Razer made its name crafting and selling premium gaming peripherals. PC gamers swear by its mice (mouses?) and keyboards, while its laptops are generally considered some of the market’s top performers.
So video games – and gamers – are close to the company’s heart, as founder and CEO Min-Liang Tan tirelessly preaches from conference stages and his hyper-active social media accounts alike.
But that’s not all Razer is, or aspires to be. Speaking on stage at Tech in Asia Singapore 2017 with Rakuten Ventures managing director Saemin Ahn, Tan reiterated Razer’s “for gamers, by gamers” mantra more than once but also outlined how the company envisions its position in the entertainment space.
As Razer progressed from gaming peripherals to actual devices running games, it made strategic acqui-hires to get the talent it needed.
“These [products] required an entirely different approach in terms of engineering and design,” Tan said. As a business, you have two choices there – either figure out how to build new products in-house and hope for the best, or go out and hire people who are the best at it.
It’s not easy working at Razer – there’s no one we can copy from.
Razer has opted for the latter. To develop its gaming laptops, it brought in the engineering team of OQO, a now-defunct US hardware company that did pioneering work in creating powerful but compact computers. Its acquisition of Android-powered gaming console maker Ouya led to Razer’s foray on the TV set-top box.
Buying Lucasfilm’s elite sound tech company THX opened the door for its market-defining audio standards to grace Razer’s products (“It’s a company older than me,” quipped Tan – while technically not true for THX, Lucasfilm is older than Razer’s CEO so we’ll allow it). But more importantly, it positions Razer in a broader market beyond games.
More recently, the company bought Nextbit, a 30-strong team responsible for the Robin cloud-powered smartphone, and partnered with 3 Group, which operates telcos across Europe and Asia. At the same time, Razer reportedly attracted funding to the tune of US$50 to US$100 million from Horizon Ventures. The VC firm is owned by Li Ka-Shing, who is chairman of CK Hutchison, 3’s parent company.
While many speculate this is Razer’s entry into mobile phones (and previous history suggests this could be the case), Tan remained non-committal on that one. He admitted the mobile space is very exciting at the moment though.
The global partnership with 3 came about as the telco group wanted to grab more of “the youth market,” Tan explained. The deal involves co-branding on mobile devices and data plans tailored to gamers to reach younger customers who usually aren’t that impressed by things like tariff plans.
People will also be able to buy ZGold from physical outlets across 3’s network. Razer’s recently launched virtual currency can be used on a number of games and online stores. Finally, Razer will work with 3 to launch a new Razer store in Hong Kong and an esports arena in Ireland.
Talent is the common denominator in every strategy toward Razer’s future, and one of the things the company will not compromise on. Employing close to 1,000 people across nine offices worldwide, the company prefers to go where the talent is and bring it within the team, Tan said.
“And it’s not easy, working at Razer, because the responsibility is incredible,” he explained. “There’s no one we can copy from, there’s no one we can hire from and learn from. So talent is incredibly important.”
It’s all in service to Razer’s all-encompassing ambition. “This is the next step for us – we want to build a true entertainment company on a massive global scale,” Tan said. “It’s all about the talent, it’s all about the team, it’s all about the people.”
This is part of the coverage of TIA Singapore 2017, our conference taking place on May 17 and 18.