Gaming gear has been around for decades at this point; for as long as there have been dedicated, passionate fans, there have been customers willing to invest in the best possible experience. It really does go way back, back to the first peripherals for the Nintendo (remember that GameBoy colour plugin printer?). Even when PCs were still mountainous hulks in the family office, square and noisy, gaming hardware was a thing. Of course, it wasn’t so specialised. It was more about joysticks and steering wheels than dpi mice at that point. But that would change given a little time.
In the years since those glory days, entire companies have risen and fallen around the creation of things that we today take for granted on hardware store shelves. Things like mice for gamers, headsets for gamers, mouse pads – hell, even energy drinks specifically for gamers. In the West, company names like Razer, Alienware, Turtlebeach and Logitech come to mind. They’re the giants that have built brands to last, but they’re not the only ones in the crowded market. More recently, the gaming industry in Asia has been taking steps to up the ante for example, and that means competition is on the rise. Are Japanese or Korean peripherals worth your time? Are they worth the price? Let’s find out.
New Kids in Town
One of the biggest changes to the games industry recently has been eSports. Just like peripherals, competitive gaming has been around from the start, and these pros are some of the mice and other hardware companies’ most avid customers. These days, however, the stakes are a little bigger: eSports is franchising; eSports is huge. Just look at Overwatch with its global league. Speaking of leagues, how about League of Legends? How about Counterstrike or DOTA 2? These new marketplaces all have one thing in common: they’re global. Thanks to the internet, these tournaments, regardless of the game, get streamed straight to homes and screens everywhere. With some of the biggest names being Korean eSports players and, with the country so idolised in the community for its skill, it’s no wonder that their hardware is on the up and up. Players at home want just as many advantages as the players in the world’s finals.
Think about it. Every time an Esports player is on screen, their hardware is seen by millions. Their team shirts come with branded logos. Their sponsorships have power; not just locally, but abroad as well here in the West. More and more Western customers are being exposed to Asian tech, and more and more Asian tech is breaking out partly as a result.
The Big Hitters
For those of you inexperienced with this fledging scene, here’s a quick rundown of a few big hitters.
1. Ttesports by Thermaltake
Asia, and especially China, is one of the biggest tech customer bases in the world, and Thermaltake know it better than most. A computer hardware company, their soundcards, keyboards, mice and headsets are quite popular, selling well almost everywhere. One big draw is their customisable mice (we like those!). Gamers can choose from models designed specifically for MMOs, shooters or strategy games, with add-ons and gimmicks catering to each genre and each product.
2. Gigabyte Technology
A Taiwanese company, Gigabyte have been around since 1986, but it’s only more recently with the success of their eSports-sponsored teams that more customers have been drawn to their online shelves. With a variety of items, including mice, they rely on sponsorships and branding to bring in interest. Gigabyte host several titular eSports tournaments as a result.
3. Asus (Republic of Gamers)
Most of us here in the West already know Asus. They make monitors and computers, right? Right. But that’s not at all. In 2006, the Taiwanese manufacturer created a subsidiary branch known as Asus Republic of Gamers. Asus Republic of Gamers does what it says on the tin, catering to PCs and their add-ons for gaming in particular. They make cooling systems, cases, motherboards and more, and they’ve tried to spread brand awareness through eSports like many others. Blizzcon and DreamHack sponsorships are of particular note.
Quality vs. Economy
Gamers, and customers, in general, like to buy what they know. We’re loyal folk. That’s what makes breaking into our Western market particularly hard for Asian companies like those above, but it is happening. Names and reputations are gaining traction – one problem, however, is taxes.
A lot of hardware is made in Asia already but when it’s designed, made and shipped from Asia at top quality from the company (as things like gaming mice tend to be) prices can go up. Import and shipping costs on delicate machinery may have some gamers hesitant to make the leap to a new mouse or hardware from the East as a result. Even exchange rates can affect prices; if the JPY to USD exchange rates – a pairing that’s strongly intertwined – were to shift, for example, manufacturers, retailers and eventual customers like you or me could be getting more or less product for their original cash. So that’s one drawback of shopping in the Asian market when living outside of it – currency value is relevant.
There’s also the stigma that exists around Asian electronics; that Japanese mice or keyboards are automatically of higher quality than those made in China for example, despite the fact that these businesses and markets overlap greatly. The fact is that all Asian gaming gear is already doing well. Their market is simply much larger. One stat put Chinese eSports enthusiasts as 13% more likely to watch a certain tourney than 1% in the West for example, with generally older viewers (bigger budgets) and a larger than normal share of women in the scene. There are more Asian customers for these companies than Western and, if they’re already successful, then their products will be of top quality regardless of where they come from.
Our future is international gaming: global stars, eSports with multi-million dollar prize pools, localised teams and a worldwide community of players. We’ve opened up Pandora’s box. These companies and more are certainly worth your time when browsing. They’re certainly worth your awareness, your consideration, and, maybe, just one day (when they sponsor your favourite gaming team) your brand loyalty.