HyperX, a division of Kingston Technology, has been working with NBA gamers Gordon Hayward and Jonas Jerebko through his eSports team, Renegades. It’s part of a marketing effort to reach into the mainstream and beyond the hardcore League of Legends, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Dota 2 core fans. HyperX is expanding by targeting Street Fighter fans through its partnership with Daigo “The Beast” Umehara.

Dustin Illingworth, influencer marketing specialist at HyperX, told [a]listdaily that signing Daigo was part of a larger strategy to reach out beyond the core eSports gamer. “He’s a console gamer and fighting game gamer and there’s not much presence there,” Illingworth said. “Daigo’s an international celebrity with his own manga series and is a bestselling author in Japan. We’ll leverage that celebrity and likeness across our products.”

“I was interested in working with a headset brand because the quality of a headset makes a tremendous difference in a player’s performance,” Umehara told [a]listdaily. “It is a lifesaver for me. I can focus on gameplay without being affected by outside noise. The Hyper X people knew about me and reached out to me. It was a rather organic partnership. I am very happy to be able to work with such a renowned brand in eSports as HyperX.”

Through the partnership, Umehara will wear HyperX gaming headsets exclusively when competing in international competitions like the recent Capcom Cup 2016 Street Fighter V World Championship in Anaheim, CA during Sony’s PlayStation Experience. Illingworth said Umehara is widely considered to be the most successful player in the history of the Street Fighter franchise, with dozens of major wins globally including six Evolution (Evo) Championship prizes. He’ll use HyperX Cloud Stinger, Cloud Revolver, HyperX Cloud and Cloud II headsets at matches.

Daigo has two decades of high-level tournament experience and he’s Twitch’s eSports ambassador,” Illingworth said. “He’s consistently ranked in the top eight in the world. He’s one of the first people you turn to when it comes to Street Fighter, and he’s a great guy.”

Illingworth also explained that the fighting game scene is diverse age-wise because a lot of people in their mid-30s grew up playing Street Fighter II, and then there are people who entered with the more recent Street Fighter 4 and 5 over the past decade.

However, Illingworth admits that,“fighting games as an eSport is still in its infancy, and certainly isn’t as big as CS:GO or League of Legends. But we want to engage with other eSports fans and that gaming community. When you go to Intel Extreme Masters for CS:GO, that fan base already knows us and many have a Cloud II headset. At the Capcom Cup Finals, people are vaguely aware of HyperX. There’s not that level of saturation. We feel like it’s a new territory with a ton of passionate gamers who don’t know about our products.”

ESPN, which caters to many sports fans not familiar with eSports, aired a taped version of the Capcom Cup Finals the day after the live event at PSX 2016. “I think it shows that the general public has started to view video games as more than just playthings—that they can be a part of sports—and that’s been very good for the community,” Umehara said.

HyperX invited Umehara to its headquarters right after the Capcom Cup Finals so he could stream live matches on Facebook Live with company employees from their game room. “We shot a mini-documentary at the Capcom Cup Finals, following Daigo around the event,” Illingworth said. “We interviewed his peers and asked why he’s so important to the scene in 2017.”

That video, which was produced internally, will debut on the HyperX YouTube channel. There’s a sense of excitement around the Street Fighter eSports community with the recent launch of Street Fighter V, which has leveled the playing field.

SFIV was a game for which experience was worth a lot, so many old timers were good at it,” Umehara said. “The latest installment, SFV, has simplified mechanics so it’s easier for new players to pick up, which helps bring in a newer and younger audience. In fact, we’re seeing many new, young faces overall, including at the top level. SFV, by its nature, offers lots of surprises and excitement because you never know who will win.”

HyperX is betting Umehara will continue to win. Even if he doesn’t, he’s already proved himself with a diverse range of fighting fans around the globe.

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