SteelSeries Interview: Jacob Wolff-Petersen (Founder)

May 4, 2018 | 12:00

Tags: #gaming-headset #gaming-keyboard #gaming-peripherals #interview #jacob-wolff-petersen #peripherals #steelseries

Companies: #steelseries

Of all the peripherals, headsets were the obvious choice to focus on to appeal to cross-platform gamers. Capitalising on the success and popularity of the Siberia headsets, SteelSeries launched its Arctis family in late 2016. These, plus some updated keyboard and mice offerings, ‘really put [SteelSeries] back onto the map’ in Jacob’s opinion. Within the Arctis range are headsets geared towards cross-platform use, and now that family is being expanded with a trio of Arctis Pro headsets. ‘In many ways when I look outside in, I really see the strongest product portfolio that the company has ever had, and coming out now with the Pro level of our gaming headsets – woah that excites me quite a lot to be honest!

The Arctis Pro is the highest spec headset SteelSeries has ever offered, building on the foundations laid by the Siberia 800 and Siberia 840. It comes in three flavours: a regular wired model for PC only, a second wired model with a bundled ‘GameDAC’ amplifier with high-end audio components and support for PC and PS4, and a top-tier wireless SKU again with cross-platform support. The cross-platform capability is proper as well; features like Dolby DTS Headphone:X v2 surround sound (a first in gaming) and the onboard chat mixing and equalizer controls are available on PC and PS4.

But it isn’t just the ability to appeal to cross-platform gamers that has Jacob excited. ‘I think people are very enthusiastic about having a company introducing a completely new high standard into audiophile for gaming,’ he opines. The Arctis Pro + GameDAC model carries official Hi-Res Audio certification, with the ESS Sabre 9018 DAC ensuring it can deliver 96kHz, 24-bit audio support. ‘Everything happens out in the Game DAC, so it’s really a clarification of the sound, plus you have a soundscape that’s now going from like 10Hz to 40kHz. As you probably know, your ear can only hear from 20Hz to 20kHz, but when looking at a response curve, then down at 20Hz it’s not responding very well, and it often falls off as well around 20,000 Hz, but when you’re getting a speaker that’s going up to 40kHz, you will see a flat response curve across the spectrum where you can actually hear, which is what you want, so you’re definitely accessing some areas that are not available with “normal” headsets.

The Arctis Pro Wireless, meanwhile, ‘features a dual-wireless system where its lossless and low latency 2.4G connection is used for gaming while Bluetooth is used to connect to mobile devices’, allowing gamers to connect to the Discord app separately to the game itself. Questioned on wireless peripherals more generally, Jacob believes we’ve now ‘moved into an era where a wireless setup performance-wise is definitely matching up [to wired setups] but still is more complicated’, referencing never having to worry about battery or connectivity setup issues (especially in competitive environs).

Priced at £180, £250, and £300, the Arctis Pro headsets do not come cheap, but this isn’t a problem for Jacob. ‘SteelSeries should be the most premium brand in gaming. That is how I wanna feel. I don’t wanna compete in and only live by NPD data or who has the highest dollar share at a $79 retail price, right? I really don’t. It’s so much more fun and inspiring to be in another place. I prefer to keep the brand integrity and my integrity and go make great products.

Of course, SteelSeries doesn’t occupy the premium gaming space by itself. Quizzed on how the company stands out from competitors like Corsair, Razer, and Logitech, Jacob reckons the Arctis Pro will easily speak for itself, but also highlights the firm’s software (SteelSeries Engine) as ‘using the least memory on your computer of all of them’ and appealing to the sort of customers that really want to get into the nitty-gritty of their gaming setups. The aforementioned focus on gaming alone also crops up again: ‘I think many of the other companies are focused on many different things [and] I just think we are very focused on that one thing of giving a pro gamer and down from there a very good experience on our products.

Regarding the SteelSeries customer base, Jacob thinks, ‘SteelSeries is a brand for gamers that are demanding a lot, and that’s not said in a negative way to the gamers that don’t demand a lot, because I think it’s perfectly okay to be a gamer that's only jumping in and out, but we are not necessarily always the brand for them.’ It appears to come back to the ‘Winning Is Everything’ slogan: ‘If you wanna take the time set up your stuff, concentrate on how your stats are, go improve yourself, be better no mater what your level – really concentrate on being better – then I think we’re really the brand for that person.

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