Threatened by the Xbox One and PS4? Nope, says Razer CEO
13th Jun 2013 | 20:12
Razer is feeling pretty sharp
The latter two run Intel Haswell chips, and with under-1-inch clamped closed profiles, the company is hoping to strike upon the elusive balance of performance and portability.
We caught up with Razer CEO Min-Liang Tan at the booth, chatting about his past as a lawyer, what he thinks about the mobile gaming space and whether Microsoft and Sony's consoles pose a serious threat to his business.
TechRadar: You announced the 14-inch Blade gaming laptop a few weeks back. What's the reaction been like since word got out on the computer with a 0.66-inch thin form factor?
Min-Liang Tan: We're having an insane amount of reaction to it. It's been positive – guys have been asking, Is it possible to actually do this? Is it technically feasible? And things like that. So we've published all kinds of articles on thermals and performance metrics. Pre-orders have been through the roof. It's been really exciting.
[On follow-up, a Razer spokesperson said as a private company doesn't disclose sales figures, but "sales for the newest systems have done really, really well."]
TR: What's the disconnect for people that makes them question the laptop's capabilities?
MT: Most people think it's either thick and heavy with power or thin and light and no performance. But all of a sudden, we're just trying to throw everything out of the window and say, look, it is possible to have something super thin and super light, but still insanely powerful.
So most people are saying, Is this real? Are you overclocking it? And this and that. So we run all of these tests and it's been really great for PC gaming.
And now with the PS4 and Xbox One on the x86 platform, we think this is a great time for PC gaming.
TR: Speaking of those next-gen consoles, Nvidia came out this week and said that while its chips aren't in the machines, the AMD processors they do have actually raise the bar for PC gaming. Razer works closely with Nvidia - do you agree with that sentiment?
MT: I totally agree. I see it as a great move because ... it's now a lot easier for them to develop for the Xbox One, PS4 and for the PC at the same time, so that it's just great for everyone.
TR: You don't feel like Razer is threatened by the new consoles?
MT: I think gamers are going to have a PC, they're going to have an Xbox One, [or] they're going to have a PS4. I think it's a huge plus point as opposed to anything else.
TR: OK, but let's say someone only has a certain amount to spend on either an Xbox One, PS4 or a PC.
MT: I'm sure there are times when you'll have a limited budget, and you only have one choice. But for me, the PC is like a fourth console. It's a fourth console of sorts where it's also a productivity device. It's many things to many people, so I do hope that if they only have a certain amount, they get a PC.
TR: You mentioned when we spoke last month that Razer doesn't look at what competitors are doing, instead challenging yourselves internally. But do you think competitors are looking at the 14-inch Blade with interest?
MT: I'm pretty sure they are. I think it's great. Back in the day, like two years ago when we first started this, people were saying, You're nuts. Now we're seeing a lot of copycats come out of Taiwan. People will ask me - at Computex, and even over here - is that something I get mad at? Absolutely not.
I think it's a good sign. I think the great thing about PC is it's all about choice. I have a pretty active Facebook page where I talk to the community and I tell them, Look, get a Razer, don't get a Razer, go get an Alienware, or don't get an Alienware. Go build your own rig. The great thing about PC is that it's all about choice. And that's what I love about it.
If we can push the industry in a certain direction, I think that's great. It's like, back in the day when I first started gaming peripherals, everybody said, Min, You're nuts. But when I was at Computex and even here, we're seeing stuff like gaming mice. We started this entire industry, which is insanely cool.
TR: [An E3 attendee came over to thank Tan for his Facebook posts and to keep it up.] Like that gentleman just said, you're really active on Facebook. Why do you think it's important to keep that dialogue open between you and your customers?
MT: I like these shows because I get the chance to meet up with gamers and chat with them. It's what we do this for. I'll be candid, I can remember somebody's name or a gamer that I've met. I probably can't tell you what the sales results were last month. So I mean we do this...it's fun. I only do it because it's fun. I hope I don't have to do it when it's not fun anymore.
Facebook is a great way for me to connect. All these messages come through, with people writing, 'I know you're an admin or the admin team, can you send this to Min?' And I'm looking at all these posts myself, and I don't know how to respond.
If I respond, and I'm doing it myself, is this guy going to think I'm unprofessional or something like that But yeah, I run it all myself.
TR: Is there any technology - gaming or not, that you're really excited about right now? Anything we could see in future Razer products?
MT: Lots of people always ask why we don't bring our tech to the military or medical fields and stuff like that, so that's one thing that I'd really like to do.
On top of that, things like Google Glass, augmented reality, virtual reality, biofeedback, I'm excited about all of that.
Now, whether it's going to be relevant for Razer or otherwise…I'm a tech guy at heart. Anything that's cool, I'm all for it.
I'm pretty active on Kickstarter actually. I find a lot of stuff there, even things I sometimes shouldn't fund.
TR: What do you invest in on Kickstarter?
MT: It all started with Wasteland. I used to pirate the game, and when Brian Fargo did the follow-up, I felt so guilty I did a big backing behind it. And since then I've been backing a lot of games. So mainly games, but every time I see little cool stuff I do that, too.
TR: You were a lawyer before you started Razer. How did you transition from the courtroom to the board room?
MT: I like being a lawyer. I like drafting and stuff like that. But I've been playing games for a very long time.
I don't know – would I go back and draft a contract? Probably. I mean I'm OK with that, but I just really like playing games and when I've got an opportunity today to influence the industry in the little small way that we do, it's a privilege. It's cool. I love what I do.
It gets tiring from time to time and I'm like, holy crap, this is tough. In the past four weeks I've been to and fro from Asia - I've been around the world at least three times. It's painful.
TR: You've got the Edge tablet, but how interested is Razer really in the mobile space? Will we see more products from Razer in this area?
MT: Absolutely. One of the common questions I get all the time is are we building a gaming phone. And I really think mobility is important, but to sacrifice quality of gaming, I don't think that's something our customer base is happy with.
I play a lot of mobile games. Embarrassingly enough, I play Candy Crush. I'm going to lose some street cred, but I play some Candy Crush and all that kind of stuff. But it's just not as engaging as a World of Warcraft or games like that. So I don't think it will ever replace what we're doing, until such a day comes when we're able to have cloud gaming, or stream it across to a smaller device and keep that quality and that level of engagement.
TR: So I really liked the 14-inch Razer when I went hands on with it, but my biggest hang up was the screen. I thought the resolution was lacking.
MT: For us to get it as thin as it gets, we had to use a special screen. But it's HD+. As a smaller company, we may not necessarily have exclusives with the screen manufacturers that a larger company has.
Slowly and surely as we take over the world, we're going to get there. And that to me is part of a larger design vision. Sometimes we need to do things to get to be a larger company, and that's what we want to do. But even an HD+ screen is pretty…it's1600 x 900. But it could be better.
Our focus was not so much for graphics work and stuff like that. The focus was more for frame rates and gaming. So with this 1600 x 900, the frame rates are incredible for gaming. And that's pretty much one of the big focuses for us.
TR: Is Razer going to stay in the 14- and 17-inch space, or can we expect other screen sizes?
MT: I think it's enough for us.
TR: Is the Razer we have today what you envisioned when you started? Or is there still a lot more growth to go?
MT: I think we've just gotten started. It's just really cool because now we've got more resources to do more products, to design the crazy stuff we want to design. That's what we want to continue doing, just pushing the envelope day after day.