Dell got into the gaming keyboard market at possibly the wrong time. The announcement of the new Alienware gear came in the middle of 2017, just after Computex, scheduled to make a splash at E3. One can debate how much of a splash the new devices may or may not have had, but the timing was perhaps not ideal.
At that point, throngs of component and PC parts companies had already launched their own gaming peripherals lines, and that was primarily in response to a combination of the continued fervor for gaming and esports and the explosion in mechanical keyboard interest.
In other words, the gaming peripherals market was saturated. Dell needed something big or bold or unique to garner any serious attention, but instead we got the Alienware AW568 and AW768. There was but one switch option available, Kailh Brown. Configuration software was on board, which is always nice, but only one of the two keyboards had RGB lighting.
This is not an uncommon occurrence among companies that are new to the gaming peripherals market, and often the primary selling point is essentially knock-on brand loyalty, so Dell was following the script. Indeed, the design of the keyboards looked somewhat Alienware-y, and the AW768 did sport a sparkling silver finish.
But it seems it wasn’t enough. Circumstantial evidence indicates that the Alienware mechanical keyboards experiment is effectively over. The first and most damning indication we saw is a fire sale on the lower-end model of Dell’s pair, the Alienware AW568. Originally listed for $90 upon release, it’s down to a mere $40 on Amazon. That’s just $15 more than its own optional wrist rest accessory. On Massdrop recently (may need to log in to view), the price was even lower, at just $30.
The higher-end model of the two, the AW768, has dropped less precipitously, but it’s still down to $90 on Amazon from $120.
Usually when an older product gets deeply discounted, it’s a sign that a new product, or a product refresh, is coming. But if that were the case, it seems that CES 2019 would have been the time to do it. It’s been 18 months since Dell updated the Alienware mechanical keyboards, the correct amount of time for a hearty product refresh, but the big show in Vegas came and went with nary a peep about new keyboards. And even though the rest of the Alienware peripherals lineup got new threads at last year’s E3, the keyboards did not.
Granted, Dell showed a willingness to originally release these keyboards just out of the limelight of Computex 2017 in favor of the important but less enormous E3 show, so there’s a precedent that could explain a CES no-show. Plus, Dell spent its CES energy on hot new Alienware gaming laptops, so it’s possible that new gaming peripherals simply got put on the backburner.
We reached out to Dell about the issue, and a representative made it seem as though all that circumstantial evidence is just that and no more. “Alienware gaming peripherals (including keyboards) are and continue to be an important focus for us. However, it is Dell policy to not disclose information related to future product roadmap,” we were told. It’s a perfect non-answer answer, sufficiently and simultaneously aggressive and vague. It does not say that there will be new Alienware mechanical keyboards, although it hints at such a possibility.
If there are new Alienware mechanical keyboards in the offing, it feels as though it will be more of a hard reboot of the line rather than a refresh. That’s probably a good thing. And if history is any indication, an announcement to that effect won’t come until E3 this summer.