboration platforms and the flexible plans, HeadOffice.Space with them and in a virtual world Metaverse. The joy that people feel playing a new provides affordable and accessible and interacting and having fun experiences to individuals, startups experiences which might span game, downloading the latest skin or watching and innovative global brands. anything from purely games the latest virtual event is now possible not only in Companies are now empowered to purely social experiences. Fortnite, but also Roblox, Pokemon Go, Animal to embrace remote work in a way The other critical element of the that builds a sense of belonging, Metaverse is it’s not just built by one Crossing but also for the next generation of fosters a culture of connection, mega corporation, right? It’s gonna be innovators with moonshot moments and community, creativity, and productivity the work, the creative work of millions access to connections, community and while saving money on physical offices. of people who can each add their own According to the 2021 State of elements to it through content creation tools to accelerate innovation for Remote Work by Buffer, current challenges and programming and design. And the other tomorrow.” with remote work include communication/ way of adding value.” collaboration (17%), loneliness (19%) and staying During the Epic vs. Apple case this year Epic motivated (12%). stated that “Fortnite is not a game, it’s a metaverse.” Epic also 73% of teams will have remote workers by 2028 (Upwork). Remote secured $1 billion in funding to support their vision and growth of work would save businesses over $700 billion a year in real estate, the metaverse. electricity, absenteeism, and turnover and productivity (Global According to Strategy & Analytics Inc, the Metaverse Market is Workplace Analytics). anticipated to grow 509% from $46 billion in 2020 to $280 billion “People have been collaborating remotely in games like The by 2025 resulting in more connections mixing and merging worlds. Sims and Second Life for almost 20 years and most recently with Fortnite and Roblox among others. Remote collaboration has More than Child’s Play enabled strangers from different parts of the world to fight wars, While some might think that Fortnite is child’s play, over 60% build cities and accomplish incredible quests working together, of the Fortnite community is ages 18-24, those currently in the forming friendships, teams, “clans” and entire communities ever workforce or getting started. since,” said Marco Carvalho, CEO of HeadOffice.Space. So it’s no surprise that gaming and play are informing new “We noticed that not only do people communicate better in these business models and creating more meaningful, connected consumer environments but they are able to stay for longer periods of time experiences and shaping the future of work. without feeling fatigued, they make more friends and develop a There have been several virtual event and collaboration platforms deeper sense of belonging and community compared to standard that have rolled out, every platform has its own flavour and feature. video conferencing platforms. We took these incredible tools and Some are VR only, some are events only, some have a retrogaming “workified” them, making them persistent, secure, and integrated look and feel and most replicate the formica tables and water coolers with the most important business and communication tools, for the like a traditional office suite. optimal headquarters. HeadOffice.Space, is breaking boundaries beyond the break room (and water cooler) by providing the ability for remote teams to have a space for connection with virtual headquarters, collaborative Making Moonshots community clubhouses, virtual events, concerts, summits, gamified According to a recent report by EY Ripples and JA Worldwide Gen gatherings and virtual classrooms in “Moon Valley.” Z, participants born between 1997 and 2007, 53% hope to run their Unlike other platforms, HeadOffice is a persistent 3D world with own business within the next ten years. That proportion increases to a continuous existence and evolution, built on the Unreal Engine, 65% for those who have already entered the workforce. the real-time 3D creation tool that powers Fortnite, in a space-like The Co-Founders of HeadOffice.Space are currently inviting 28
startups in select accelerators and incubators to apply to the “Moonshot Lab” program. The goal of the program is to ignite and inspire the innovators of the near future. Participants receive a secured, virtual office space on “Moon Valley,” along with weekly mentorship sessions and exclusive perks and invites to “Future Forward,” currently an invite-only futurefocused virtual clubhouse with interviews, performances and mentorship sessions. Select sessions are due to stream on Twitch and the Discord community. With the rise in remote work, companies are looking for new ways to collaborate, and create a better-connected culture; we continue to see significant growth in remote events, collaboration platforms and the Metaverse. The joy that people feel playing a new game, downloading the latest skin or watching the latest virtual event is now possible not only in Fortnite, but also Roblox, Pokemon Go, Animal Crossing but also for the next generation of innovators with moonshot moments and access to connections, community and tools to accelerate innovation for tomorrow. HeadOffice.Space is currently inviting select companies to participate in their ”Moonshot Lab,” program. Visit https://www.headoffice.space/ to find out more.
“The Co-Founders of HeadOffice.Space are currently inviting startups in select accelerators and incubators to apply to the “Moonshot Lab” program. The goal of the program is to ignite and inspire the innovators of the near future.”
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Out of the BOX
Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, BOX is a leading UK e-tailer of tech products. Michelle Winny, PCR’s Editor spoke with Mike Hart, Marketing and Content Manager at BOX to find out more about living life out of BOX.
ech specialist BOX recently celebrated its 25th anniversary. The company sells an extensive range of technology and computing products, including laptops, desktop PCs, phones and tablets, components, monitors and printers. The business was founded by Mark Jordan in 1996 and today it is a leading UK technology e-commerce business, employing over 100 people. Here’s what Mike Hart, Marketing and Content Manager had to say. Can you tell us a bit more about the background of BOX and what the company has achieved over its past 25 years in business and how it has evolved? Over the course of 25 years BOX has grown significantly to become one of the UK’s leading online retailers of tech goods, stocking thousands of products from 4K TVs, laptops, fridge freezers, washing machines, 3D printers to projectors and custombuilt PCs. Originally, the company was formed as XENEX in 1996 from a room in student accommodation by current MD Mark Jordan, specialising in computers, parts and software. In 2005 Box launched its 1st online website simplyacer.com, a year later the company achieved a turnover of 15m, while in 2010 Box received recognition from Virgin’s Fast Track 100 awards, 30
coming in at number 48 for Revenue Growth. Between 2011 and 2016 Box launched numerous specialist websites, moving away from the XENEX brand. During this time the company’s turnover reached £30m. In 2018 Box.co.uk was launched and all of our specialist websites were closed and redirected. A decision was made to consolidate our efforts and expertise into one brand that we could build to become a household name among tech. A rebrand would follow, shaping Box.co.uk’s iconic identity with a bold mix of black, white and icon inspired additional imagery. This rebrand coincided with a website refresh, ensuring continuity between branding and user experience. The rebrand led into 2019 and proved a very successful year, with Revenue up 9% year on year. 2020 through to 2021 was a period like no other, with unimaginable obstacles and difficulties. Despite this, Box’s growth skyrocketed, increasing turnover to 100m and growing the workforce to over 130 employees. Can you explain a bit more about the company’s ecommerce strategy and how this has revolutionised the traditional high street store? Our success has come through employing passionate industry experts to build on our existing ranges and to develop new www.pcr-online.biz
categories into our portfolio, while being supported by our vast infrastructure and logistics to provide products consumers want with a service that’s second to none. On top of ensuring our range meets the needs and demands of savvy consumers, our commitment to competitive pricing and flexible payment offerings have helped sustain our tremendous growth. Our agility afforded to us by virtue of being online only, allows us greater flexibility when compared with traditional bricks and mortar stores. Providing us with opportunities to quickly launch new ranges in minutes and adapt prices in-line with the market in order to stay competitive. Box.co.uk has an exciting future ahead, with focus to pursue new and existing categories to grown even further, all while building brand awareness through innovative campaigns like the Box Hunt. What are your gaming customers currently looking for in regards to the latest trends and hottest tech? Gaming customers are some of the most knowledgeable customers in the market. They’re well researched in terms of what products they want and know exactly how much the items cost and where to find the best deals. We saw a significant uplift in gaming PCs, consoles and gaming peripherals over the course of 2020 with many looking to beat the lockdown boredom. The Nintendo Switch was immensely popular and we’re sure the new OLED model will be just as popular over Black Friday and Christmas with its release scheduled for early October. The PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X continue to be in constraint, with demand far outweighing supply. How has the gaming landscape evolved over the past 25 years in the company’s experience? The developments in this area never fail to amaze us. Hardware continues to be refreshed and upgraded in a traditional manner, but the advancement in online capabilities within consoles has allowed hours of extra gameplay with friends, DLC content to be delivered and the popularity of micro-transactions have really proved the biggest changes within the last 25 years, changing how content is delivered and consumed significantly. What is the current state of the gaming industry? The gaming industry is still immensely strong and looks set to continue that way for a long time to come. The demand seen for the Nintendo Switch over lockdown, plus the incredibly popular launches of both the PS5 and Xbox Series X with both consoles www.pcr-online.biz
still extremely difficult to obtain nearly a year after release. Not to mention the huge demand seen for recent graphics card releases from NVIDIA and AMD further proving how popular the gaming industry still is with the UK public. How have gaming laptops evolved to meet the demands of gamers? Smarter batteries have allowed for greater battery life away from charge, faster SSDs have provided accelerated load times, while advancements in cooling have enabled gaming laptop manufacturers to deliver high-end PC comparable components within their laptops for exceptional gaming on the go. What are the latest advances in gaming peripherals? We’ve seen lots of advancements in the console & PC Gaming peripheral space in the last 6 to 12 months. While all the hype around has surrounded the next gen consoles & latest GPU’s, peripherals supporting these new gaming experiences have come thick and fast, from flight and racing simulation accessories to compatible headsets and controllers. Where do you see the future of gaming headed, what can we expect to see more of? The Future of gaming very much lies within Virtual & Augmented reality just how near in the future this will be is the unknown. These technologies take gaming from the physically controlled worlds to a partially or virtually controlled immersive environment. Cloud gaming & 5G are another two key elements to the future of gaming, with the likes of Netflix potentially entering the gaming space. Keep your eyes peeled for further advancements in the simulation, VR & AR space. Which is the best RTX 3080 gaming laptop? There are many great options available when it comes to RTX 3080 gaming laptops, however two of our most popular models with our customers have been the ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 inch and the ASUS ROG Strix Scar 17 inch. What advances in gaming components are you seeing? Gaming components continue to be refined and improved, but some of the biggest developments recently have been the release of lite hash rate graphics cards that can deliver the same exceptional gameplay without the mining capabilities, thus making them easier to obtain and less expensive for gamers. We’re also incredibly excited by future component releases that include DDR5 RAM expected to be available in 2022, as well as Intel’s upcoming graphics card range set to rival both AMD and NVIDIA. October 2021 | 31
Creating the leading edge:
From CPU’s to GPU’s Omar Fakhri, Director of AMD EMEA Component Channel explores the overall computer hardware market and what steps he is taking to strengthen AMD’s relationships with channel partners and integrators.
mar Fakhri is the Director of AMD’s Component Channel in EMEA and has been with the company for more than eight years. His primary responsibility is managing the EMEA sales team and working with channel partners to help sell AMD CPUs and graphics cards across the region. We sat down with Omar to discuss the past 18 months, the current priorities of the business and his plans for the future.
What are AMD’s priorities for the remainder of 2021 and early 2022? For context, our priority in 2020 was to accelerate AMD’s gaming business. The market was already expanding, which was great, but we wanted to achieve a bigger share within the market overall and especially at the premium end. This was why AMD launched its AMD Ryzen 5000 Series desktop processors. This range is squarely aimed at the performance segment and gamers. The Ryzen 5000 Series are the fastest gaming processors on the market so having a technological edge like that makes it easier for us to take our story to the market proactively. In 2020 we were also focused on our ‘AAA’ strategy, which means working with our system integration partners to enable systems with AMD graphics cards, AMD processors and AMD software into the market. Another major priority for 2021 is the workstation market, with AMD Ryzen Threadripper and Threadripper Pro processors being the jewel in our crown in this segment. We believe we can make a significant difference to the quality of the user experience in this area as these products are specifically designed with creators, developers, and PC enthusiasts in mind. The AMD Ryzen Threadripper Pro processor variants add enterprise-grade security and manageability.
As such, our top priorities for the remainder of 2021 are enthusiast gaming, AAA system integration and working closely with our partners, whether that’s in the consumer space, commercial SMB segment and high-end desktop/workstations. Now more than ever, we are incredibly focused on driving AMDs business into these market segments and continuing to offer support to the channel partners who specialise in them. It is going to be an exciting year.
Has the pandemic changed the market for hardware? What impact did lockdown have and are there other factors which have changed what consumers need from, and look for - in their IT?
At the start of 2020 we assumed that there would be some challenges ahead, as did many companies. The level of uncertainty around the pandemic was uncharted territory, but it quickly became evident that the demand for our products was accelerating. Last year was a very successful year for our business segment with so many consumers needing to quickly set up home offices and investing in new gaming equipment during lockdown. We quickly started to establish that the trend of “hybrid working” was emerging, with people working in the daytime and then using the same equipment for gaming or leisure during the evening.
Across AMD’s product lines and segments what are the long-term trends transforming the industry and what will their impact be?
We have seen a clear shift towards premium products, particularly in the gaming market. People are investing in more premium products and have that expectation of performance and product longevity that comes with a premium offering. We are seeing a similar transition for workstations. Companies and individual
employees are starting to appreciate the impact of having better hardware on the work they do, and on their everyday experience. Another significant trend we have seen is a shift to notebooks. The buying decision here is likely motivated by the view that the post-pandemic ‘new normal’ is going to involve much more flexible working, with a mix of working from home and on site, for the foreseeable future.
How has AMD factored customer priorities into the way it works with key partners such as OEMs and the channel? Recently we made a change to what we call our ‘PPP incentive programme’ for channel partners. We re-engineered the programmes, so they were considerably easier to understand and presented further transparency to our customers. This eliminated complexity and streamlined the programme for our channel partners and enabled them to plan ahead in uncertain times, with a clear idea of the profit margin they would be able to put back into their own business.
What is AMD’s strategy for pushing the adoption of its technologies?
When it comes to high performance, our products really do speak for themselves, with the recent Ryzen 5000 series processors being the fastest gaming CPUs in the world . Great products and great awareness to the market goes hand in hand with our company vision to responsibly develop and deliver leading-edge technologies that enable a better world. This is demonstrated perfectly in the workstation segment, where we have worked closely with OEMs and software vendors to ensure AMD products fit the needs of their users and that by upgrading to an AMD Threadripper system, they can see a measurable increase in performance.
October 2021 | 33
Can you tell us anything about the roadmaps for AMD’s desktop and laptop CPUs and for its GPUs?
The “Zen 4” core is currently in design and is targeted to use advanced 5nm process technology. AMD RDNA 2 Architecture is even more efficient than before with the introduction of AMD Infinity Cache, an all-new cache level that enables high bandwidth performance at low power and low latency. Leveraging the best high frequency approaches from “Zen” architecture, AMD Infinity Cache enables scalable performance for the future.
To what extent does OEM and ISV feedback play a role in the development of AMD products? Working collaboratively with our partners is integral to everything we do and we work closely with gaming and software studios to ensure their titles are optimised to run on AMD hardware. For example, we recently celebrated the fifth anniversary of our GPUOpen initiative, which was started to provide code and documentation to allow PC developers to exert more control on the GPU, demonstrate a commitment to open-source software and to engage in a collaborative environment with the developer community.
How did the challenges differ across markets in 2020 and how difficult is it to get the right strategy for all markets in the age of COVID-19?
One thing that quickly became obvious in 2020 was that one strategy would not work equally across all markets. We are selling products in over fifty countries, and the business differs across regions as well as between segments. During the second quarter of 2020, we saw a massive increase in demand for premium technology products in the established e-tail channels. However, in some of the emerging markets with less established online sales platforms we saw an initial slowdown, which was followed by a resurgence as they developed new platforms to support the increased level of demand. 34
What are you most proud of, from you and your colleagues’ work over the last 6-12 months?
I am just so proud of how well the team has adapted to this new world and kept working so hard throughout the pandemic. To be able to manage their personal life, their work life, and all the changes we’ve gone through together, is truly impressive. We are all also proud of the initiatives AMD has been involved in, such as the COVID HPC fund. On April 15, 2020, AMD announced the AMD COVID-19 HPC Fund to provide research institutions with computing resources to accelerate medical research on COVID-19 and other diseases. As of April 15, 2021, 23 grantees across seven countries are benefitting from the fund, which has grown to $20M in total market value. With 12 petaflops of total supercomputing capacity awarded, the combined compute capacity donated through the AMD COVID-19 HPC Fund would rank among the fastest supercomputers in the world according to the most recent Top500 list.
What are you most excited about, that lies ahead in the next 12 months?
I am incredibly excited about having the ability to get face to face with our customers and to personally thank them for their continued partnership over the last few years. The opportunity to bring new products to the markets which builds on our ambitions across the numerous business segments. I’m especially excited about our diversification into the commercial and HEDT market segments and continuing our focus on the core gaming business through our Ryzen™ processor and Radeon™ graphics product lines.
If there is one thing that you want people to know or remember about AMD in 2020-21, what is it?
For me, the fact that the world’s best gaming processor is built by AMD. Nothing beats performance, and we are just getting started. www.pcr-online.biz
It’s more than just game play!
Rich O’Neill, Product Development Manager at Stormforce Gaming, EZVIZ UK’s Simon Buckingham, Brand & Marketing Manager and Luke Sear, ASUS – UK Gaming Marketing Lead discuss the world of gaming- from peripherals, to security and beyond. What are the hottest trends in gaming right now?
Rich O’Neill: “Stormforce Gaming has seen a huge increase in customers who want powerful systems to cover as many genres and game types as possible. The current generation of video cards are in high demand as more players move towards higher resolution and high refresh rate displays. The accessibility of 4K and VR has improved to a point where cost of entry is reducing significantly and opening the door for much more widespread adoption. There has been a shift recently where many gamers are purchasing high power systems so that they have the flexibility to stream, create content and work on the same system they play games on.” Simon Buckingham: “For sure one of the latest trends in gaming is play to earn as well as using Cryptography blockchain technology to enhance this a step further. With VR ramping up, we are entering a new phase of gaming technology and a decentralised world. Take a look at games like Sandbox, Decentraland, NetVrk and others to see the beginning stages of the next level of gaming. Soon gone will be the days of traditional game development, it is much cheaper, easier and more beneficial to developers and producers to utilise blockchain instead. NFT’s will be a huge trend in the coming years with tokenised and minted gaming assets, with full ownership, limited editions, buy and sell methods as well as interoperability via multiple games and platforms.” Luke Sear: “Gaming subscription services have grown significantly 36
in 2021. With many alternatives now available and competing for audience share, content is crucial to ensure a service has the best value for consumers. “Mobile phones remain the most popular gaming device. It is expected that AAA mobile gaming experiences will become more prevalent, delivering gaming experiences comparable to consoles and PC.”
What is the current state of the gaming industry?
Rich O’Neill: “Whilst popular products remain out of stock industry wide, the advent of next generation consoles has pushed developers towards parity on console and PC gaming. Resource intensive games have rarely run well on consoles or suffered sub par ports, but now this seems to be changing. This will benefit PC Gaming immensely as cross platform development on triple A titles will benefit all gamers and platforms. In addition to this, cross play functionality is becoming more widely adopted and encouraging players to move to PC.” Luke Sear: “Developer promises have been off the mark this year and over-hype of certain game titles has led to disappointment amongst gamers. Perhaps now we can expect shorter marketing cycles and more realistic release dates for upcoming games, to better set consumer expectations. “In September, creators from marginalised backgrounds who have been under attack by botting and hate-raids came to widespread attention. The industry has rightly called out for substantial change; www.pcr-online.biz
steaming platforms need to implement new security measures to combat abuse. “Increased diversity and inclusivity within games has been long overdue. So, it is a relief to see more game developers paying attention to representation. Specifically, further developers are making women and minority groups more prominent within games.
How are gaming peripherals advancing to keep up with gaming trends?
Rich O’Neill: “Good peripherals can make or break a gaming experience. Mechanical keyboards and performance gaming mice have reached a standard where even entry-level products can enhance gameplay significantly. There is a shift happening from HD displays to 1440p, 4K and Ultrawide panels as the price of these technologies becomes more accessible. Stormforce Gaming are seeing many systems purchased with simulation use in mind and customers wish to run high end peripherals to add to immersion. The system in many cases is one of the lower cost elements of their setup. There is also a shift away from gaming chairs towards higher quality ergonomic chairs with the increase in working from home too.” Luke Sear: “The PS5’s new DualSense controller comes equipped with haptic feedback technology, so gamers can feel the effects and impact of their in-game actions through dynamic sensory feedback. It’s a very exciting advancement toward complete immersion within gaming. “Customisation and modification have become much more important recently. Gamers looking to express their personalities often do so now through their peripherals and gaming accessories. Xbox Design Lab allows gamers to customise the features of their Xbox controller, such as the hybrid D-pad, textured trigger and quick-access share button. Similarly, within PC gaming there are ever-increasing customisation options among peripherals. Ranging from swappable keycaps with varying textures and materials, to gaming mice with removable and programmable joysticks for superior in-game control.”
How does inapp advertising feature in gaming and what are the key issues, needs here?
Rich O’Neill: “There is a remarkable increase in always online and free to play games where in game advertising can be more obvious. This is typically used as a driver for microtransactions or store sales. This is understandable to some extent on a free to play title but there is a trend growing where full price titles are being used to generate hype and pre sales on the next title in the series. It is great to be in the know about upcoming releases but to have this sort of thing thrust upon you every time you launch a game that you paid full price for is not a practice that many gamers feel positive about.” Simon Buckingham: “Actually, there are many technologies and companies working on removing issues that have risen from advertising, both from a regulatory perspective and also Proof of View mechanism. Multi millions and in some cases billions are lost from companies bottom line because of fake views or utilisation of ‘bots’ which have altered and formed inaccurate viewership levels. Companies like Verasity have two patents in progression whereby www.pcr-online.biz
they have secured the next 17 years of technology to ensure Proof of View, using blockchain and AI, will help businesses grow and also protect end users from potential fraud or manipulation tactics.” Luke Sear: “The most common usage would be ad placements within mobile games, which appear during gameplay. Due to the harsh economics of free-to-play mobile games, most developers struggle to monetise their games without in-app advertising. These adverts are typically integrated directly into games and in some instances, the ads themselves are playable trials of other games. However, there is certainly an uneasy relationship with these ads since they can affect the player experience. But if advertising such as this allows for most mobile games to remain free-to-play, perhaps they are a necessary value exchange that players must come to accept. “Custom ad serving solutions allow developers to serve ads into spaces directly into their titles. This ad type is most seen within sports titles, typically those set in a stadium or racing environment. It is becoming a more popular choice of advertising, as it is considered one of the least disruptive.”
What are some of the most common security risks to gamers?
Rich O’Neill: “The most obvious and devastating security risk in gaming is losing an account. I have seen friends lose accounts through hacking, scams or just careless behaviour over many years. There are certainly ways to mitigate cyber crime as a gamer, but in a world where an in game weapon skin can be worth hundreds or thousands of pounds, there is a real motivation for others to try and secure assets tied to gaming accounts. Most digital content platforms provide security measures to help you protect your account from simple 2FA checks to email recovery.” Simon Buckingham: “Certainly password security is a key element, with gaming becoming a revenue stream for many people, it is more important than ever to protect your data and your assets in game. This is why things like Google 2FA security structures are really important, extra layers of protection. Whilst it may seem annoying to login twice, it far surpasses the potential alternative of security breaches. Hacking is of course another potential concern, again with blockchain technology via the integration of elements such as contracts and KYC/KYB (Know your customer/Know your Business), many elements of fraud, hacks etc. are eliminated or certainly prevented.” Luke Sear: “Virtual currency and items earned in-game may not always directly equate to value outside of games, but they do amount to a certain player value. Accounts with large amounts of in-game wealth and rare items, can often fetch high real-word prices due to player demand. As such, these accounts are often exploited by hackers and in-game wealth is typically stolen. “The same situation can be said about games themselves. Gamers typically spend large amounts of cash compiling a library of digital game titles over long periods of time, all under a single online account. Account holders are often targeted by hackers or phishing scams, as an attempt to breach initial account security and gain access to the games within.” October 2021 | 37
distributors can do to help keep gamers safe. Not only does this include providing frameworks for security features such as multi-factor authentication but also communicating them to the players. Perhaps also incentivising their use with in-game rewards. For example, Blizzard encouraged their players to utilise two-factor authentication, by rewarding those who did with additional inventory space. “Easily accessible resources with security best practices should be readily available for every game, enabling players to educate and protect themselves from online threats. There should also be complete transparency from developers of any known security threats or data breaches, prompting on-going caution amongst their community.”
Where is the future of gaming headed?
How can gamers protect themselves from cybercrime?
Rich O’Neill: “Keeping your accounts safe by taking advantage of security layers should be standard practice for all gamers. Most of the main PC Gaming platforms prompt you to adopt these strategies on sign up, and many of them will prompt long-term users to review their security credentials often. I personally think that if you have high value accounts with lots of digital content paid for, then updating passwords and reviewing account security regularly is the best step most gamers can take to avoid account loss. Having a trusted Internet security suite on your system is another important consideration.” Luke Sear: “Like many online platforms, multi-factor authentication is the most secure method of protecting your online accounts, information and games. Where available, gamers should always be encouraged and perhaps incentivised to utilise a two-factor authenticator to improve account security. Avoiding password reuse is also important, to minimise the risk of security threats. Secure passwords are equally as important in gaming as they are everywhere else. “Gamers are frequently targeted with phishing campaigns, so they should be careful and suspicious of items such as fake log-in pages. A slight overlap with this, can be malware sent via chat. Often promising methods of gaining an in-game advantage, players should always be cautious of any links they are sent.”
Do you think there needs to be more warnings about the need for security in the gaming sector?
Rich O’Neill: “Without a doubt this could be improved. Most people will set a password and then use that for the rest of the time. Storefronts and content platforms greatly differ in how they communicate security on their platforms, but the information is available even if it isn’t that prominent. The current crop of next gen consoles gives the user real time confirmations on account usage allowing you to easily spot an unauthorised transaction but in most cases you do have to set this up.” Luke Sear: “Whilst responsibility for self-security lies predominantly on players, there is certainly more that developers, publishers and 38
“I am hopeful that mobile PC Gaming devices such as the SteamDeck spawn a new generation of PC based hardware from manufacturers pushing that kind of platform. High end systems with performance hardware will always be in demand, but the barrier to entry on PC gaming has significantly increased over the past year with price rises and poor entry level component availability impacting user adoption rates. Development of lower power platforms running APU and similar hardware will only encourage more games developers to optimise games for entry-level hardware. “The rise in upscaling tech we are seeing in graphics cards currently is another promising step forward and the results already hold great promise for visual fidelity and performance figures of more demanding future games.” Simon Buckingham: “Ready Player One is not only one of my favourite films, it is a window into the near future. VR gaming is ramping up, alongside blockchain technology will be the catalyst for what was required to create a unique metaverse scenario. Decentralised gaming, meaning you as a person/avatar could jump from game to game, world to world and hold all your assets via smart contract tech, with this ability to not be bound by gaming rules anymore e.g. set skins, clothes, objects for just one game, you can take them with you. For sure play to earn via Blockchain will be something that really takes off, being rewarded in tokenomics that can be swapped for crypto currency (the replacement for the existing financial system that you see today). Mark my words, it is here now and it will take over the gaming world!” Luke Sear: “Some of 2021’s top grossing game titles host crossplay features, demonstrating that cross-platform connectivity and the ability to share progress and play with friends across different platforms should not be a developer afterthought. Instead, it is something players deem necessary and therefore may prove to be an essential consideration when developing new game titles. “An acceleration in cloud gaming adoption has started changing the way games are created and played. Gamers are now able to access a magnitude of games regardless of their location, providing they have an Internet connection. This also eliminates the need to spend hours waiting for games and updates to download, meaning gamers can start playing immediately.” www.pcr-online.biz
PCR’s Company of the Year
HANNspree’s Winning Touch This year’s PCR Award’s, Company of the Year was scooped by visual technology display manufacturer, HANNspree. Michelle Winny, PCR’s Editor speaks with Martin Kent, HANNspree’s UK Manager, to find out about its latest business challenges, innovations and successes and how it ias focused on meeting market demand. Company of the Year
ouchscreen technology has undoubtedly become the first choice for the human-machine interface. Here’s what HANNspree’s UK Manager, Martin Kent has to say about championing a winning business formula is this technology arena.
What is the current state of business for HANNspree? Business is currently booming but is unfortunately pervaded with production, supply and logistics challenges, somewhat hampering our successes. It’s undoubtedly an ‘odd’ period and there is a lot of uncertainty around when it will be back to business as www.pcr-online.biz
usual, but we persist to fulfil the significant demands for displays the best we can and are using this time to evaluate the future
What markets is the company currently finding the most uplift in?
We are currently reaping the benefits of a significant uplift within the touch sector. Most notably, our off-the-shelf and bespoke open-frame solutions are having significant impact on HANNspree’s bottom line. Fulfilling the demands of both OEMs and System Integrators, our open frame solutions are penetrating a variety of new markets as integrated human machine interface solutions. October 2021 | 39
expertise. In 2021, we have been busy reacting to consumer This ever-growing display market has presented a wealth of business requirements, incorporating features into a variety of new products opportunities for HANNspree, and already sees our open frame to cater for the changes in how we use technology. For example: we touch displays on-board hardware in car showrooms, restaurants, have launched a range of monitors, which are video conferencing care homes, hotel lobbies and therapy centres, to name just a few. ready featuring on-board webcams to The fastest growing markets for touch the home office; portable screen applications that we are rapidly “ Year-on-year we enjoy growth with our streamline monitors to enable easy expansion of increasing our business within are display workspace, anywhere, featuring hospitality, in-store retail, integrated touch screen solutions and there is Type-C for device-to-device sound solutions, care home, medical plenty of scope for continuous growth. USB transfers and charging; and a new large and leisure. Presently, we are seeing more demand screen Tablet PC which makes the handheld computing experience more How has business evolved over for touch solutions in care comfortable, especially for homework the past 18 months? environments, retail in-store POS and activities, distant learning, web Evolving hasn’t been high on the agenda for the past 18 months. till systems, hospitality POI, education browsing, mobile gaming, and social communications. We will continue to Fulfilling demand has been top and for a variety of leisure applications. expand our consumer and B2B display priority. The work from home portfolio, always sensitive to demand explosion created such a demand for We hope, in 2022, that the market and changeable markets. home office products that display becomes more settled, and that the sales experienced an acute surge and cemented our success during 2020. What are the biggest growth price, supply chain and logistic In fact, monitor sales doubled during markets for the company? challenges peter out so that we are Year-on-year we enjoy growth with the first week that businesses were advised to work remotely. And the our touch screen solutions and there able to plan roll-outs with partners demand continues, with businesses is plenty of scope for continuous more effectively and grow choosing to continue to have their staff growth. Presently, we are seeing more avoid the office. In all likelihood, office HANNspree’s touch screen presence demand for touch solutions in care culture has been forever changed by environments, retail in-store POS and even further.” the pandemic, as well as our attitudes till systems, hospitality POI, education to the daily commute and our outlook and for a variety of leisure applications. on how our workday affects our wellness, which will see home office We hope, in 2022, that the market becomes more settled, and that display sales continue to be successful long into the future. the price, supply chain and logistic challenges peter out so that we are able to plan roll-outs with partners more effectively and grow What has been the biggest business challenges over the past HANNspree’s touch screen presence even further.
In I.T hardware, 2021 has been beset with many challenges cumulating to the current stock shortages, price changes and logistic hurdles that are affecting manufacturers suppliers across the globe. We have all had to weather component shortages, regional outbreaks of Covid in China affecting production, and now, shipping and port delays. UK and EU ports are experiencing huge congestion due to Brexit, there are driver shortages, while the displacement globally of containers has created long shipping delays and is also resulting in large increases in logistics costs. Thankfully, HANNspree has able to utilise the flexibility of a UK warehousing facility to avoid the EU bottle neck. Where possible, we are directly shipping from China to the UK, which is helping to avoid Brexit delays, and we are managing with an increased price point.
What plans does the company have for next year and beyond?
The HANNspree focus continues to revolve around touch technology and all that this market has to offer. Additionally, we will maintain our commitment to evolving our non-touch product portfolio within the medium size display sector, in-line with our manufacturing 40
Are there any new markets the company is looking to move into? We are in the process of stamping our mark in the gaming arena. To date, HANNspree has been relatively cool when it comes to gaming displays as it hasn’t been a market that promised the sales volume to justify the production. However, times have changed, and we are confident that the market has ballooned, so it makes good business sense for us to turn our manufacturing expertise to delivering dedicated gaming solutions. The recent gaming boom, likely driven by lockdown boredom, has seen record level upsurges in gaming hardware sales. In fact, the market has become immense. There were reportedly 668 million gamers across Europe in 2020, 48% of which play on PCs rather than consoles. Gaming is also a market that we know will provide continuous rewards. Gamers in particular, have more of a tendency to ensure they have the most up-to-date hardware in order to meet the increasing demands of game content. Once they have invested time and money to build the ultimate, powerful gaming rig, having a display, or in many cases, multiple displays, that do the hardware visual justice, is essential. The new monitors that we are launching clearly demonstrate our
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PCR’s Company of the Year
intentions to throw our manufacturing experience, flexibility and expertise into the gaming arena and deliver gamers exactly what they need to have the ultimate visual experience. We are excited to watch our brand presence in this market unfold.
What new technology is the company looking to deliver?
HANNspree continues to innovate touch solutions for hardware integration, and new technologies will almost certainly be developed to support a seamless partnership of third-party hardware and software. This is in-line with our overall strategy and where our R&D strengths currently lay. However, of late, focus is shifting more towards on ensuring that our green credentials are consistently being improved wherever possible. The repercussions of the Covid crisis on sourcing, productions and transport tie our hands a little when it comes to revolutionising new technology. So, we are streamlining production, strategising how staff can be more efficient and ecofriendlier in their day-to-day business, committing to recycling goals and investing to ensure we are energy saving wherever possible. It is undoubtedly a great time for us all to review our environmental impact and ensure we are operating ethically and responsibly.
What do you have to offer your partners?
We pride ourselves on lasting partnerships. In the UK, relations are paramount to our long-term forecasts, and we have a dedicated, long-standing team that is highly respected, knowledgeable, and fantastic to liaise with. And of course, our products are tried and tested delivering long-life, return on investment. HANNspree can tap into the economies of scale enjoyed by parent company HannStar to ensure price competitiveness and has 42
the manufacturing capability to react to market changes quickly and even bespoke solutions for specific tenders. We also boast localised UK service for all technical and development needs. All of which, puts us in good stead for new partnerships and ultimately to drive sales to our very healthy, established channel our number one route to market.
Please could you explain how the rise of hardware integration applications featuring open frame displays presents new lucrative sales opportunities for the IT channel?
Digital display with user interaction has become extremely commonplace in recent years and continues to replace existing, alternative methods, which are now considered outdated. The exponential uptake of digital displays in a vast number of commercial and industrial sectors, such as retail, hospitality and production line, has created a huge ‘hardware integration’ market. Companies across the globe are producing innovative products featuring interactive user interfaces, some of which are on an industrial scale. These products are being designed for countless purposes, primarily to improve productivity or increase the satisfaction of customers and applications are ever emerging. Open frame, touchscreen displays are at the heart of these devices and hardware integrators are looking to form relationships with suppliers. Their requirements can be a steady stream of business and often increase as their businesses grow. These accounts certainly provide the potential for the channel to reap substantial new revenue. With the demand for open frame solutions as it stands, especially touchscreen options, and the highly likely upsurge in the coming years, now is the ideal time to tap into the rapidly growing new avenue for display sales. www.pcr-online.biz
Gaming peripherals and accessories These latest gaming peripherals pack some punch to give you the ultimate in enhanced game-play – from gaming chairs and headsets, mice and high performance processing power to smart lighting and advanced gaming routers.
RAZER Kraken Gaming Headset “The Razer Kraken Tournament Edition 7.1 Gaming Headset isn’t like your average gaming headset as this one has THX Spatial Audio - which creates a 360° surround sound effect that delivers sound from every angle. The sound is so realistic, you’ll feel as if you’re on the battlefield itself, on the race track, or in your favourite role-playing fantasy world.” Specs: Audio controls on the in-line remote, 3.5mm jack, USB connection, custom-tuned 50mm drivers, comfortable ergonomic design, ultra-soft padding and cooling gel, indented eyewear channels Contact: Onbuy
Turtle Beach Ear Force Recon 50X gaming headset
MSI MPG Artymis 323CQR
“Experience the sleek, lightweight design and crystal clear audio of the EAR FORCE Recon 50X gaming headset. With 40mm Neodymium speakers and inline controls, the Recon 50X conveniently places Mic Mute and Master Volume at your fingertips, and you can use the high-sensitivity adjustable boom mic for in-game and online chat, and then remove it when listening to music and watching movies. The EAR FORCE Recon 50X is designed to connect directly to the new Xbox One controller with the 3.5mm headset jack, and to other Xbox One controllers via the EAR FORCE Headset Audio Controller (sold separately). The Recon 50X will also work with the PlayStation 4 controller, PC, Mac and mobile/tablet devices.”
“The all-new MSI MPG Artymis 323CQR comes with many new and exciting features. MPG Artymis 323CQR’s 31.5-inch WQHD VA display comes with a 1ms response time, 165 Hz refresh rate, FreeSync Premium support, HDR 400 certification. 1000R curvature enhances the sense of coverage and immersion while reducing eyestrain and fatigue caused by long-term screen use. Artymis 323CQR also covers 89.8% of DCI-P3 and 113% of SRGB colour gamuts, making it suitable for content creators as well.
Specs: Synthetic leather-wrapped ear-cups, adjustable boom mic, full-range Speakers, large 40mm neodymium speakers, convenient controls
Specs: 31.5-inch WQHD VA display, 1ms response time, 165 Hz refresh rate, FreeSync Premium support, HDR 400 certification. 1000R curvature
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Ryzen 5000 G-Series desktop processors “The Ryzen 5000 G-Series desktop processor are AMD’s latest processors designed for gamers, creators, and all-round PC users who are looking for enthusiast-grade performance without the need for a discrete graphics card. They feature up to 8 “Zen 3” cores built on 7nm technology with a leap in performance over the previous generation. They also feature Radeon Graphics built-in for smooth 1080p gaming right out of the box. Both processors come with an AMD Wraith Stealth cooler.”
AMD Ryzen 7 5700G “High Performance gaming and content creation” Specs: CPU Cores: 8, Threads: 16, Max. Boost Clock: Up to 4.6GHz, Base Clock: 3.8GHz, Thermal Solution (PIB): Wraith Stealth, Default TDP: 65W Contact: Scan
AMD Ryzen 5 5600G “Seamless gaming and content creation performance graphics model: Radeon Graphics” Specs: CPU Cores: 6, Threads: 12, Max. Boost Clock: Up to 4.4GHz, Base Clock: 3.9GHz, Thermal Solution (PIB): Wraith Stealth, Default TDP: 65W Contact: Scan
Radeon RX 6600 XT Graphics Card “This is AMD’s latest RDNA 2-powered graphics card designed to deliver the ultimate high-framerate, high-fidelity 1080p gaming experience. Featuring 32MB of highperformance AMD Infinity Cache combined with 8GB of high-speed GDDR6 memory, it’s engineered to deliver the ultimate 1080p gaming experience. Combined with the latest technologies including AMD Smart Access Memory and AMD FidelityFX Super Resolution, it delivers high-quality, highresolution, and high-refresh rate gaming experiences for players.” Specs: AMD Radeon RX 6600 XT Graphics – Epic 1080p Gaming, Compute Units: 32, GDDR6: 8GB, Game Clock (MHz): 2359, Boost Clock (MHz): Up to 2589, Memory Interface: 128 bit, Infinity Cache: 32MB, TBP: Starting at 160W Contact: Scan
HANNspree HG440CFW “This colossal monitor has visual impact on every level imaginable. Not only does the Double FHD 43.8” display have the wow factor aesthetically, it also delivers a most impressive visual experience. In addition to a 32:9 aspect, it boasts a 1ms response time, IPS panel, up to 600cd/m² brightness and 120Hz refresh rate. The HG440CFW supports both PiP and PbP and boasts a gamer’s dream interface, including HDMI 1.4 and 2.0, DP a USB 3.0 HUB AND USB Type-C 3.1. This new model also offers gamers an ambient light sensor, a remote control, an RGB rainbow light on the rear bezel, VESA support and a height adjustable stand.” Specs: 43.8” LED, 3840 x 1080 DFHD (32:9), HDR: 600 cd/m², 1msec (MRPT), 120Hz, (Active) 10,000,000:1, H/V 178°/178, DP 1.2, HDMI 2.0 + HDMI 1.4, USB Type-C + Built-in USB 3.0 Hub, Ambient Light sensor, PiP / PbP, Built-in Stereo Speakers Contact: Exertis, Ingram, Westcoast
“This 38.5” WQHD monitor with 3000R curvature delivers an immersive and natural visual experience for hardcore gamers. Boasting a 1ms refresh rate and lighting fast 165Hz refresh rate, it’s 100% built for speed, while ultrawide viewing angles, HANNspree’s Active Contrast Ratio technology and 400cd/m² brightness ensure graphic excellence. The HG392PCB is fully loaded with digital connectivity and supports both Picture by Picture and Picture in Picture functionality. Low blue light mode and flicker free technology help reduce the impact prolonged screen time can have on eyes and overall health.”
“This 34” curved, UWQHD monitor has a formidable gaming spec. Ready to compete at professional gaming level is a 3440 x 1440 resolution, 21:9 aspect, 400 cd/m² brightness, 1ms response time, 144Hz refresh rate and HANNspree’s Active Contrast technology. “The HG342PCB features a multi-functional height adjustable/ swivel/tilt stand and a 1500R curvature for complete visual comfort in a gaming setup. Packed with connectivity, two HDMI and two DPs can host an arsenal of external sources, which can be displayed simultaneously, thanks to PiP and PbP, Flicker-Free tech and Low Blue Light mode help reduce eyefatigue during game play.”
Specs: 38.5” LED, 2560 x 1440 WQHD (16:9), Curved Panel 3000R, HDR: 400 cd/m², 1msec (MRPT), 165Hz, (Active) 10,000,000:1, H/V 178°/178°, 2x DP 1.4, 2x HDMI 2.0 PiP/ PbP, Built-in Stereo Speakers, Anti-Glare Panel: 3H Hardness, Low Blue Light Mode + Flicker Free, RGB Rainbow Light on Rear Bezel, Gaming Mouse Pad + DP Cable Contact: Exertis, Ingram, Westcoast
Specs: Display: 34” LED, 3440 x 1440 UWQHD (21:9), Curved Panel 1500R, HDR: 400 cd/m², 1msec (MRPT), 144Hz, (Active) 10,000,000:1, H/V 178°/178°, 2x DP 1.2, 2x HDMI 2.0, PiP / PbP, Built-in Stereo Speakers, Tilt and Wall Mountable (VESA), Height Adjustable Stand, 3H Hardness, Low Blue Light Mode + Flicker Free, Gaming Mouse Pad + DP Cable Contact: Exertis, Ingram, Westcoast
Tapo L900-5 Smart Light Strip “Complete your gaming set-up with the vibrant Tapo L900-5 Smart Strip. With over 16 million colours to choose from, this device features Multicolour LEDs to help create the perfect atmosphere for any scenario - whether you’re battling your friends online, streaming or even just relaxing. Automate the individual strips with different colours, timers, brightnesses and warmth, and them anywhere and anytime within the Tapo app. Easy set up and voice control provides a hands-free cross-platform experience using Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, so you can turn the L900-5 on and off or change colours in a matter of seconds.”
TP-Link AX11000 tri-band gaming router “Armed with Wi-Fi 6, Archer AX11000 offers astonishing Wi-Fi speeds up to 10756Mbps with an extended range. Designed to eradicate gaming lag, it can automatically identify gaming traffic and give you the bandwidth priority you need to dominate the battleground. When you aren’t gaming, 4K content and streaming will take priority, so you always have a seamless Internet experience. Users can easily link to their router via Bluetooth and set it up in minutes with the powerful Tether app.”
Specs: Flexible installation, no hub required, voice control, use it with your smart assistant, a hub, or connect directly to the Tapo app, mood-setting atmosphere, preset for convenience, schedule & timer, away mode
Specs: AX11000 speed machine that delivers Wi-Fi speeds over 10 Gbps: 4804Mbps (5GHz Gaming) + 4804 Mbps (5GHz) + 1148Mbps (2.4GHz), Homecare security system, game statistics – real-time latency, game duration and network resource allocation in a glance with fine-tuned UI, ultra connectivity - 2.5Gbps WAN port and eight Gigabit LAN ports, 2 USB 3.0 in type A and type C provide extensive connectivity, 1.8GHz quad-core CPU and 3 coprocessors
TP-Link Archer GX90 tri-band Wi-Fi 6 gaming router
Razer Huntsman V2 optical keyboard
“The TP-Link Archer GX90 features a powerful AX6600 rated tri-band with combined speed up to warp 6579Mbps. Equipped with 1.5GHz quad-core CPU to handle huge throughput and crush the lag. 2.5Gbps WAN/LAN port and two USB ports provide versatile connectivity to your home network. More connected devices mean more fun, without dragging down performance. Revolutionary OFDMA improves average throughput by four times. Take advantage of incredibly low latency to demolish your enemies.”
“Meet the Razer Huntsman V2 - an optical gaming keyboard with near-zero input latency and fully geared out with other high-end features. Complete with an ergonomic wrist rest, multifunctional digital dial and hybrid on-board memory and cloud storage, the Razer Huntsman V2 really does redefine the limits of what a gaming keyboard can do.”
Specs: Tri-Band structure provides 4.8Gbps game band, game accelerator, real-time latency, game duration and network resource allocation in a glance with fine-tuned UI, Homecare security system, 8 antennas, Beamforming, high-power FEM, 4T4R combine to deliver WiFi coverage up to a 4-bedroom house, 1.5GHz quad-core CPU, easy setup with Tether app Contact: TP-Link
Razer Iskur gaming chair “Keep the competition in your kill zone, as you enter your comfort zone with the Razer Iskur. Razer’s first gaming chair designed for posture-perfect hardcore gaming. Fitted with an adjustable, ergonomic lumbar support system”
Specs: Razer optical switches, doubleshot PBT keycaps, sound dampening foam, ergonomic wrist rest, multi-functional digital dial and 4 media keys, hybrid on-board memory and cloud storage, 2 year warranty Contact: VIP UK
Basilisk V3 gaming mouse “Create, control, and champion your playstyle with the new Razer Basilisk V3 -the quintessential ergonomic gaming mouse for customised performance. With 10+1 programmable buttons, an intelligent scroll wheel, and a heavy dose of Razer Chroma RGB.”
Specs: Fully sculpted lumbar support, multi-layered synthetic leather, high-density foam cushions, 4D armrests, 139 degree adjustable back angle, adjustable headrest, metal frame, 3 year warranty
Specs: 10+1 programmable buttons, 4-way Razer Hyperscroll tilt wheel, 11 individually programmable LEDs, 100% PTFE mouse feet, Razer optical mouse switches Gen-2, Razer Focus+ 26k DPI optical sensor, 5 on-board memory profiles, 2 years warrantyyear warranty
Contact: VIP UK
Contact: VIP UK
MSI Clutch GM41 Lightweight Wireless mouse “MSI Clutch GM41 lightweight wireless mouse weighs just 74 grams, making it ideal for eSports gaming. Built with the latest 2.4G RF wireless technology, latency is reduced to just 1ms resulting in responsiveness almost 10x faster than a typical wireless mouse. With up to 80 hours of use with a single charge, GM41 Lightweight and its wireless sibling are certified for NVIDIA Reflex technology, which offers even less input latency when used with Reflex certified display, such as MSI Oculux NXG253R. Specs: Weighs 74 grams, 2.4G RF wireless technology, 1ms latency, 80 hours of use, NVIDIA Reflex technology Contact: MSI www.pcr-online.biz
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HubSpot’s Ed Barrett 48
Life in the channel Ed Barrett, Vice President of Sales EMEA, at HubSpot discusses how the worlds of marketing and IT are merging and what this means for the channel proposition, whilst we’re in the process of entering a hybrid working world.
ubSpot is going through a pivotal time at the moment where it’s transforming its business by shifting from a marketing services company, to a leading CRM platform provider. Ed Barrett, Vice President of Sales EMEA, at HubSpot tells us more. HubSpot has managed to achieve impressive growth over the past few years, despite the pandemic. What do you think this comes down to? The market has been evolving through the digital transformation of the commercial process and the consumerisation of IT for some years now. The pandemic has hastened many decisions to digitise prospect and customer engagement and to modernise marketing and sales processes. Hubspot is a platform that has Marketing, Sales, Service and CMS automation capabilities that the market needs to transform their businesses. However, digital transformation is not effective without user engagement. The Hubspot user interface is a key reason for our growth. We aim to deliver a product that users can use easily without sacrificing power. As a testament of
that, HubSpot has recently surpassed 120,000 paying customers and has reached $1 billion in annual recurring revenue, marking two important milestones in our nearly 15-year history. Has HubSpot changed how it works with the channel during this time? How is HubSpot’s partner programme evolving? When the pandemic hit, our first thought was: “how can we help support our customers, prospects and partners through the difficulties”? Remember April 2020 - what were the concerns? It was cash flow, keeping customers and supporting employees. So hubspot offered all our tiered partners the option to receive six months worth of commission up front - to help with cash flow. For prospects and customers, we offered reduced price bundles, improved terms and short-term ‘down-grade’ options to help them through the difficult times. We also doubled-down on supporting our partners to have the right offers to support customers who needed to digitise quickly. In terms of the partner program, we are going through a transformation. We have a strategy that has Partner as a key pillar for our growth over the coming years. We are redesigning the partner program, training and accreditations, compensation structure, tiers, benefits and requirements in order to provide our partner channel with a best-in-class partnership with Hubspot. Marketing, IT, Operations, Customer Experience – they’re all becoming closer aligned in todays’ businesses. How is HubSpot supporting businesses and channel partners with this transition? The lines between Marketing, sales and CX are all blurring. So the idea of having disparate systems to support sales and marketing functions and attempting to connect them with other systems is somewhat antiquated. Hubspot has been built from the ground up as a single front-office platform built on a single database. This enables customers and partners to build their own customer engagement processes on the Hubspot platform without the risks of multiple systems and databases trying to ‘talk to each other’. It is efficient and allows the customer to focus on building their customer engagement processes.
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HubSpot has a heritage in the marketing tech space – what can you tell us about the latest trends in this space that channel partners should be aware of? There are three things we can look at: • The quality of data. Capabilities like machine learning and artificial intelligence are improving at an incredible rate, but their effectiveness relies on data quality. There will be more emphasis on data freshness and quality, as well as improvements in business intelligence • The way channels continue to change. Customers’ expectations of messaging platforms, chat-bots, and voice assistants like Siri and Alexa will continue to grow • The no-code movement, of which I am a big fan. It is a philosophical change: empowering business users to be able to do ever more things without having to file a ticket and wait for somebody else. The evolution of HubSpot’s automation engine is a fantastic example. Our interface is so simple and so easy to use that you can go ahead and do it yourself. I expect to see more evolution in this direction.
“The lines between Marketing, sales and CX are all blurring. So the idea of having disparate systems to support sales and marketing functions and attempting to connect them with other systems is somewhat antiquated. Hubspot has been built from the ground up as a single frontoffice platform built on a single database. This enables customers and partners to build their own customer engagement processes on the Hubspot platform without the risks of multiple systems and databases trying to ‘talk to each other’. It is efficient and allows the customer to focus on building their customer engagement processes.” What can you tell us about what’s going to be important for the new normal as everyone settles into a hybrid way of working postpandemic? Things have certainly changed. The change was already in motion; however; the pandemic has sped up the process. We’re all now used to engaging over video calls and for the most part, it works. Employees will now seek jobs that allow them to live away from the office so businesses will need to have strong remote working practices. If your customer is not in the ‘office’, then why do you need to meet them? This will mean significant changes in how sales are conducted with far less face-to-face interaction. There will be opportunities to re-imagine office spaces and challenges to ensure remote workers are engaged appropriately and areas such as promotions are not biased against remote workers. 50
It will be a time of transition to a more virtual engagement process where technology can support better outcomes for prospects and customers. However, businesses will need to rethink how they need to evolve their processes to support this new way of working. Can you share what you’ve learnt about keeping employees happy, healthy and motivated during the past year? We all had our challenges during the pandemic. At a personal level, there was home-schooling, illness from COVID, home office challenges, connectivity challenges, etc. So our starting point, as it is in everything we do, was one of empathy. We delivered practical help by providing all employees with a £1000 stipend for them to equip their home office with appropriate equipment from monitors to stand-up desks. We invested significant resources in providing channels for people to understand the new work environment and how to optimise it while getting balance in their life. We extended our mental health support and provided a full ‘week of rest’ in July for all employees to switch-off. We are very focused on our fellow Hubspotters’ wellbeing and much of management time was focused on developing how we could ensure we supported our team members through the challenges. We’re lucky to have such a strong team and that, coupled with the many virtual events and the support mentioned above, helped keep our teams focused and motivated. It’s always a balance and one that is difficult to get right, but we will keep at it. Finally, what can partners look forward to from HubSpot in the next 12 months? A recent report by IDC confirmed that the Services surrounding Hubspot platform will be worth over $12,5 bn in 2024. The opportunity for our partner ecosystem to grow is very significant so we have very exciting plans for 2022 to include significant developments to our training, certification and enablement for partners. We’re also continuing to expand our ‘co-selling’ approach between our direct sales teams and our partners and that will hit new heights in 2022. Our marketing and product development plans will also impact partners in a positive way. Our clear objective is to expand our partner ecosystem and increase the partner channel influenced part of our business. We’re in this for the long term. www.pcr-online.biz