IN the general PC market, the price of a mouse or keyboard is often the most important factor, since ultimately one brand will do the job in much the same way as another. This can mean there is a limited margin to make on these items.
The gaming peripherals market is different, as it is much more focused on performance than price, which means higher margins to be had.
“From our resellers’ perspective, the normal peripherals market is much more price-focused, purely because the specifications tend to be very similar across brands,” says VIP product manager Mark Lynch. “Therefore, the main differential is the price point. In comparison, if we look at the gaming peripherals market, the products that fall within this category are driven by performance.”
FOR THE LOVE OF SPORT
That desire for performance means that gamers are willing to pay for any advantage over their rivals. Much of this focuses on features such as increasingly sensitive mice, more tactile keyboards and pin-sharp sound surround headphones.
“Gamers – particularly high-end gamers – always find the money to support their sport,” comments Meroncourt sales director Steve Walsh. “Even things like mice and keyboards, which retail over £100, still find a very good market. I’m not saying it’s completely recession-proof but it doesn’t seem to suffer as much as other peripheral areas. High level, competitive gaming is now at a stage where there is always demand for good-looking, great performing peripherals.”
It’s a point echoed by Lynch, who says that gamers – especially professionals – will pay large amounts for the latest peripherals if they feel it will give them an advantage over the competition.
The idea of gaming as a sport is one that has been scoffed at, but a growing number of people both within and outside the industry are beginning to acknowledge that it does have the potential to be put in the same bracket as tennis, shooting and other sports where reactions are vital.
“We recognise that gaming is one of the fastest growing sports in the world and are fully aware of the fact that just as Tiger Woods, David Beckham or an athlete competing at any other level tend to have very high demands for the right sports equipment, so do gamers,” says Casper Mejlholm, marketing manager at Steel Series.
Though it would seem logical that expensive, high-end peripherals would be one of the areas of the market to suffer hardest during a recession, the whole gaming market – from consoles through to components – has proved surprisingly resilient to the current economic crisis.
“The serious gamers will still be dedicated to buying the highest quality peripherals no matter what the cost, so in that area there is more chance that there will be many more serious gamers born during this recession,” explains Interactive Ideas’ Andrew Miles.
However, Walsh explains, the sector hasn’t escaped unscathed: “We’ve seen some vendors struggle to move their high-end products due to a larger number of users cutting back on their luxury purchases. In response, we’ve seen a drop in price on a lot of these peripherals, which has helped to improve sales figures.”
Aside from a reluctance to cut back on competitive gear, there is also an element of people shifting their spend from other forms of entertainment, such as going out, towards gaming.
“There is a lot of evidence to suggest that consumers are staying in more and investing in home entertainment related products, which provides better value than going out,” comments head of marketing at Gem, Neil Handa.
“The gaming market as a whole is probably not suffering as much as other business areas due to it benefiting through an increase or similar level of sales as before to individuals and families seeing an investment in games and accessories for staying in being more value than going out,” agrees Miles.
OF MICE AND GAMERS
Of all the peripheral categories, mice are singled out as the devices seeing the most growth at the moment. Features such as programmable buttons, increased accuracy and improved grip and movement have had a major impact on the importance of the mouse, argues Mejlholm. “It is close to common knowledge that you can get an edge over your competitor if your mouse allows a couple of more macros.”
“More than anything, gamers need a mouse that works for them and enhances their performance,” adds Walsh.
The lucrative nature of gaming peripherals has meant a growing number of companies moving into the sector. But could the market reach a saturation point where the number of brands damages it? Handa thinks not: “Each brand offers a point of difference so I think there is room for growth especially where they are offering something new for the consumer."
Logitech might be better known for its range of regular peripherals, but it has used that expertise to craft a series of high-end gaming products. Among them is the G19 Gaming Keyboard, which comes with the ability to backlight certain keys, a tilting display screen that can show game stats, system information and more, and 12 programmable keys. It can also be put into a game mode, which disables the Windows/Context buttons, avoiding unwanted visits to the desktop.
NVIDIA 3D GLASSES
These 3D glasses are set to spearhead the next major revolution in gaming graphics, claims Nvidia. Designed to work with the latest GeForce graphics cards, these glasses already work with hundreds of PC games, movies and digital photos.
VEHO WIRELESS MIMI QUBE WI-FI SPEAKER SYSTEM
These small speakers are wi-fi enabled with a range of up to 300m. Both stylish and functional, they can be grouped with up to 20 others to bring users the ultimate in surround sound.
RAINBOW VIBRATION FORCE JOYSTICK
The joystick is an integral part of PC gaming’s history, but is still vital today. Ideal for flight sims and beat-em-ups,
Rainbow’s Vibration Force Joystick is analogue-based for maximum responsiveness, and has force feedback to take gamers even further into the experience.
Distributor: Interactive Ideas
STEEL SERIES XAI LASER MOUSE
Used by professional gamers, Steel Series’ XAI laser mouse is at the forefront of PC peripherals. Designed to be ambidextrous, it has pro-performance, and advanced programmable buttons to ensure the player can concentrate on the game, rather than which button they need to press.
Distributor: Interactive Ideas
EMPREX CHEETAH PROFESSIONAL GAMING KEYBOARD
Emprex’s latest gaming keyboard has a number of advantages over its predecessor. The biggest is the addition of the gaming wheel, which places the important QWE/ASD/ZXC keys separate from the rest of the keyboard, surrounded by 17 programmable buttons. It also features a unique backlight that changes the key colour depending on how often it is used, to aid the finding of oft-used buttons.
Distributors: Target, CCI Distribution, Entatech
MPREX FALCON PROFESSIONAL LASER GAMING MOUSE
Emprex’s first gaming mouse was designed with the mission statement of providing decent performance, without charging a fortune. It is equipped with a 2,000DPI laser, which can be quickly switched between resolutions, two programmable buttons and an 180-degree turn button for fast reactions. It also comes with a gold-plated USB stick to ensure minimum interference.
Distributors: Target, CCI Distribution, Entatech
ROCCAT KAVE GAMER’S HEADSET
Created especially for use by professional gamers at crowded and busy LAN events, Roccat’s Kave headset comes with 5.1 surround sound and a noise- blocking design –ideal for knowing where the enemy is when you can’t use normal speakers. It also comes with an integrated microphone for team play.
ROCCAT VALO GAMER’S KEYBOARD
This huge keyboard has been crafted around gamers’ needs. With a huge number of macro-keys, special rubberised coating for extra grip, and internal memory to store macros for up to 20 different games, the keyboard is also illuminated, ideal for finding keys in the dark, but also showing off to fellow gamers.
RAPTOR GAMING MOUSE
Raptor gaming is among the top pro-gaming brands. The latest addition to its stable of pro-level mice is the M3 Platinum. Designed around feedback from pro-gamers, the mouse has a number of features designed to aid play, including up to a 3200 dpi laser, six programmable buttons, a 2m USB cord and a removable wrist rest.
SAITEK CYBORG X
Saitek’s range of joysticks is renowned within the gaming fraternity for attention to detail and suitability for flight games. The latest version has dual-throttle sticks, allowing the gamer to split it between engines, or assign it to another feature, such as elevator trim. It also allows the gamer to tilt and adjust the controller’s 12 buttons.
MICROSOFT XBOX 360 PAD
One of the major weaknesses within PC gaming peripherals has always been pads. However, that has changed, thanks to the launch of the Xbox 360 pad, which Microsoft enabled to be used either wired or wirelessly with Windows.