After the hectic adrenaline fueled madness of Computex, with Taipei’s insane traffic, parties, shiny new hardware, marketing pitches and booth babes, there was little time for the Firing Squad crew to relax, as the finals for ACON4 were scheduled for June 7th in Shanghai, China. ACON4 was ABIT’s answer to the humble LAN party: a Warcraft3 tournament held in 25 countries, with over 10,000 participants. Key sponsors of the tournament included KIA-Dong Feng Yueda Motors, Intel, Kingston, Western Digital, Viewsonic, Sina Game, Logitech, Coolermaster and Holdfast.
As many readers are aware, many hardware companies now look to gamers as a key market to drive sales and build brand image. Thus many hardware companies have recently developed gaming inspired products and LAN party sponsorships in order to distance themselves even further from their competition in the motherboard and video card market. Competition in this market is extremely tough, with little differentiation between competitor’s products due to the nature of working with chipsets and GPUs from only a handful of vendor companies. With motherboards and video cards having reached almost a commodity status and the overclocker and enthusiast market probably having reached their limits in the more mature markets in Europe and North America, hardware companies are looking to the huge and influential PC gaming community to expand market share and build brand loyalty.
Having established a globally aware marketing department long before other motherboard companies and thus a solid brand image in the PC enthusiast and gamer community, ABIT felt they needed to take their support of gaming to the next level. ACON4 was intended to bring the world’s best WC3 gamers together to Shanghai in the spirit of friendly competition to battle for ultimate supremacy. With ACON4, ABIT has made quite an effort to establish themselves as the most supportive motherboard company in terms of promoting gamers and gaming. While many other companies have sponsored LAN parties and gaming tournaments for some time, no other PC hardware company has come close to organizing an event of this magnitude. This goes hand in hand with ABIT’s overall strategy of expanding their retail presence even further. ABIT has recently teamed up with Jonathan “Fatality” Wendell to manufacture high end Fatality branded gaming PCs using ABIT hardware
Shanghai proved to be an exceptional host for the event, and an interesting contrast to the general madness of Taipei. The urbanized core of the city is at least 10 km across, containing somewhere around 16 million people. This compares with Taipei’s 6 million people who are packed like sardines into a concrete jungle of a city that never seems to stop moving, wherever you are: depending on who you talk to, Taipei is either the second or third most densely populated city in the world (first is Hong Kong). In comparison, Shanghai is like the calm before the storm, much more spread out (relatively), with fewer motorcycles and cars and many more bicycles, due to the relative poverty of the people in comparison. However, the signs of Shanghai’s destiny to be one day the largest city in the world are everywhere: brand new skyscrapers and residential towers under construction sprout everywhere, as far as the eye can see.