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Sector guide: Gaming peripherals - PC Retail

Sector guide: Gaming peripherals

Industry experts tell us what's new in the segment
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Despite some console lovers’ insistence to the contrary, PC gaming is alive and well. An estimated 61.5 million gaming PCs were sold last year, with PC gaming hardware representing more than double the Nintendo Wii, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 shipments combined.

According to the PC Gaming Alliance, revenue from hardware is set to rise this year to $61.3 billion, compared to around $54.6 billion in 2009. And with so many new desktops and components being sold every day, the channel stands to cash in by offering top of the line performance peripherals to match.

Moreover, certain recent high-profile games releases have driven demand for branded gaming peripherals. One title that everyone PCR spoke to highlighted was the long-awaited StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty. The game sold 1.5 million copies in its first 28 hours of release, making it the best performing PC game of the year so far in terms of sales, and the fastest selling strategy game ever.

In South Korea, where the original StarCraft is still one of the most popular titles 12 years on from its release, an airline decorated its jets in celebration of the launch, while here in the UK, fans stood in line for hours to make sure they were among the first to get hold of a copy at midnight.

“StarCraft II is the biggest games release in the last few months and hardcore gamers were waiting outside shops so that they were able to play the game on the day of its release. With this level of enthusiasm, these gamers are eager to get their hands on StarCraft II specific peripherals,” says Roland Eva, marketing manager at Realtime Distribution. “Peripherals that are designed for a specific game allow greater customisation of buttons for elements within the game than non-specific peripherals.”

A number of brands including SteelSeries and Razer have already unveiled StarCraft II ranges, while others have capitalised on the success of other games such as Modern Warfare 2, a previous best seller that was released late last year.

Whether it’s for the latest titles or old favourites, competitive gamers are extremely discerning customers when it comes to peripherals. “SteelSeries recognises gaming as a sport, so in exactly the same way a professional sportsperson requires the best sports equipment, we see gamers demand the best peripherals,” claims Chris Elt, sales manager for SteelSeries UK.

“If a gamer is asked to make a significant investment for a dedicated gaming mouse, he or she rightly expects a premium experience and one which will significantly add to their enjoyment as well as their game playing ability. Comfort, specifications and innovation all go hand in hand and if the product is a cut above the competition, gamers will invest,” adds
Greg Hartill, UK business development manager at Mad Catz.

According to Andrew Miles, Interactive Ideas’ marketing manager, the specific qualities gamers look for in a mouse vary depending on the type of game. “First person shooter gamers, for example, require high-resolution optical or laser sensors processing the highest number of frames per second for the most reliable tracking during game play. They also require programmable buttons with software included to allow advanced macros for a number of individual characters and as many strokes per button as possible,” he comments.

Eva adds: “Hardcore gamers are always looking for a competitive advantage and gaming peripherals give them what they want. The speed and precision of a gaming mouse reduces the equipment lag between the gamers reactions and the computer. The weight of the mouse improves the precision of movement and the ergonomic design makes it easier to use for long periods of time.”

However, it is not just ‘hardcore gamers’ who buy gaming peripherals. Many devices are now also proving popular with casual players. After all, “even a beginner gamer would require a shape, size and weight that suits their own personal needs for prolonged game play,” suggests Miles. “Most mice now are able to have the weight adjusted and some also allow size and shape to be changed to suit.”

Hartill adds: “The beauty of accessories is that everyone who picks up a game aspires to be better. We try to make accessories which are accessible to all but are feature rich, allowing gamers with the necessary skill to truly exploit their talents.”

Glen Rhodes, product manager at Target Components, believes that a drop in price is something to do with this broadening appeal. “Compared to three or four years ago, the price of a high-end laser gaming mouse has dropped considerably, as have gaming keyboards and other peripherals. There are still some products out there that will only appeal to the more hardcore gamers, but in general there is a lot more scope to sell these products to more casual gamers,” he says.

And there are numerous advantages to the retail channel in stocking gaming peripherals. Not only do they provide an excellent margin opportunity but, says Rhodes, they are an obvious add-on sale alongside highend hardware. “If a customer is spending £1,000 on a PC they will usually want the gaming peripherals to go with it,” he concludes.

OZONE ATTACK STEREO GAMING HEADSET
SRP: £19.99
Distributor: Meroncourt

They say: The revolutionary microphone allows setting the headset as a gaming intercom device or as a regular music and multimedia headphones

Specs: Comfort leather cushions, adjustable ergonomic headband, adjustable microphone, mini jack 3.5mm connection, in-line controller with volume control and mute functions, braided cables for added durability

SENNHEISER PC 360
SRP: £145.99
Distributor: Realtime Distribution

They say: It has an open design that makes sure you keep a cool head – and delivers a natural listening experience so you can stay in touch with your surroundings

Specs: Hi-fi sound, noise-cancelling, microphone mute option, velvet ear pads, cushioned headband, integrated volume control

MAD CATZ CYBORG RAT7 GAMING MOUSE
SRP: £79.99
Distributor: EntaTech

They say: Features a new-generation ‘twin eye’ 5600DPI gaming-grade laser sensor that reads each axis separately for pinpoint accuracy

Specs: Tracks up to six meters per second, metal chassis, interchangeable palm rest, adjustable size, removable 30g weights, four DPI settings, five programmable buttons

ROCCAT PYRA MOBILE WIRELESS GAMING MOUSE
SRP: £54.99
Distributor: Meroncourt

They say: The Pyra packs a punch by offering judder-free gaming with zero lag. What’s more, its ergonomic shape makes it comfortable to use

Specs: 1600DPI blue-optic gaming sensor, one millisecond response time, easyshift button duplicator, USB recharge function, sleep mode, compact size, suitable for right or left handed use

STEELSERIES STARCRAFT II LIMITED EDITION ZBOARD AND KEYSET BUNDLE
SRP: £59.99 (or £21.99 for Keyset alone)
Distributor: Interactive Ideas

They say: Offers players the ultimate gaming tool as they jump back into the epic struggle between the Protoss, Zerg and Terran races in StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty

Zboard specs: Anti-ghosting capability for up to seven simultaneous keystrokes, internal hub with two USB ports, full key customisation

Keyset specs: Game commands labelled directly on keys, three layers of nine customisable one-touch macro buttons, pre-set macros

GENIUS SLIMSTAR 335 KEYBOARD
SRP: £19.99
Distributor: VIP Computers

They say: Designed for those who want to save their reaction time and vastly improve their overall performance playing any game

Specs: 15 macro programmable keys, 11 standard hotkeys for media centre control, enhanced large keycaps, streamlined design

GENIUS METALSTRIKE PRO
SRP: £29.99
Distributor: Target Components

They say: Gives you different levels of vibration feedback when flying your planes, while three levels of air control keep your hand cool and dry

Specs: Vibration feedback function, three levels of air control, turbo function for auto repeat, 13 programmable buttons, eight-way ‘point-of-view’ switch, adjustable handle position

STEELSERIES WORLD OF WARCRAFT MMO GAMING MOUSE
SRP: £69.99
Distributor: Interactive Ideas

They say: The only gaming peripheral on the market that can be configured directly from within World of Warcraft for both Mac and PC users

Specs: 15 programmable buttons with over 130 preset game commands, in-game macro support, up to 10 profiles with different lighting schemes

LOGITECH G510 GAMING KEYBOARD
SRP: £89.99
Distributor: Gem Distribution, Ingram Micro, Computer 2000

They say: With a GamePanel LCD and 18 programmable G-keys, this keyboard gives you instant access to the tools and intel you need to win

Specs: LCD display for game stats and system information, custom colour backlighting, separate headphone and mic jacks, 18 programmable keys, multi-key input, game/desktop mode

GENIUS SW-N5.1 1000 SPEAKERS
SRP: £39.99
Distributor: VIP Computers

They say: Delivers great value 5.1 surround sound performance – ideal for listening to the latest games, movies or music on your PC

Specs: 5.1-Channel speaker system, 25 watt total power output, wood subwoofer with four-inch driver for enhanced bass reproduction, polished black finish, built-in two-inch driver on each satellite

TURTLE BEACH XLC HEADSET
SRP: £19.99
Distributor: Target Components

They say: Combines high-quality stereo game audio with Xbox Live chat, eliminating the need for the mono communicator and external speakers

Specs: Cushioned noise-reduction ear pads, folding multi-pivot design, flexible mic, 40mm stereo speakers, mic mute switch, 2.5mm plug for Xbox mic output, 3.5mm plug for audio line input

RAZER OROCH
SRP: £66.99
Distributor: Realtime Distribution

They say: Uses bluetooth technology to address your need for portability and ease of use with a wired mode option for gaming grade performance

Specs: 3G Laser Sensor, bluetooth connectivity, wired and wireless modes, tracking up to 100 inches per second, suitable for right and lefthanded users, sensitivity adjustment

EXSPECT XBOX 360 PLAY AND CHARGE KIT
SRP: £9.99
Distributor: Gem Distribution

They say: Fully compatible with the official Xbox 360 controller, this kit enables the user to charge and play their console simultaneously

Specs: Charges during play or while the console is still on, interchangeable cover and battery included

LOGITECH G700 WIRELESS GAMING MOUSE
SRP: £89.99
Distributor: Gem Distribution, Ingram Micro, Computer 2000

They say: Powerful control and wireless freedom without compromising performance

Specs: 13 programmable controls, wireless connectivity, quick-connect charging cable

EXSPECT NDS PLAY AND STORE STAND
SRP: £9.99
Distributor: Gem Distribution

They say: Store and play your DS console on this stylish stand

Specs: Compatible with Nintendo DS Lite, DSi and DSi XL; allows users to play vertically or horizontally; stores up to three games, two styluses and one pen alongside the console; allows users to charge while storing their DS

MAD CATZ CYBORG FLY 9 WIRELESS FLIGHT STICK FOR XBOX 360
SRP: £79.99
Distributor: EntaTech

They say: Compatible with flight simulation and flight combat games, the Cyborg FLY 9 is designed to deliver a wide range of adjustability, comfort and air-combat accuracy

Specs: Integrated adjustment tool for changing handle length and angle, wireless connection, throttle and twist rudder controls, integrated lap mount, removable feet, also available for PS3

VERBATIM RAPIER USB GAMING HEADSET WITH VIBRATION
SRP: £39.99
Distributor: APR Media

They say: The built-in vibration of the Rapier Headset helps gamers live the action while its VOIP capabilities allow for voice chat and online conferencing

Specs: VOIP-enabled, built-in vibration, noise cancelling, USB, leatherette ear pads, adjustable headband, inline volume control, microphone mute switch

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