Inside Lenovo’s mission to create a true ‘Legion’ of PC gamers

Lenovo Legion

Like all of the leading mainstream PC and laptop makers, Lenovo has been chasing the collective muse that is PC gamers for some time now. And, for a while, the firm was doing so in much the same way as its competitors: raw power and extreme gamer style.

However, Lenovo soon realized not only how saturated this end of the PC gaming hardware scene was, but how small that base actually is in comparison to what it learned is the vast majority of PC gamers . Lenovo’s vice president of global consumer marketing Matt Bereda calls this majority ‘avid’ gamers as opposed to ‘hardcore’ PC gamers.

The distinction is important – important enough to have completely transformed Lenovo’s position in PC gaming this year with the thorough rebranding of its Legion line of PC gaming desktops and laptops. So, who is this ‘avid’ gamer compared to the ‘hardcore’ gamer?

“Think of people more in that 8-hour-plus [weekly] type of space that are interested in gaming, but it's not my full identity, right? It's not the only thing that I do,” Bereda says, assuming this ‘avid’ gamer persona. “You know, I'm worried about a career; I'm worried about kids; I'm worried about going out with friends. But, yeah, [games are] part of my relaxation, they're part of my hobby – or just fun.”

After coming to this realization through surveys and focus groups, Lenovo realized that its current lineup of stark red-and-black, sharply angled devices simply wasn’t going to attract this particular (but particularly large) group of PC gamers.

“For a lot of people, this is my system that I game on, but I'm also using this for a lot of other elements of my life, whether that be personal shopping and [answering] email [or] just streaming movie content,” Bereda says. “So, I don't at all times want a device that's just screaming gamer [all the time], and for … this massive, growing avid gamer community, they wanted something that was a little bit more modern.”

Lenovo Legion

Lenovo's redesigned C730 cube gaming PC.

Stylish on the outside, savage on the inside

Bereda and his colleagues coined this whole position simply with the line “stylish on the outside, savage on the inside.” The idea here, of course, was to develop machines with enough power to play the latest PC games at decent settings that also wouldn’t draw the wrong kind of attention at a coffee shop or in a meeting.

As for the ‘savage’ piece of that mantra, Lenovo focused more on drawing as much power out of entry-level parts as possible rather than driving up prices with high-end graphics processors. In particular, Lenovo looked to better cooling to achieve that goal.

“We've gone to a dual-fan system that's a split fan. We've optimized the blades, so we've got 66 blades spinning in opposite directions in order to reduce noise while still giving better heat dissipation,” Bereda says of its new laptop cooling method.

“So, the heat element is in the center of the device, and what we've done is thread the fans to either one of the corners, so that we're able to leverage air intake from both side panels. Then we're able to leverage those two fans to pull that [air toward] the center … and then send that exhaust to the rear of the device, so that it quickly gets it away from you [and] to make for optimal processing as well.”

To this end, Lenovo has seen similar thermal improvements in its desktop chassis as well, to the tune of 50% with three times more airflow than before, Bereda tells us. However, the word ‘savage’ isn’t synonymous with ‘impenetrable’, with Lenovo allowing users to more easily upgrade therr Legion machines through a tool-less thumbscrew system to access and upgrade the parts in its new tower and cube desktops.

Of course, tools are required to upgrade the Legion laptops, but the principle that their memory and storage are upgradeable still stands.

Lenovo Legion

The Lenovo Legion Y7000, Y730 and Y530 (left to right).

A whole new direction

Ultimately, Lenovo had to redirect its engineers to consider a more mainstream user that still requires a certain amount of power. 

“That was probably the biggest friction point [in developing the new Legion]: ‘OK, everybody stop thinking hardcore gamer, step back [and] think about the overall gamer universe,’” Bereda says. “Once we did that … with our engineering teams it just suddenly it clicked, and they're like ‘I got it.’”

By the time Lenovo went to show retail partners its new take on the PC gamer, it all fell into place.

“We shared a lot of this with [retailers] at CES as an example,” Bereda tells us. “So, then everybody kind of got this look, like ‘Oh my gosh – OK, yeah I get it. Yeah, that does make a lot of sense.”

And, so Lenovo’s almost 180 on its approach to PC gaming was born. If you ask us, this more inviting direction that has a much better chance of creating that legion of PC gamers worthy of the products’ namesake.

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Joe Osborne

Joe Osborne is the Senior Technology Editor at Insider Inc. His role is to leads the technology coverage team for the Business Insider Shopping team, facilitating expert reviews, comprehensive buying guides, snap deals news and more. Previously, Joe was TechRadar's US computing editor, leading reviews of everything from gaming PCs to internal components and accessories. In his spare time, Joe is a renowned Dungeons and Dragons dungeon master – and arguably the nicest man in tech.