Razer is one of the largest video game peripheral makers in the world today, mostly manufacturing eye-pleasing and functionally great hardware for the PC. The company recently dabbled with console hardware releasing the world’s only premium Xbox 360 controller, the Razer Onza, and a headset for the console, the Razer Chimera. Razer has also tied-up with Sixense to bring motion sensing controls to PC gaming.
Razer CEO Min-Liang Tan (MT) was recently in Mumbai, India to showcase a few of the company’s products and to emphasize that the company was now in India and with a bang. GameGuru (GG) had a heart-to-heart chat with him on things like his stand on Razer in India, gaming tournaments, future plans for the company in a market known for its extreme price sensitivity, and much more. The following is the interview we had with him:
GG: What are Razer’s plans for India?
MT: Well, Razer today, we’re the world’s largest gaming hardware brand and we’ve been looking at opportunities worldwide. Essentially we’re following where the gamer is, because we firmly believe in ‘for gamers by gamers’ and we’ve been hearing a lot of grass root support coming from India. This is not stuff that you can look at from a business report; it’s not something you can look at from a research institute or something like that. Because we are gamers ourselves, we went to forums and started looking at articles and websites, and we realized that there is a growing up show of gamers in India. And that’s why I think today we’re here, to kind of get to know you guys and have you guys get to know our products, and to see what other opportunities there are for us to grow our business in India.
GG: What are your expectations from the Indian market?
MT: Actually, I think it’s a little different. It’s not exactly what our expectations are, but we are hoping to hear what the expectations of the gamers in India are, what they have in terms of us. We want to be able to kind of grow the entire industry. You know I’ve been a gamer all my life, and I still play a whole lot of games at the same time. I think what we’d like to do for the entire industry or for the entire country is to bring gaming up as a real solid form of entertainment. It’s something where people can get together and play, whether it’s hard core serious games or just casual games. Our expectations are really to grow the industry and have the industry know who we are; and that we kind of do this together with the gamers in India.
GG: What is your target audience or demographic in India?
MT: Well to start off with, we’re really looking at hardcore gamers. In fact, it’s not for us here to tell them what Razer is because we know that a hardcore gamer in India will know who Razer is right now. But really to say, let’s get our products available to the gamers at this point of time, the hardcore gamers. I know a lot of gamers in India are shipping products from overseas because they can’t really get hold of products. And we’ve brought in specific people to help us grow the Indian market. So, you know, we really want to be able to spend a lot more time establishing the industry together with you guys.
GG: One question that’s probably on everyone’s mind: Why did it take you so long to come to India?
MT: Well, I’ve been pretty busy (laughs). But to be honest, about half my time I play computer games too. It’s like, ‘why does it take so long for us to do our homework?’, I remember mum saying it. Well, as I always used to tell, better late than never, right? But I think part of it is also we’re kind of seeing a tipping point of sorts, of gaming to take off in India. And you know, there are many companies out there who will say ‘look we’re interested in the gaming market in India’ and stuff like that. They can talk about it, but they disappear after a while and things like that. We’re kind of different. We take a little while longer, to do certain things. But once we enter a market, we will commit a hundred percent into the market. This is what we plan to do, to grow our business over here.
GG: How aggressive a strategy do you plan to mount then?
MT: It’s like playing Counter-Strike or it’s like playing Quake. We’re going to be very aggressive!
GG: There’s hasn’t been much Razer brand awareness in India. Are you planning to change that now?
MT: I wouldn’t say we’re planning to change that, we’re planning to grow that. A lot of the hardcore gamers who are more familiar with, say American media, where we’re number one there, or European media, they all know who we are. But we plan to grow that awareness in two ways. One is to support the local gaming industry, tournaments or pro-gaming teams. The other is to really provide for greater availability of our products throughout India. Please get our message out that Razer is here in India. We’re here to stay and we’re here to grow our business.
GG: What are your plans for sponsoring LAN tournaments and clans in India?
MT: I’ve had back-to-back meetings the whole of yesterday, talking and planning stuff out. We’ve got a couple of things lined up but I think you’ll hear news from us in the next couple of months. And once we’re kind of firmed up with actual details, you guys will be one of the first to know.
GG: Any tie-ups with any Indian gaming firms?
MT: We’ve talked to a couple of them, you know; we’ve talked to Indiagames for example. We’ve had a chat with some of the other local guys over here, the big boys. You know, for us our goal is to go in ‘bam!’ and create a lot of noise. When we do an event, we want to have it be the most phenomenal, the most awesome event out there. Likewise the kind of products that we create. We kind of release products really late. We take our time about it, but when we release a product, you know it’s a Razer product. So likewise for the events that we want to sponsor. When we announce it, it’s gonna be a Razer event.
GG: Many people think PC gaming is dying. What are your views on this?
MT: Well, every time I hear people say that PC gaming is dying. They’ve said it 5 years ago, they’ve said it 10 years ago. Every time there’s a cycle in terms of consoles. I see both as mutually complementary to each other. I play Xbox 360 games, I play PS3 games, I play PC games also at the same time. Every platform has great games and you know, sometimes you may play God of War III, for example and it’s exclusive. Or you may play World of Warcraft. Try playing World of Warcraft on an Xbox. You can’t do that, right? So, specifically for India, I see the entire market growing for India. So I think that’s a key thing. I don’t just see PC gaming growing. I see it growing a lot. I see console gaming growing a lot. In January, we launched the world’s first premium Xbox controller, the Razer Onza, and the Razer Chimera. And there’s been a lot excitement in terms of that, where we bring the Razer brand to console gaming. ‘For gamers, by gamers’; we’ve never said for ‘for PC gamers, by PC gamers’; it’s ‘for gamers, by gamers’. Anything that we believe that a gamer will want, we’re there.
GG: Traditionally India has proven to be a very price-sensitive market. How do you plan to market your products in such a market?
MT: Well, India is a price sensitive market. Gamers are not a price sensitive market. When we develop a product, we don’t go in and say, ‘Look I’m gonna put in three products in a bundle and drop the price by half and try to bring the cheapest products to the market’. That’s not what we believe in. We believe in creating a product that is great, and then we peg a price to it. In fact, some of the other companies do it in a different way. They put a price to it and then they create a product and try to make a margin and stuff like that. We don’t do that. We design a product inside out, whether it’s from a packaging perspective. And I know that because I’m in charge of all designing in Razer. We design it to the extent where we believe that it’s going to provide an unfair advantage for the gamer, you know, a competitive advantage. Then we peg a price to it. So while India is a bit of a price sensitive market, the gamers in India are the same as those worldwide. Just as yesterday, when I was at a cyber cafe, those guys were gamers. They were not Indian gamers or anything, but they were gamers. It’s a universal concept.
GG: Where do you see Razer 5 years from now?
MT: Well, today we are one of the world’s largest gaming peripherals company. We intend to be focused only on gaming. Our technology is about 3 our 4 generations ahead of all pointing or mobile devices. So what we intend to do is to just focus only on gaming, nothing else. I’m a gamer, I’m never gonna be able to do a good corporate mouse, for example. You know, we’ve got other great companies doing that. Logitech, for example, made a phenomenal office mouse. We will not be looking at that portion. Well be looking at growing our business in terms of gaming, lifestyle. Anything a gamer is interested in, we’re gonna be doing that.
GG: Cricket is very popular in India. Do you have any plans to introduce a peripheral that supports cricket games?
MT: Well, yeah, of course. I think cricket is something we’re definitely looking very closely at. I can’t comment any further on that. Why I’m here, I think, for the first time ever, is to really understand what the gamers here are looking for. And cricket, keep an eye out and see what we’re gonna announce.
GG: So there is going to be something then?
MT: We’re looking at it, I think we’re looking at it. We’ll need a bit of convincing. I’d like to tell the gamers, ‘Add me on Twitter’ for example. You know, tell me what the gamers are looking for. Definitely if I see a hundred thousand tweets telling me to do cricket in India, I’ll think about it.
GG: What PC games are you excited about for this year?
MT: Starcraft II, right. We did an announcement in April together with Blizzard that the Starcraft II peripherals, we’re gonna be handling that. We’ve got a full exclusive team worldwide for that where we’re actually developing hardware that is not just hardware that is any hardware. But it’s hardware that is linked intimately with the game itself. So Starcraft II is slated for this year. It’s ready when it’s ready. It was supposed to be last year but I think it’s gonna be this year. I’ve been playing the beta, for a while and I think it’s gonna be one of the most phenomenal games for the year, if not for the decade. You know people have been playing Starcraft for a decade. So I’m looking forward to Starcraft II.
GG: Okay, since you’re developing a Starcraft II peripheral, what advantage will it give gamers?
MT: You’ve gotta wait for the launch of Starcraft II. You know, we have a policy that you see the full specifications and the full features and definitely, I think, we’ll have you on the review list and you can check it out. But play Starcraft II. I love the game. Great phenomenal company, Blizzard.
GG: What is your favorite Razer product?
MT: What is my favorite Razer product? You’re putting me on a spot. I’ve got actually favorites in each category. The Mamba is one of my favourites, I think in terms of technology. So in terms of technology it’s about three or four generations ahead. We’ve launched the first wireless connection that is as good as a wired connection and nobody has been able to do that for the past one and a half years, by far. That’s only because we’ve got a dedicated R&D team. The other one which I really have a personal favorite for is the Razer Orochi. It’s one of the most beautiful products ever designed. I mean, if you look at it, even without the Razer logo on it, the way the light plays on the surfaces and stuff like that, people know it’s a Razer product. So this is probably one of the most beautiful products we’ve ever designed, one of my favorites actually. The Mamba, the Orochina, the DeathAdder. I use the DeathAdder all the time. So I could go on and on about it. Every one of it is a little piece of me. So you know, that’s my personal take on it.