Razer CEO Interview (Min-Liang Tan)
Min-Liang Tan is the CEO and creative director of Razer, as well as the company's co-founder along with Robert Krakoff. He is a board member of the PC Gaming Alliance, has been named one of “The Top 25 Most Creative People in Tech” by Business Insider and was recently given third position on Juniper Research's 2015 list of the top 10 technology leaders, influencers and visionaries. Bit-tech caught up with Tan during his recent pre-E3 press tour to chat about Razer as a company, its products and Tan's views on the gaming and esports markets.
bit-tech: Give us a snapshot of Razer's position in the market, and how you're looking to grow upon this?
We don't really focus on sales figures. For us, it's all about creating the best possible product. We're the only company in the world that has won 'Best of CES' five times in a row; that's like a stamp of approval of innovation. But I think there have been reports by analysts etc. that have us in a leadership position for gaming mice and we maintain that but, candidly, our focus has always been to design great products. It's not so much about shipping the most. Could we easily ship more than what we're shipping today? Absolutely – we can dumb down the products, bring the price lower etc., but that's not what Razer's about.
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bit-tech: What would you say to those who say the PC is dying, or that mobile gaming is taking over?
I see these as separate issues altogether. Let's talk about the PC as a whole. I think the industry has kind of stagnated but the PC gaming business is on an exponential drive. We're seeing exclusives right now. XCOM 2, for example, which I'm actually very excited about, is going to be a PC exclusive. We're seeing all kinds of games, Star Citizen, for example, is gonna be a PC exclusive too. I think PC gaming is massive and we're super excited about it.
Now, the thing about Razer is that we are a company for gamers, by gamers and we didn't necessarily say just for PC. So on the mobile side of things, for Android, in fact, we are very excited. The Forge TV, which we haven't launched in Europe, but which we will do very, very soon, is revolving all around the Android living room experience and mobile is definitely something that we are excited about too. So those are areas that we see huge opportunities for Razer to bring a much better experience than what's available right now.
bit-tech: You mentioned your 'For Gamers. By Gamers' slogan. How would you say the needs of gamers have most changed since you started Razer?
That's actually an interesting question. We have seen the users grow up with us because gaming stays with you, we just play differently now. Back in the day, I would say there were fewer great games. Today, we tend to have to be very judicious in the games that we play because there's so much more opportunity to play great games. It's a better time to be a gamer now than any time before and with the promise of new technologies like VR and things like that I wouldn't give it up for anything in the world, and I'm really excited about the prospects of gaming as a whole.
Razer's a very different company from pretty much every other company out there. Many gaming companies, or companies that are building gaming products, are doing it because it's a growing category or market for them. For us, we will always be doing gaming, we were doing gaming products before it was sexy. We created this category. We'll still be doing gaming products when it's not sexy because that's what we know. We've had people in healthcare, military and space programs approach us. We're happy to license our technology out but when they ask if we'd be happy to build products for them, we know it could be lucrative but that's not us. We prefer to focus on what we're great at, which is designing products for gamers.
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bit-tech: What are the biggest risks Razer has taken?
Oddly enough, I don't think we really think about taking risks in the traditional sense. It's like playing a game, you think you're going to respawn anyway. Sometimes you do something really stupid and people ask, “what were you doing?” And you go, “well it seemed like a good idea at the time.” I think that's the way we do things at Razer. We don't necessarily weigh in, we ask if it's going to be fun and then do it.
bit-tech: What can we expect to see from Razer in the short term, say within the next year or two, generally speaking?
I think that every other company that's making a product for gamers would love to know the answer. The thing about Razer is we don't design products right now, we design entire industries; we design entire new categories. Every new category that we go into, everybody rushes into it, because we take the risks. We are the ones that kind of spearhead it for everyone, that's what we do, so we don't necessarily disclose what we're working on.