Just a couple weeks ago, PC peripheral company ROCCAT took the tea cozy off their latest inbound product. Yet this time, instead of hardware, ROCCAT has kicked out a software app known as the Power-Grid, for your Smartphone. The Power-Grid boasts full immersion for PC gamers by enabling our Smartphone to act as a 1-stop-shop for controlling and monitoring a gaming PCs, thereby leaving you in the action.

I’m an avid PC builder, gamer and overclocker. So when news of the Power-Grid hit the interweb, I had to know more. Thankfully CEO Rene Korte was there to pat my head and assure all would be well. Here’s our interview.

SS: So! Aside from the popularity and number of units out there, can you tell me: Why iPhone first?

ROCCAT: First, surveys in our community showed that 50% of gamers are using the iPhone. Plus, it’s easier to develop an app for a standardized system like iOS than with Android, where you have a lot of variety and limited standards. But we’ve already begun development for Android clients and we’re confident we’ll be able to offer an Android version a few months after the iOS Power-Grid.

SS: Steam just reported 30 million users. Kickstarter is crowd sourcing funds for all sorts of PC development projects. More boutiques gaming PC companies continue to sprout. PC accessories, enthusiast tools and parts continue to evolve and sell through. Yet in the face of all this, many still question the viability and longevity of the PC as a gaming platform. What’s your take on the state of PC gaming?

ROCCAT: Some gaming companies claim PC gaming is sick and needs help. We at ROCCAT have never thought that. We know PC gaming is alive and well. It just needs to keep evolving. Power-Grid represents that natural evolution. Why? Because it makes possible the dream of millions of gamers: to stay fully absorbed in the game no matter what happens in the real world. It works with every PC, makes expensive touch-display gaming devices obsolete, and is completely free to get started. Is PC gaming sick? Hardly. Is it dead? Of course not. It’s evolving and getting a heck of a lot better.

SS: We’ve heard the promises before–seen the far-flung ideas and madcap hardware pushed out to bolster PC gaming. What does ROCCAT hope to do for PC gaming and gamers, with the Power-Grid?

ROCCAT: Everyone who owns a smartphone loves it. And gamers love gaming. So, for us, it was a great idea to give gamers the chance to use their favorite companion for gaming. The free-to-download Power-Grid is a tool that lets gamers connect, monitor and control their game and PC in real time while staying completely absorbed in the action. The app comes standard with four control displays – or “grids”. Three grids have been preloaded with a wide range of essential gaming tools – and the fourth is completely customizable.

The “Incoming Center” routes all outside voice and text communication – from Skype, Facebook, TeamSpeak, Twitter, etc. – to an at-a-glance display on the gamer’s smartphone. This means players can get messages from friends and teammates while staying in the game.

The “Stats Control” grid also comes preloaded with Power-Grid, letting gamers quickly and easily monitor their computer’s vital data via their smartphone – info such as CPU status, hard drive space and network traffic.

The third preloaded display is the “Sound Control” grid, which allows gamers to set and fine tune every aspect of their gaming audio using just their smartphone. Gamers can even change audio settings in, for example, Skype, as well as play in-game music together with their media player or independently – for custom-tailored audio control made simple.

In addition to the free Power-Grid app, gamers will need to install the free ROCCAT Power-Grid Launcher. This program not only connects smartphone and PC, it also features a powerful editor that lets players create their own custom control icons, or “blocks” – like individually-designed macro buttons from their favorite games, or specialty buttons like a pizza timer – for the ultimate in command customization.

Plus, as we think sharing has always been an essential part of PC gaming, Power-Grid lets players easily share their self-styled blocks and grids with teammates, colleagues and friends.

SS: It would be great to operate the Power-Grid remotely. Will the Power-Grid work via Bluetooth and over IP, or only via WiFi?

ROCCAT: At the moment Power-Grid supports WiFi. You can use the app not only as an enhancement for your gaming, but, after installing the ROCCAT Launcher, to control your PC media center.

SS: Will there be any advanced level usage? If so can you offer examples measured against standard use?

ROCCAT: Power-Grid is extendable and extremely customizable. You can easily build grids for your favorite games or applications, program your own macros, create individual designs for all the buttons on your grid, launch games with the press of your smartphone’s button and much more.

SS: Will ROCCAT work with developers for more tailored features specific to different games, such as using your Smartphone as a secondary screen for inventory, items, maps or other GUI related management?

ROCCAT: This is actually something we’ve been discussing with many gaming studios. So stay tuned. There will be quite a few surprises when we launch Power-Grid.

SS: Can you give our readers a taste of what sort of peripherals we may see roll out to support the Power-Grid app?

ROCCAT: At this stage we’re showing the first details of what we call ROCCAT Smart Gear – peripherals made to combine perfectly with your smartphone. The first project is called “Phobo” (a combination of “phone” and “board”). Phobo is a mechanical keyboard that lets you exchange the num-pad slot with a smartphone docking station.

And once you’ve connected your Phobo and Power-Grid smartphone, you’ll never need to separate them. You can write any text message with the Phobo – on Facebook, Skype, TeamSpeak, you name it. It also lets you take voice calls with your gaming headset. And naturally the Phobo will charge your phone in case you do need to remove it.

The second project we’re working on is the Apuri 2.0, which is a stylish Smart Gear gaming assistant that connects your Power-Grid smartphone to your computer. It’s an elegant way to connect your Power-Grid phone to your rig – and keep it charged.

FEATURE SPECIFIC

SS: The Incoming Center – Can you make phone calls or is the user restricted to only answering calls?

ROCCAT: With the help of the Incoming Center you have a hub for all kinds of messages. Telephone calls are not part of the Power-Grid. In combination with the Phobo, you’ll be able to take voice calls with your gaming headset — a big advantage, seeing as you won’t have to take your headset off to take the call.

SS: Sats Control – Will this enable  GPU-related statistics (FPS, vram usage, cpu usage, gpu tem, shader info etc…? If not, can users link programs such as EVGA Precision or MSI Afterburner to the Power-Grid so data from those apps can be seen on Smartphones?

ROCCAT: Power-Grid supports all Windows functions. For additional features, we’ll supply an extra app designed especially for tweaking. But this will also take place after the initial Power-Grid launch.

SS: Sound Control – Can I browse and launch a playlist and/or manage one from the Power-Grid UI?

ROCCAT: This won’t be possible with the first version of Power-Grid because we want the sound control to be compatible with all media players. But in the future we’ll be releasing additional grids for the most popular media players – grids that will support playlists.

Well, what do you all think? my take so far: the Power-Grid has a definite allureIs this the solid evolutionary step to further PC gaming? . Who can resist the charisma and charm of “FREE”, which is the incredibly deflated price point once the Power-Grid becomes available some time soon.

Until the nebulous soon is upon us, skate over to the Power-Grid website and sign up for the beta. Unfortunately ROCCAT was unable to give a definite date the beta launch.

Thanks to Rene Korte and boundless appreciation to Matt Shumate of Max Borgese for facilitating the interview.










Shawn Sanders

 
Shawn loves gadgets, literature, history and games. For 10yrs+ he's straddled both the comic book & video game industries, as a writer, editor, marketing officer & producer. Shawn got his start in tech & games as an editor & Hardware Director for GameRevolution.com. More notable accomplishments include Executive Producer on mobile games Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved & The Shroud.