While PC sales may be slowly declining, Intel is betting big on one segment of the market: gaming, which will be driven by its Skylake processor.
While we still don’t know what the official clock speeds of all of Skylake’s desktop chips will be, we know what they can overclock to: 5.8GHz, at least if you dump some liquid nitrogen on it, as a team from Xtreme Systems did at the Intel Developer Forum on Tuesday. (The Core i7-6700K Skylake chip Intel launched in early August runs at 4.0GHz out of the box.)
Intel representatives also reiterated that they expect their hardware partners to implement “push-button overclocking” for enthusiast notebooks when the unlocked “K” version of the chip launches later this year. That will essentially reinstate the “turbo button” of desktops of yore, when chips like the Intel 486 included a button to adjust the clock rate for compatibility’s sake.
Based on what Intel has talked about at its Intel Developer Forum so far—spider robots! vending machines! reality TV!—you’d be forgiven in thinking that Intel had decided to ignore the PC. After all, any news surrounding the PC has been generally depressing; PC sales fell 11.8 percent in advance of Windows 10, which isn’t expected to be the savior that the industry hopes it will be.
That wasn’t the mood late Tuesday, however, as Doug Fister, Intel’s senior vice president of software and services, and Kirk Skaugen, senior vice president of Intel’s Client Computing Group, sat down with several different software developers—basically a show of force to prove that Intel believed in the viability of PC gaming. (And it has to, since rival AMD powers all three of the world’s top gaming consoles.)
Why this matters: Although the PC market is in decline, Intel has largely been unaffected. That’s because it has staked out the high-margin part of the business—servers—for itself. Gamers spend big on high-end PCs, so you can see Intel attempting to recreate the same strategy it has employed with great success elsewhere.
Who are PC gamers?
In 2015, Skaugen said, Intel expects the gaming market to generate in $92 billion —and $34 billion of that will be spent in PC games alone. About 1.8 billion people game, and 711 million believe themselves to be active PC gamers and purchased a game this year. Nearly half of those—48 percent—are female. The average age of a PC gamer? 35.
And when they’re not actively playing games, gamers like to watch other gamers: 205 million spectators like to spectate games on Twitch and other services. Intel itself hosts a gaming tournament, the Extreme Masters, with events covering 180 countries. And that’s not even the big gun: Valve's The International tournament split over $6 million in prize money over the winning team alone, and more than $18 million between all contestants.
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