ORIGIN PC sticks to its roots as it looks ahead to another 10 years
In the competitive world of gaming PCs, it takes a lot to stand out.
It takes custom airbrushing a computer to look like an Audi R8. It takes dropping everything at a big show to work on a customer’s computers so that a new game plays the way it’s supposed to. It takes being playful enough to create a tongue-in-cheek, retro-80s neon rig with a “Vice” theme based on the company’s hometown: Miami, Florida.
ORIGIN PC, like the sports cars its co-founder Kevin Wasielewski prefers, prides itself on being agile and quick, and being different from the pack.
The South Florida-based company celebrates its 10-year anniversary this year and recently thanked its fans for reaching a milestone of one million followers on Twitter. It’s built up a reputation for specializing in high-end customization, 24/7 lifetime support and performance – with an emphasis on bringing products to market quickly.
ORIGIN PC’s customers often write reviews about their overall experience. “When I decided to buy a new gaming PC, I took my time, literally spending months researching, reading reviews, comparing pricing, specs, etc. When I was ready to pull the trigger, I went with Origin and the experience couldn’t have been better.”
At SXSW, Wasielewski was part of a panel of judges for the event’s gaming awards – something he’s more than qualified to do.
“We live in the space of where gaming is going. So for example, on Twitch, we were one of the first to sponsor influencers. We’ve been doing that for seven years,” Wasielewski says. “Because we are gamers and fans ourselves, we were watching people on their streams. We saw this as a cool way to interact with gamers. It’s so big because everybody’s gaming. It’s a better hobby than movies, TV, or watching traditional sports, in my opinion, because it’s interactive.”
ORIGIN PC hosts their own streams across multiple streaming platforms, including Mixer. They play PC games, build PCs live and interview members of the gaming community. During these streams, they interact with the community by answering tech or gaming questions, as well host stream-only giveaways.
“I often hear people say ‘Why would anybody watch somebody else play a video game, it makes no sense to me.’ But we watch other people play other things, like football, golf, or tennis. If you really like something and somebody in the world is way better at it than you, you’re curious. You want to watch, because you want to learn, or you just want to admire their skills,” Wasielewski says. “Some people follow people just to see their strategy, some people follow others because of their personality. And then you can also interact with them and interact with the other people watching so it’s a much more evolved experience than your traditional way of watching entertainment.”
When it comes to customization, ORIGIN PC established itself early on with its Big O contraption in 2010 during a competition to build the Ultimate Dream Machine. ORIGIN PC built a more than $16,000 contest entry that paired a custom liquid-cooled PC on one side with a liquid-cooled Xbox 360 on the other side. It won 15 out of the 16 benchmarks, so it won the competition both for performance and customization. These very specialized devices were around for about a year, with Microsoft carrying some in their retail stores, before ORIGIN PC retired them.
ORIGIN PC recently won the Intel Extreme Rig Challenge, which they’ve dominated for a number of years.
At CES 2019, they introduced a new theme based on the neon inspiration of Miami’s “Vice” styling and its retro-modern appeal. They printed designs based on that look on glass and launched options on their website. Customers can also submit their own artwork.
The year before at CES 2018, they unveiled HD UV printing and the latest version of their desktop with their patented Variable Mounting, which allows their desktops chassis to mount the motherboard four different ways, including the choice of the main window of the chassis to be on the left or right.
For many customers who want one-of-a-kind designs for their PCs, the company engages local artists to create custom airbrushed designs, including one they found at a Miami car show for the gaming enthusiast in Dubai who wanted his computer to match his Audi R8. That same customer bought $40,000 worth of equipment, including 4K TVs.
ORIGIN PC can customize what’s under the hood, too. Customers can choose colors for power cables, cooling liquid and hard, plastic tubes. Users can also pick the components they want and all the technical specs.
Wasielewski and his two co-founders Richard Cary and Hector Penton figured out that offering different colors was one way to differentiate their company from the rest of the pack.
“We basically want to take everything that we’ve learned in the past and take it to an even higher level,” he says. “That’s why we have offered almost any customization you want. And instead of just great support, it’s 24/7 lifetime support. When we launched our industry-leading 24/7 lifetime support that was a big differentiator. People love that because they can call us any time. They’re calling our techs. They’re not calling third parties. We often get people praising our support.”
Besides CES, ORIGIN PC is a fixture at big gaming conferences, including PAX and E3. It was at the latter one year where they saved a major game that was crashing. The game makers had bought several computers from ORIGIN PC, but without telling them their intent to use the machines to demo the new game. The game kept crashing until one of ORIGIN PC’s techs figured out the game wasn’t optimized to the memory configuration they were trying to run on it. The tech removed a bunch of memory so that the game would run on 16 GB, and that did the trick. The game’s developers were so grateful, they flew ORIGIN PC to shows worldwide where game demos were held that year and included ORIGIN PC in the credits of the game.
As strategic partners with NVIDIA and Intel (Wasielewski is on the board of advisors of the latter), ORIGIN PC can test new products sooner and are quick to put new parts on their website.
For Wasielewski, who’s mostly self-trained through his experience at Alienware, it’s always been about going the extra mile – literally.
Like the time he interviewed for Alienware, when he was still working at Electronics Boutique (later acquired by GameStop).
An avid gamer since he was a kid, Wasielewski played everything offered at the store. Before YouTube, social media and the internet, face-to-face advice was the way to gauge a game’s worthiness before buying.
“When a game comes out, I’m loyal to the games themselves, not the platform,” he says. “But PC is the best platform with the best graphics, so I play it there if I can.”
He would often see people who he thought were sales reps wearing Alienware shirts, and he’d recommend games to them – as well as ones to avoid.
“One day I got up the courage and asked one of them if they had any job openings,” Wasielewski says. “He told me send him my resume and gives me his card. That’s when I realized he’s the president and the owner.”
So he sent his resume, but didn’t hear back for three weeks before he got a call back. They wanted him to interview that day, as soon as possible.
“But I’m at work. I asked if I could call from home in 15 minutes. And he was like, ‘No no no, come right now’,” Wasielewski recalls. “I wanted to change out of my store uniform, print out my resume and get ready for the interview. But this owner of Alienware, he’s a very intense guy.”
Wasielewski agreed to go to the interview right away. But in those pre-GPS, pre-cellphone days, he got lost. It was raining as he called on a payphone, trying to reschedule. But Alienware insisted on the interview, so finally, after many, many extra miles, he made it there.
After asking two brief questions about PC games and what he was playing at the time, they offered him a job in quality assurance. Basically, he got paid to play games – three times more than what he was making. But he didn’t accept right away, as his original path was to make games. He also wanted to get on a management track. He was also studying computer science and discrete math at Florida International University (though he admits “that class kicked my butt”).
But after his own manager at Electronics Boutique advised him to take the job, he took it, put school on hold and thrived for the next decade doing QA, tech support, sales and marketing.
“The only skills and knowledge I had when I arrived there were from studying computer science at FIU and studying communications, PR, speechwriting, marketing and advertising at Florida State University and Miami Dade College. So I had that. And I played a lot of games,” Wasielewski says. “I basically stayed late every day. I learned other jobs, like how to build and how to integrate and just learning from other people that worked there.”
Throughout the years he had seven promotions, leading eventually to his highest role as vice president of marketing.
“I was living even better than the dream I had (working for a company making games) because when I was in marketing at Alienware, I was calling Activision, I was calling Microsoft. And doing deals with them,” he says.
He never did finish the degrees in computer science or communications. He ended up with a two-year degree in liberal studies.
But Wasielewski is not the kind of CEO who does anything traditionally.
His wedding, for example, was “Star Wars”-themed, with his bride wearing a Captain Phasma helmet while his Boba Fett outfit paid homage to the classic series, and dinner tables were named after locations like the Death Star and Tatooine.