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Interview with SteelSeries' Kim Rom


by Stuart Davidson - 6th Jan 2012
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SteelSeries Interview with Kim Rom
Hi Kim, thanks for speaking to HardwareHeaven today. Can you explain to our readers a little bit about your role at SteelSeries? What you get up to day to day, etc.

I head up our global marketing and PR department, which really means that I spend most of my time talking to all sorts of people - from journalists, pro gamers, communities, customers, to people trying to sell me stuff. I do a lot of talking. And quite a bit of listening.

If you were to sum up SteelSeries to a consumer for the first time, how would you explain what makes SteelSeries unique in the market?

We make hardware and software that boost or ease your interaction with a computer or computing capable device. Our mission is to help you win, in whatever game, task or scenario you need to conquer.

Over the past couple of years we have seen a number of high quality items released by SteelSeries, what product are you most proud of and why?

For me a defining moment in both my own career and in SteelSeries history would be the release of the SteelSeries Sensei mouse. I am super proud of what the final product became, but also equally proud about how we listened, researched, developed and ultimately created it. The path to the final product was really rewarding for me. I think it is a remarkable piece of technology and I think it's a product I will be proud of for a long time.

I assume you use that product on your own PC. What other items do you use and are you a gamer... if so what sort of titles have you enjoyed this year?
I would suck at what I do if I wasn't a hardcore gamer. ;-) My gaming PC, is a laptop from MSI (with a SteelSeries keyboard), a Sensei, Siberia v2, QcK heavy and sometimes a 6Gv2 gets plugged into it. As for games - I am sorry to say this but I actually think 2011 was a relatively weak year for PC gaming in general, the games I load up on my PC these days are Star Wars: The Old Republic, Skyrim, StarCraft II and Left 4 Dead 2.
Our favourite item has probably been the Sensei mouse due to its comfortable shape, great features and excellent performance. Is there any feature you would have liked to see on that mouse that didn't make it into the design?

No, not really. :] From a feature perspective, it has everything we wanted to launch with, and from a technology perspective it is "future proof" because of its 32bit ARM processor and the power it brings. Because the Sensei is SteelSeries Engine supported we will actually add new functionality over time, which will be intoduced over the course of 2012.

If you could pick one competitor product or feature and say "I wish we had thought of that first" what would it be?

I saw one of our competitors from Singapore announce that they had invented the world's first true gaming laptop earlier this year. I wish we had thought of doing that before MSI, Alienware, Origin, ASUS and all of the other companies that had done this same thing many years ago.

Mechanical keyboards seem to be all the rage at the moment and most of your competitors have released products to try and compete with the SteelSeries 7G (and 6G V2). Do you think mechanical boards will become the norm, or are standard keyboards still going to have a large part to play in the gaming market?

No, I don't think mechanical keyboards will become the norm. I think keyboards are subject to personal preference and individual usage scenario, and I think the price is an important factor as well. The mechanical keyboard is ultimately more expensive, and in many cases less mobile, than scissor and rubber-dome keyboards. This will limit their market share and keep them from becoming "the norm", especially as more and more computing platforms in the future will feature a built in keyboard (like laptops). But you are absolutely right regarding mindshare - we released our first mechanical gaming keyboard back in 2006, the category has really seen amazing growth since then.

There have been some successful collaborations between SteelSeries and Blizzard over the past couple of years. Clearly they are very happy with the products you are producing. How much involvement do they have on the hardware and software design? As a secondary question, do you ever see a situation where input from you guys on an upcoming controller will impact how a feature works in Blizzards games?

Blizzard is an amazing partner to work with because they really, really, really care about everything around their titles. That includes our hardware and software as it's related to their titles as well. I will give you an example: when I presented our vision for a Diablo III mouse to Blizzard, Jay Wilson the lead designer of the game was in the room. That should say something about how much Blizzard as a company (and culture) cares about everything surrounding their products. They apply the same "when it's done" mentality to their licensee partners as they do to their own games, which is ultimately why I think they are so successful. As for your second question, I honestly don't know. Have you ever met the designers at Blizzard? I would be hard pressed to find a more intelligent and passionate group of people. I don't want to put myself down, but I am not sure I would be capable of coming up with a significant game related feature they wouldn't have thought about first.

Motion controls have really started to take hold on consoles thanks to the Wii and more recently Kinect. Razer have of course also taken a stab at that style of controller with limited success. Do you see that as something SteelSeries would explore in the near future? If not, why not? (Or is this where the SRW-S1 comes in?)

I have nothing against motion control per se, but I think it has to make sense and bring genuine value to the user. For me personally, I think that waving a magic wand or whatever in front of my PC would be utterly pointless and defeat the purpose of what my gaming usually is: relaxation for various parts of my brain. But that same experience can be awesome in the right environment: my parents had never played a computer game in their life, they just had zero interest in that. But be damned if I didn't have to kick them out of my house after 8 hours of Wii bowling, they just didn't want to stop (or leave). So to answer your question: for us motion controls makes sense in some environments and seems super gimmicky in others. Like you say, something like the SRW-S1 Steering Wheel makes sense to us, because it is using technology with a purpose and it brings value to the user. It's not technology for the sake of technology. And it is not a gimmick.

In the past few years we have seen SteelSeries branch out into console products. Is this because you see the PC becoming less of a gaming platform in the future or will it continue to be a key and strong market for some time?

We are actually not prejudiced at all! ;-) By that I mean that gaming is gaming, no matter where, how or what you play. Our roots as a company, as a culture and as individuals are with the PC platform, because that is where we grew up. But our mission is definitely to help gamers win; anywhere, anytime. While PC gaming will absolutely remain our core focus for a long time to come, we are also working on some pretty exciting stuff for both consoles and the emerging mobile platforms as well.

Thanks for talking to us!
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