HyperX Dis­cusses its Key­board De­sign and More

Mar­cus Her­mann and Ed­ward Baily talk pe­riph­er­als

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A sub­sidiary of Kingston, gam­ing-ori­ented HyperX has dom­i­nated mem­ory and high­end stor­age, and has cre­ated some fan­tas­tic head­phones. Now it’s pro­duced the award­win­ning Al­loy key­board. We spoke to se­nior busi­ness man­ager, Mar­cus Her­mann, and Ed­ward Baily, EMEA HyperX busi­ness man­ager, about what the fu­ture holds for the com­pany and the pe­riph­er­als mar­ket, and what im­pact eS­ports is hav­ing on the in­dus­try.

Max­i­mum PC: HyperX has some­thing of a leg­endary rep­u­ta­tion among hard­ware re­view­ers like our­selves— cer­tainly when it comes to great au­dio. The Cloud head­set, in par­tic­u­lar, rat­tled cages when it first launched for be­ing such a solid prod­uct at an ex­cep­tional price. Now, we know that was based on Qpad’s QH-90 head­set, but can you talk to us a lit­tle about what made HyperX de­cide to swal­low its pride and go for a de­sign that was al­ready very well es­tab­lished? Ed­ward Baily: In­ter­est­ingly, a lot of peo­ple don’t know this, but we ac­tu­ally part­nered with SteelSeries be­fore talk­ing to Qpad at all. We worked to cre­ate a fully cus­tom HyperX Siberia V2 gam­ing head­set—this was our first ven­ture into the gam­ing pe­riph­eral mar­ket at all. Fur­ther down the line, while we were at the DreamHack gam­ing event in Swe­den (a long-term part­ner of ours), we came across Qpad. Qpad was known in north­ern Europe for its strong qual­ity and de­sign. How­ever, the com­pany was not as well known glob­ally. It was the per­fect size to be an ag­ile part­ner for us—we could ex­e­cute prod­uct de­ci­sions quickly, and help it grow, too, as we did so. Mar­cus Her­mann: With SSDs, it was ac­tu­ally the same ap­proach—we started off with In­tel prod­ucts, be­fore de­vel­op­ing our own models to reach the mass mar­ket. We are no stranger to this form of mar­ket­ing, and it seems to work well. MPC: A lot of our read­ers prob­a­bly won’t be aware that HyperX is now its own sep­a­rate en­tity from Kingston. Can you talk to us a lit­tle about why that de­ci­sion was made, and how this brand stands on its own? EB: To clar­ify, HyperX is a brand that sits un­der Kingston Tech­nol­ogy’s um­brella. It’s ac­tu­ally quite like how Xbox works with Mi­crosoft. The idea to split the brands out was a way for us to move away from the cor­po­rate look and feel of Kingston. And by do­ing this, we were able to push the bound­aries of our mar­ket­ing (our new Stinger video in the USA, for ex­am­ple), and ul­ti­mately ad­dress more of a dif­fer­ent au­di­ence than we could have done pre­vi­ously with Kingston. Kingston still re­mains as the cor­po­rate busi­ness pro­fes­sional, while HyperX is pur­su­ing the height of com­put­ing, along with eS­ports as well.

MPC: Can you tell us, then, how much in­volve­ment does Kingston still have with HyperX’s prod­uct de­sign? Is it solely de­signed in­side of HyperX, or does Kingston still have the fi­nal say? MH: We still op­er­ate shared ser­vices—HR and PR, for in­stance, are still op­er­at­ing across both brands. And so there are still Kingston Tech­nol­ogy de­part­ments that are in­volved in the prod­uct devel­op­ment side. The prod­uct def­i­ni­tion and de­sign is owned and driven by HyperX alone. MPC: Speak­ing of prod­uct de­sign, what was it that pushed HyperX into pur­su­ing key­boards in par­tic­u­lar? It is, af­ter all, a heav­ily con­tested mar­ket at the mo­ment. EB: It was the ob­vi­ous prod­uct af­ter two and a half years of es­tab­lish­ing our­selves as a ma­jor gam­ing head­set brand within the in­dus­try. Our loyal fans and cus­tomers wanted us to fur­ther ex­pand our lineup, and bring our qual­ity and ex­per­tise to the key­board world. MH: We have faith in the strength of our brand, so we are not afraid of our com­peti­tors. Ex­tend­ing the pe­riph­er­als lineup is a log­i­cal step on many lev­els. Gamers care pri­mar­ily about prod­ucts that they can touch, rather than what’s in­side the PC. Out of those prod­ucts, we only have head­sets, but not key­boards or mice. On top of that, it is also a lot eas­ier to break into larger re­tail­ers if you can fill a shelf with the var­i­ous pe­riph­eral prod­ucts, rather than just the one prod­uct or two. We in­tend to be­come a sig­nif­i­cant pe­riph­er­als brand in terms of rev­enue and units, and you can’t do that just with head­sets. MPC: The Al­loy is, by far, one of the nicest key­boards we’ve had the plea­sure of re­view­ing this year. Can you tell us a lit­tle about what de­sign con­sid­er­a­tions you made when set­ting out to craft the ini­tial con­cept? What was it that you wanted to fo­cus on in par­tic­u­lar? MH: First of all, thank you! We are prob­a­bly the brand that is the most ac­tive in eS­ports, in terms of team and event spon­sor­ship, so it made sense to de­velop a prod­uct that would ide­ally res­onate with that tar­get au­di­ence. We un­der­stand that, glob­ally, LoL is the most pop­u­lar game, but we iden­tify that FPS games are, by far, the fastest grow­ing gam­ing genre out there, par­tic­u­larly driven by CS:GO. An­other pop­u­lar ti­tle is Over­watch. With this in mind, we de­signed a key­board that would be quite well suited to play FPS games. Usu­ally, you play FPS games with a low dpi set­ting, which re­quires a lot of space for your mouse move­ments. The less space the key­board takes up, the bet­ter—so that’s why the Al­loy FPS is as com­pact as it is. MPC: Go­ing with the Cherry MX Blue switch ini­tially, as op­posed to the MX Red, is a bold move, es­pe­cially as the Red is of­ten the key touted across global mar­ket­ing as be­ing the “gam­ing” switch. Can you tell us why HyperX made that de­ci­sion? MH: We al­ways de­vel­oped this prod­uct with three switches in mind. So, af­ter Blue, we will re­lease a Red and Brown ver­sion, too. We de­cided to launch the Al­loy FPS through stag­gered re­gional launches, and China was part of our first wave, where the Cherry MX Blue is by far the most pop­u­lar switch. We had faith that a good prod­uct, in ad­di­tion to our brand strength, would carry the prod­uct, and the ini­tial num­bers have proved us right. An Al­loy ver­sion with Red and Brown switches will be an­nounced at CES. MPC: We’ve seen a wide range of head­sets, mem­ory, key­boards, and even mouse­mats added to your lineup—the ques­tion has to be asked? Is a gam­ing mouse on the cards any time soon? EB: We have a lot of ex­cit­ing pe­riph­eral prod­ucts com­ing in 2017. You will just have to wait and see! MH: We don’t have an of­fi­cial com­ment on this yet, but the pre­vi­ous an­swers should make that pretty clear. MPC: How do you see the pe­riph­eral mar­ket look­ing right now? We have com­pa­nies like Mionix claim­ing it’s stag­nat­ing, try­ing to rad­i­cally in­no­vate with things such as heart rate and GSR sen­sors. But what’s your or even HyperX’s take on the whole sit­u­a­tion? EB: In­ter­est­ing you men­tion Mionix—I ac­tu­ally in­vested in the Kick­starter project for its new gam­ing mouse, the NAOS QG. At HyperX, we are big fans of what Mionix has done, and how it is in­no­vat­ing in­side of the gam­ing mar­ket. From our side, we only see the gam­ing mar­ket grow­ing every year. PC gam­ing is at an all-time high, with sales boom­ing. If you look at eS­ports, the rev­enue will grow 51 per­cent year on year, to $493m in 2016, ac­cord­ing to NewZoo. All of those gamers in eS­ports need the best gam­ing pe­riph­er­als in the mar­ket, and this is why we are heav­ily in­vested in the eS­ports com­mu­nity. MH: As far as the pe­riph­eral mar­ket is con­cerned, it is a com­mon phe­nom­e­non that fast-grow­ing mar­kets have less pres­sure to in­no­vate. Other than RGB key­boards, there were a few ideas that so far haven’t taken off just yet.

Work­ing with Kingston since 2010, Ed (on left) is cer­tain eS­ports will lead the way when it comes to tech­ni­cal in­no­va­tion. Mar­cus (on right) has worked with Cor­sair, PNY, and Sam­sung, be­fore re­turn­ing to cham­pion HyperX’s new lead­ing line of pe­riph­er­als.

The lat­est pe­riph­eral from

HyperX is the Al­loy FPS key­board, re­viewed on pg. 88.

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