HyperX Discusses its Keyboard Design and More
Marcus Hermann and Edward Baily talk peripherals
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.