Interview with Min Liang Tan, Chief Gamer and CEO, Razer

By on April 29, 2010
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We talk to Min Liang about Razer, the games he loves and their cutting-edge Sixense technology.

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Min Liang Tan is the Chief Gamer and CEO of the Razer Group, a company dedicated to creating the best gaming peripherals. Born in Singapore, he is now based in California where he oversees the company’s global operations spanning offices in the USA, Germany, Singapore, China and Korea. We talk to Min Liang about Razer, the games he loves and their cutting-edge Sixense technology.

Min Liang Tan, Chief Gamer and CEO of the Razer Group

MEGamers.com: Tell us about Razer and what inspired you to give up a career as a lawyer and start this company.

Razer is the world’s leading brand in gaming hardware. Robert “Razerguy” Krakoff and I founded the company in Carlsbad California more than 10 years ago and we’ve got 7 offices worldwide today.

We’re the only gaming peripherals company in the world with a dedicated R&D team and we develop our own proprietary technologies to provide gamers with the competitive edge.

We created the entire performance gaming peripherals industry and remain the technology leaders with our products generations ahead of our competitors. We are also the first company to support e-sports in a big way worldwide and remain one of the biggest supporters of gaming tournaments and professional gamers worldwide.

As for myself, I used to play competitively and I realized that I was getting more of a kick out of fragging online than going to court. One day, I decided to hang up my suit, swop them for jeans and sneakers and focus on designing products for gamers. It’s a passion for me, and it wasn’t a hard choice between games and dusty law books ☺.

MEGamers.com: Why is the company named Razer and why the snakes theme?

We named the company Razer because Rob had an accident with a razor blade one day (that’s a story for another day) and I didn’t have spellcheck on when we submitted the docs for the company’s incorporation.

And the rest is history.

As our first product looked like it had Logitech mice for lunch, we decided to name it after a venomous South African snake – that’s how the Razer Boomslang was born. We thought it was pretty funny to name our mice after snakes, but we thought it was pretty fitting as our mice weren’t exactly normal computer mice. And we picked the acid green Razer colors as the Boomslang snake is also the same green.

The Razer triple-headed snake logo is probably one of the most recognized brands for gamers in the world – as for why there are three…well, that’s another story for another day. ☺

MEGamers.com: As Chief Gamer of Razer, we’d like to know what your favorite games are. What games are you looking forward to this year?

I play a lot of WoW (which kinda explains why our products are always delayed) and I’ve always played FPSes semi-competitively.

However, I’m really looking forward to Starcraft II this year. I have been playing StarCraft II for a while, even before the beta was released, and I think it will be one of the most phenomenal games for the year, if not for the decade. You know people have been playing StarCraft for a decade. So I’m looking forward to StarCraft II!

MEGamers.com: A lot of critics argue that PC gaming is on the decline thanks to consoles becoming more affordable. Do you agree?

Well, people have been saying this for the last 5 to 10 years every time there’s a cycle in terms of consoles. I see both as mutually complementary to each other. I play Xbox 360 games, I play PS3 games, and I play PC games at the same time. Every platform has great games and you know, sometimes you may play God of War III, for example and it’s exclusive on PS3. Or you may play World of Warcraft. Try playing World of Warcraft on an Xbox. You can’t do that, right? I don’t just see PC gaming growing. I see it growing exponentially. I see console gaming growing a lot at the same time. In January, we launched the world’s first premium Xbox controller, the Razer Onza, and the Razer Chimera. And there’s been a lot excitement in terms of that, where we bring the Razer brand to console gaming. ‘For gamers, by gamers’; we’ve never said for ‘for PC gamers, by PC gamers’; it’s ‘for gamers, by gamers’. Anything that we believe that a gamer will dig, we’re there.

MEGamers.com: What’s your favorite gaming mouse from the Razer range?

My all-time favorite is Razer Mamba. We worked on the wireless technology behind the Razer Mamba for over five years and since we launched the Razer Mamba, nobody has been able to replicate our technology for the past one and a half years. The technology behind our products are generations ahead of our competitors and our success is built on our world class engineering and design teams.

The other product which I really have a personal attachment to is the Razer Orochi. It’s one of the most beautiful products ever designed. If you look at it, even without the Razer logo on it, the way the light plays on the surfaces, people know it’s a Razer product. So this is probably one of the most beautiful products we’ve ever designed. I use the Razer Orochi all the time when I travel. So I could go on and on about it. Every Razer product has a little piece of me, a little piece of the scientists, engineers, designers and artists at Razer.

MEGamers.com: Can you tell me about the kind of peripherals we can expect from Razer for the Xbox 360?

Just as we have always done for PC gamers, we will revolutionize the world of console gaming by creating Razer Onza Professional Gaming Controller for Xbox 360 and Razer Chimaera Professional Gaming Headset for Xbox 360 that give console gamers the same level of quality, precision and accuracy that they know and expect in our PC products. This allows us to continue to give gamers the competitive edge by really listening and responding to their needs.

Razer Onza Professional Gaming Controller for Xbox 360 and Razer Chimaera Professional Gaming Headset for Xbox 360 will enhance the Xbox 360 gaming experience. The Razer Onza will feature Razer Hyperesponse™ buttons, analog sticks with customizable tension and a programmable multi-function button (MFB). The Razer Chimaera is equipped with a 5.1 Channel Virtual Surround sound system, a Daisy-Chain cable system and a circumaural design for optimum sound quality and comfort. These releases promise to be an exciting new endeavor as Razer makes its much anticipated debut into the world of console gaming.

MEGamers.com: Tell us about your new Sixense technology.

Razer and Sixense partnered up to bring gamers TrueMotion tracking technology that provides superior true-to-life, next-generation motion sensing and gesture recognition controller for PC gaming.

The TrueMotion technology, used by Razer, knows exactly where the controller is located and how it’s oriented at all times down to the nearest millimeter (position) and degree (orientation). Instead of relying on how fast the user pushes the controller in a given direction to affect what’s happening on screen, our system knows exactly where the controller is and how it’s oriented at all times. It then reports these values – as a set of six numbers – with no shadowing and no drift. In gaming that’s the difference between instructing a character to do something and actually being that character.

This means the total functionality offered by accelerometers is a small subset of that offered by our TrueMotion – approximate acceleration in an approximate direction versus exact X-Y-Z position and absolute pitch-roll-yaw orientation. The end result is a controller that offers a finesse and fidelity that inertial systems simply do not and cannot possess.

Developers love the system as much as consumers, our Software Developer Kit is known by the developer community for its intrinsic, technical simplicity, and absolute reliability. Its ease of integration dramatically raises their ROI. The controller connects to any computing device with a USB port, any PC, console, TV or custom HW, and runs all its P&O computations on-board the controllers, This means no processing overhead on the host system.

The Left 4 Dead 2 demo shown at CES is just the tip of the iceberg for the potential game applications. In an FPS you will be able to throw grenades in any direction and distance, tossing them onto rooftops or into open vehicles. Racing games will allow players to use the controller like a highly responsive steering wheel, then switch to a track editor where you can snap tracks together by reaching directly into the game world. The 1-to-1 tracking means that flight-sims can use one controller as a flight stick and the other as the throttle. RTS games will allow the player to fluidly zoom and rotate the terrain map similar to Google Earth, and give movement commands to units by simply picking them up and moving them to their target destination.

In operation, the TrueMotion system employs wireless links between up to four of its hand controllers and a small base station. The base station generates a weak magnetic field one fiftieth the strength of the Earth’s magnetic field. The hand controllers sense changes in this field – relayed at the speed of light – and compute position and orientation relative to the base station.

MEGamers.com: How much will the Sixense device cost and when will it be available?

We will release the recommended retail price for this motion sensing controller closer to shipment date so stay tuned for the announcement.

MEGamers.com: Tell us about your interest in the Middle East market. How have your products been received here?

Middle East (ME) is a big market opportunity for Razer. With the growing internet penetration, and young population, there has been a lot of interest in gaming.

We have been in UAE market actively for past 2 years, and our products are available at all major retailers. In fact, many of them have dedicated gaming zones, and Razer is very popular with gaming community. We are very encouraged with the high take up rate of our new products in UAE market.

We are now beginning to focus on other ME markets by setting up distribution channels, marketing to gaming community, and reaching to our fans. We have also increased our focus on Saudi Arabia markets and we shall extend it to other ME markets soon after that. By 2011, we see ME to contribute significantly to our global growth. Some of these markets offer huge market opportunity in terms of target gamer demographics supported by improved infrastructure of broadband penetration and setting up of innovative distribution channels.

MEGamers.com: Tell us about Razer’s association with Starcraft II.

Razer has joined forces with Blizzard Entertainment to co-develop StarCraft II gaming peripherals powered by Razer technology. With the upcoming launch of StarCraft II, Razer and Blizzard Entertainment are collaborating on bringing gamers a quality tournament-grade mouse, keyboard and headset specifically designed to maximize the StarCraft II gameplay experience.

The Razer Starcraft II peripherals have been designed to integrate directly into the game to provide a phenomenal gaming experience. Razer and Blizzard are not just working on a line of Starcraft II peripherals, but also other merchandise such as Razer bags with the Starcraft II motif – we’re really looking forward to launching the line and we think its going to change the industry by how we’ve blurred the line between hardware and software.


About

Hitesh is a tech/games journalist and Business Development Manager for the Tbreak Network.

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