We recently had an intimate chat with ASUS ROG General Manager for Gaming Gear & Accessory Kris Huang where he shares some details about how the company approaches their aggressive gaming segment, the gaming gear market or simply put keyboards, mice, headset etc.
We distilled our questions down to key questions but the conversation went on and on which has revealed some not-so-public details about ROG as a business. How not-so-public? Did you know ASUS has an internal committee of hardcore EVA fans that oversee the accuracy and loyalty in design of the products to the EVA IP (EVA-01, EVA-02)? That deep.
Starting the interview off with my initial question, I asked:
B2G.BossMac: In the past 3 years post-lockdown, users have had a significant shift in their demand for better-performing peripherals, wanting more personalized mechanical keyboards, lighter gaming mice, more responsive displays, etc. What do you feel is the biggest highlight for ASUS ROG in creating products for the new landscape of gamers?
Note: responses were rewritten for brevity and clarity.
Kris Huang: Actually, ‘gamer’ is a very generic term. In today’s world, everybody plays games. We, at ASUS ROG, have categorized our gamers into five different types to address this diversity effectively, considering the evolving needs and preferences of each.”
- Hobby Enthusiasts: Kris himself identifies with this category, where gaming is a passionate hobby, and the focus is on enjoying different game titles.
- Competitive Gamers: This category is for the e-sports enthusiasts, those who thrive on competition and the thrill of the game.
- Gaming Partakers: This group enjoys a variety of content, including ACG (anime, comics, games) animation, reflecting a broader interest in gaming culture.
- Trend Followers: These gamers are attuned to the latest trends and shifts in the gaming world, seeking what’s new and popular.
- Casual Gamers: This diverse group includes everyone who enjoys games, regardless of their level of commitment or preferred genre.
Dialing back on the topic of highlights, Kris continued:
Actually, ‘gamer’ is a very generic term. In today’s world, everybody plays games. We, at ASUS ROG, have categorized our gamers into five different types
So the first highlight I would say we brought to the custom keyboard features concept into the gaming keyboard category. So we make the custom keyboard and the gaming keyboard a perfect combination and that’s more for the first type of hardware enthusiast.
And the second highlight, I think the origin results is the ROG Azoth 75% custom wireless gaming keyboard. The other highlight is our partnership with Aimlab, the shooting community. And it’s a training platform that with more than 25 million shooters around the world. So is a very big community. So that’s a project that we embrace that we, the community will co-create with them. So I think this is more for the esports players.
So these two probably are our biggest highlight in the recent years.
For my second question, I focused on the ROG brand:
B2G.BossMac: There are only a few gaming gear brands that can call themselves a lifestyle brand as well and ASUS ROG is very successful in becoming a recognizable name in the greater gaming space whether overclocking, esports and overall lifestyle. What do you feel is the highlight and lowlight in going from a overclocking-motherboard-only product brand in the 2010s to an entire sub-brand covering all product lines?
Kris Huang: Design thinking is fundamental to our approach at ASUS ROG; it’s a methodology we rigorously follow across the company to create user-centric solutions. Our process begins with understanding gamers, followed by ideation, prototyping, and testing. We immerse ourselves in the gaming community, a task made easier by our shared love for games, to understand the nuanced needs of gamers, who desire performance, usability, customization, and quality.
However, we aim to go beyond meeting basic needs; we strive to connect with gamers on an emotional level. Our products, whether peripheral components or system products, are designed to be highly functional and feature-rich. We explore additional enhancements, like lighting sync and consolidated software solutions like Armory Crate, to offer more to our users.
Recognizing the trend towards wireless solutions and the limitations of laptop ports, we introduced a unifying dongle, allowing multiple devices to connect simultaneously without compromising performance. We are working to expand this feature, ensuring it remains on par, if not superior, to single connection solutions. Our commitment is to continually evolve and offer better, more innovative solutions, giving gamers the choice and the experience they deserve.
I asked Kris a follow-up question regarding product development timeframe if they set targets every so often and he responded by stating that his business unit don’t necessarily tie themselves to a certain timeframe. For example, the ROG Azoth was the product of more than 1 year of design and development and it was a very big undertaking for ROG.
B2G.BossMac: Speaking of other product lines, ROG merchandese including bags, jackets, shirts, etc. has been a growing part of ASUS’ offering. How big of a growth has there been in intereest in clothing and merchandise in the past decade and what you can say about that growth and how it relates to user reception.
There was a moment in a crowded night market in Taiwan, a child, not recognizing me but seeing the ROG logo on my shirt, expressed his desire to have one. That moment was profoundly touching
Kris Huang: Yes, this is indeed a profound question, covering our journey since 2006. We began with motherboards, focusing on overclocking performance and benchmarking, a hot topic at the time. This was our achievement, our origin. And now, we’ve expanded to over 20 product lines, showcasing our dominance in this area. Astoundingly, gaming products now contribute to more than 50% of ASUS’s income, a milestone we never envisioned when we initiated our first project.
But I believe our biggest achievement is the tremendous recognition we’ve received from gamers. There was a moment in a crowded night market in Taiwan, a child, not recognizing me but seeing the ROG logo on my shirt, expressed his desire to have one. That moment was profoundly touching; it made me feel that our brand, our logo, is recognized and understood, even by children.
However, the journey had its share of challenges, especially during the brand’s transitional phase from a focus on overclocking to becoming a more holistic gaming and lifestyle brand around 2013-2014. There was substantial internal debate and external feedback during the esports boom. Some believed that the ROG brand should maintain its elite status and not dilute its image by expanding into other product lines, while others saw the potential in tapping into a broader market and becoming a family gaming brand.
This debate led us to reorganize and reflect deeply on what our brand should represent, what our vision and mission should be. We concluded that our technology is for those who dare! We redefined our core values as diversity, uniqueness, and performance and aligned them with the spirit and philosophy of the Republic of Gamers. Every new product line or service we introduce is scrutinized to ensure alignment with these values.
In hindsight, these challenges and debates were not just setbacks but opportunities that helped us to crystallize our true values and fundamentals. They have been pivotal in refining and developing the Republic of Gamers brand, allowing us to continually innovate and step into new realms, always adhering to our core values and philosophy.
We’d like to thank Kris and the ASUS Philippines team for arranging this interview.