There are a number of large, diversified companies with a division that makes products for the game industry: Microsoft and Sony are obvious examples, and Plantronics is another such company. The majority of Plantronics’ $762 million in annual revenue (as of fiscal 2013) comes from sales of communications gear for business and the military. Gaming headsets have been a product line for Plantronics for over a decade as an obvious line extension for the company, and the company’s Gamecom line has gained a solid reputation among gamers.

But Plantronics is changing, and the [a]list daily sat down recently with Chuck Frizelle, head of gaming, and Dorothy Ferguson, director of product marketing for gaming, to discuss how Plantronics has evolved its approach to the gaming market.

Plantronics has been a presence in gaming for a long time. “Starting in 2002, we were the very first Xbox Live communicator headset, and we did collaborations with Valve and Bungie,” noted Frizelle. “I would pretty much say we’ve been dabbling in gaming over the last ten years or so.”

“When we did the partnership with Dolby we went from having standard audio headsets for the PC we specifically started targeted headsets for the gamer,” said Ferguson. “We started calling that our Gamecom line of products, and that’s what the 780, 380, 333 all fall under. That was in 2008-2009.”

Plantronics decided that the opportunity presented by the rapid growth in the gaming market, mobile devices and entertainment represented huge markets that had substantial crossover. “About 18 months ago our Board of Directors got together with the officers of the company looking at strategic initiatives for how we build out consumer in a bigger way, and gaming was the key initiative that came out of that,” Frizelle said. “We feel there’s so much potential in gaming. A year ago we started hiring in with Dorothy and myself, we have a whole new team with professionals from Xbox, Dell, HP, Astro, Turtle Beach, EA. People that have been in the dedicated gaming space across platform, accessories, software. We’ve got teams in place now on the marketing side, product management, a dedicated engineering team, and we’ve got people internationally who are focused on gaming as well.”

Devices designed for a single purpose might sell reasonably well, but devices designed to meet the diverse needs of customers for multiple purposes might do substantially better. Such products aren’t the result purely of engineering, but require a substantial understanding of the market, the customers, their psychology and the usage of products. The best products come from a multi-disciplinary effort that combines all of these factors, and then integrates marketing into the entire line.

“Our expertise in acoustics, human factors, industrial design, communications are all directly translatable to gaming,” said Frizelle. “But what I find particularly appealing is what we’ve done in mission-critical occupations — military, aviation, 911 call centers — we look at that as something that applies directly to games with the importance of two-way communication.”

“The rationale for why we got into gaming was the confluence of marketing trends,” said Frizelle. “Gaming continues to expand, there are new form factors, and mobile and smartphone is becoming more prevalent, and that’s our DNA. Look at the disruption of Oculus VR, Steam, potentially with Ouya, we know Apple’s doing things, Google is doing things, and Amazon is getting into this space as well. There’s an incredible amount of activity going on right now. And we know if it’s touching a PC, if it’s touching a console, if it’s touching a device, it’s our space because we’ve been there before.”

Everything is shifting to multiplayer, and the user interface is no longer about your fingers and your hands, it’s about your voice. “There’s a lot of opportunity in confluence of all those things for Plantronics,”said Frizelle. “It’s gaming meets entertainment meets communication.” As Ferguson noted, it’s not just gaming but the entire digital lifestyle. “What we’ve tried to is develop a product with ultimate versatility, and our expectation is of future products down the road. The RIG is a next-generation headset that does a lot of things.”

The initial results of these efforts have come together with the RIG system, which combines a stereo headset with a mixer that can integrate your smartphone or tablet into your console or PC gaming experience. The headset is designed to go with you as you move from device to device and from place to place, swapping out the boom mike for an inline mike as needed.


The Ayzenberg Group worked with Plantronics to launch the new RIG gaming headset, by developing a campaign that demonstrates RIG’s key features. The campaign, which includes a launch trailer and interactive website {link no longer active}, embodies RIG’s virtues by blending technology with creativity to deliver engaging experiences focused on users’ needs and interests captured in the consumer message of Play More, Pause Less.

Plantronics hasn’t neglected one of the most important features: price. The RIG is priced at $129.99, and offers sound quality and capabilities equal to much more expensive headsets. Perhaps as important, the headset is designed for long-term wearing comfort from a company that’s used to headsets being worn for 8 hours or more in many applications like call centers or aviation.

The RIG looks like just the first in a series of products for Plantronics aiming at the gaming, mobile, and entertainment audiences, though Plantronics isn’t confirming or denying that at this point. Clearly, though, there’s plenty of headroom for other features, like 7.1 sound or wireless capability, in future models. One thing isn’t speculation: Plantronics is dedicating the resources needed to expand its market share, and it will definitely be heating things up in the gaming accessories market.