Top-notch video game weaponry is as fundamental of a desire as a battle-ending kill. For over 10 years, blood-thirsty gamers and the like have learned to love the arsenal of artillery, technology and gadgets Razer has introduced to the market. One constant has remained since Day 1: putting the best interests of gamers first.
Razer CEO and co-founder Min-Liang Tan joined [a]listdaily for a wide-ranging interview to discuss the company’s latest products, and ventures into eSports, virtual reality, and more.
What has the response and reception been like to the products unveiled at CES this year?
The responses have been incredible. We went into the show as the only company in the nearly 50-year history of CES to win five straight official ‘best of’ awards. We made it a six-year streak this year with the Razer Blade Stealth. We designed this system as an Ultrabook for gamers, but it went on to hit a chord with editors who hailed it as the ultimate laptop in its class and an industry game-changer. The Blade Stealth’s innovative design, screen resolution, chip set and portable form factor make it a beast of a machine on the go. Its price (starting at $999) left people speechless. We’re talking about a state-of-the-art computer that is hundreds of dollars cheaper than lesser models, even the big PC makers and Apple. What’s more, users get desktop-gaming performance with their Blade Stealth when it is connected to the Razer Core. A single Nvidia Thunderbolt 3 connection is all that’s needed to connect the system to our groundbreaking graphics booster. We also unveiled the Razer Stargazer at the show, the world’s most advanced webcam. Streamers and content producers alike were clamoring over that. Also popular was our Nabu Watch, which places the sensor and communications functions of the Nabu smartband into a great-looking, affordable watch.
How is Razer differentiating itself from the other high-performance gaming hardware, software and systems currently on the market?
We make products for gamers – that’s our unique differentiator. Whereas other manufacturers produce items based on price or to exploit one or another technological advent, we focus our attention 100 percent on making things that will work perfectly for gaming and support the gaming lifestyle. We put buttons on mice where MMO players would want them, or levers and buttons on console controllers where they make sense for FPS games. We use sensors that are so accurate that they exceed editors’ abilities to test them, but which work great on 4K gaming arrays. We create laptops that are impossibly portable and powerful, because gamers on the go need it. Most oftentimes, we make something because nobody else will. We stand out from competitors by putting gamers first and profitability and market demand second. Razer is the only brand that makes high-end hardware for every type of gamer out there: PC, console or mobile, professional, serious or casual. We make sure that our products connect to each other, that they work together, and don’t obsolesce. All our hardware connects back to the cloud, so settings are always accessible to users and firmware ensures peoples’ favorite devices work with the latest generation of games. One of that team’s biggest initiatives for 2016 will be game integration for our Nabu wearable platform and our Razer Chroma lighting. Nobody else spends time and resources on things like that, but they add so much to the gaming experience. We already have huge games like Call of Duty, Overwatch and Blade and Soul on board and in ongoing development. Our investment in virtual reality is another exciting project for us with great potential. The Razer OSVR development kit and software platform will see many improvements this year, which will help every technologist and game publisher edge closer to consumer-ready products soon.
What can consumers expect from Razer’s camera powered by Intel?
The needs for webcams have grown tremendously in the past few years with the advent of game streaming. According to a study released last fall, more than 7.5 million minutes have been livestreamed on Twitch alone. Many of these streams superimpose players into the games themselves, and that’s where old webcams struggle. The Razer Stargazer bucks that trend and is the most powerful webcam ever created. Traditional webcams were needed for video conferencing with frame rate capture of only 30 frames-per-second, but the Razer Stargazer is capable of matching high-quality game streams with 60 frames-per-second. Intel RealSense technology makes this more than just a high-powered webcam. One of the most exciting advents there is Dynamic Background Removal, which gives gamers a true ‘green screen effect’ without the need for a studio, lights, or the actual green screen. This allows gamers to superimpose themselves in their game streams without showing their background. The Razer Stargazer also supports facial and gesture recognition, 3D scanning and more. In short, a professional streaming setup is more attainable than ever to amateur streamers out there. According to that same study I referenced earlier, there are almost 2 million broadcasters on Twitch, so the market for such a powerful and smart webcam is huge.
How is Razer marketing “Open Source Virtual Reality”? How will VR be a driver of new PC sales?
VR is creating a new way for people to experience games. It’s hard to say how big that market is or will become, but the technology is incredible, and companies like Oculus are bundling high-end PCs to power the hardware and software required with the headsets coming to market this year. We see this as a great thing for PC gamers, and the PC in general, as powerful machines will be in the hands of more people than ever before. However, we’re still in the very early stages of VR becoming truly accessible. Open Source Virtual Reality, or OSVR, is designed to support the growth of virtual reality headsets and other hardware, software and content to a more polished state that can be available to everyone, from the hackers to the general consumer. It’s not a competitor to what Oculus, HTC, Sony and others are doing. Instead, OSVR provides a single software plugin that makes every virtual reality device compatible with another within the OSVR ecosystem. Companies as big as Intel and Ubisoft are involved. All told, since OSVR’s was introduced at CES 2015, we have more than 300 partners in just over a year.
Lenovo and Razer recently teamed up to co-brand and co-market the Razer Edition gaming systems based on the Lenovo Y series. What are some other ways the company is repositioning to remain nimble in the future?
Our mission statement at Razer – For Gamers, By Gamers – presupposes an ultimately open platform from which we develop products and services for gamers. How our specific offerings manifest is solely in response to meeting the needs of the gaming community, whose needs are constantly evolving from within gaming and also from without it in terms of their lifestyle. Insofar as proactivity is concerned, we maintain key relationships and stay up to speed with respective development in areas of interest to gamers – ourselves included. Specifically, the partnership with Lenovo is focused on creating Razer Editions of some of the Lenovo Y Series products, two of which were announced at CES. Both brands will continue to create and market products under their respective brands outside of the scope of the partnership.
ESports is an arena that Razer is currently playing a big role in. How does the company plan on developing the engagement and experience for that platform in 2016?
One of the things we’re most excited about in terms of eSports engagement is Razer Arena. We see Razer Arena as a solution to open-up the full potential of tournament gaming for players, organizers and fans alike, which could lead to more players, more engagement, and ultimately more interest in eSports. The utility of our program applies to the most popular competitive titles today, including League of Legends, Call of Duty, CSGO, Dota2, World of Warcraft and others. What we’ve provided is a fully automated online tournament platform that covers a tournament lifecycle from start to finish, making it simple for organizers to create professional-grade tournaments and for players to participate. While there is more interest in eSports now than ever before, Razer has been involved in competitive gaming since the beginning. Before Arena, the vast majority of gamers didn’t have tools to really support tournaments, which are so critical for the growth of new talent. Being an online platform means that we’re not limited by physical boundaries, so the promise of Razer Arena is greater reach and more opportunities for aspiring players to shine.
How do you market to millennials as opposed to Generation X? Which markets would you consider experimenting more with?
We create and market all of our products for the benefit of gamers everywhere. Whether they’re Generation X, Millennial, Generation Z, or otherwise, Razer is committed to making great products that have profound effects on how people experience their favorite games. In terms of other markets we’re exploring more, Razer will always be focused on the gamer, but the technology we’re creating can benefit really anyone.
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