Bob Ohlweiler (00:00): 

We can provide an amazing amount of immersion without VR today, with our haptic technology, with the imagery of our audio, with the frame rates of our monitors, and with the lighting that surrounds it. But there's a level of immersion that VR provides that becomes really interesting, and I think we're getting close to being on the verge of that having a much more material impact on gaming than it has previously. 

James Kotecki (00:34): 

This is CES Tech Talk. I'm James Koteki. CES 2023 is January 5th through 8th in Las Vegas. We are here to get you hyped and get you smart about the world's most influential tech event. CES is a show about so many tech related topics, but if you had to boil the show down to one image, it probably looks something like a booth packed with cutting edge gear for high-performance gaming. In other words, it looks a lot like the booth for Razer, which makes gaming laptops and equipment. Joining me to talk about gaming technology and trends headed into CES 2023 is Razer's SVP Sales and Marketing, Bob Ohlweiler. Bob, when people visit your space at CES, what are they going to experience? We're so excited for this. 

Bob Ohlweiler (01:21): 

As usual, they're going to experience the most exciting and cutting edge technology and gaming packaged in a way that only Razer can do it. If you remember last year we had Project Sophia, a modular concept desk that blew people away, won several best of show awards. We have brand new products and we have concept products, and we put it in a way that really can get consumers to identify. We have our product managers out there. We have the people who actually make these products out there for people to talk to. We get ready for CES all fall, and my team is working around the clock to make sure it's amazing. I'm going to be there. The whole team's going to be there. So not only do you get to see great Razer products with the future laid out for you and our concepts, but the team who's actually making those products are there in the booth. And we can't wait to see the gamers who show up and get to take it all in. 

James Kotecki (02:18): 

When I think of a gamer, I might have some image in my mind of what a hardcore gamer is, but how do you define that? 

Bob Ohlweiler (02:23): 

It's a really good question. We have people who break things down into segments, but a gamer is a gamer. A gamer has some fundamental things that they want. They want great experience. They want great sound. They want accuracy in the controls of the game. They want high frame rate. They want to be able to be heard with their team. Whether they're a casual gamer or a hardcore gamer, their core fundamental needs are the same. Our product offering and what Razer does is we make sure that we satisfy the fundamental needs of everybody, but then we do special stuff for a hardcore gamer. Now, a hardcore gamer is one who plays more than 10 hours. I'm a hardcore gamer, and I'm in my late fifties. 

James Kotecki (03:11): 

[inaudible 00:03:11] 10 hours a day or 10 hours a week? 

Bob Ohlweiler (03:12): 

10 hours a week. A hardcore gamer plays 10 hours a week or more. Even my age right now, I'm in my fifties, I'm a hardcore gamer. I play every day, and I play a bunch of time on the weekend. So what really matters to me is comfort, ergonomics, accuracy, immersion, and that's really the same thing for all gamers. So while we do do a lot of segmentation and a lot of digging into what hardcore gamers and casual gamers like, fundamentally, a lot of the technology is similar. 

James Kotecki (03:45): 

And I think that idea of a gamer being under 30, under 40, as you mentioned, that's probably changing quite a bit. When I visited my grandparents in their assisted living facility, I think, "Gosh, when my generation moves into places like this, we better have really good Wi-Fi, because I'm just going to want to be gaming all the time." Are you planning for that future of retirees? 

Bob Ohlweiler (04:06): 

Absolutely. I mean, take every stereotype you've ever heard and throw it out the door. Gamers are kindergartners now and gamers are seniors and everything in the middle. We want to appeal to everybody, everybody who loves gaming, who cares about competitive gaming. And so I don't think you're going to see a place on the planet in any demographic where gaming isn't a part of their life. 

James Kotecki (04:31): 

Obviously, you're not the only company that wants to stand out with cool technology, with cool technology in the gaming space, with amazing gear and laptops, cutting edge screens and other things like this. How do you think about standing out and winning CES among such heavy competition? 

Bob Ohlweiler (04:49): 

A lot of things in the world go back to really fundamental basics. And for Razer, when Min started the company years and years ago, the motto of the company is, "For gamers, by gamers," and everybody at Razer is in some way or form a gamer. We've got a lot of hardcore gamers. We have console gamers, we have mobile gamers, we have PC gamers. And so the heart and soul of everything we do comes from fellow gamers. We don't have to go do anything that's deliberately unusual or deliberately trying to position ourselves differently. We just have to be ourselves. 


And when we are ourselves, we're also our consumer. We're also the gamer that we're trying to delight. And in fact, one of the reasons why we don't hire booth people at CES, we really bring the employees who work on our products. And so every facet of our product design, every facet of our packaging, the purchase process, like on or one of our Razer stores, all of those things, they're all run by gamers at the heart and soul of the company. It's that, "For gamers, by gamers," that really differentiates us. We just have to be ourselves and be natural, and I think we're clearly differentiated. 

James Kotecki (06:14): 

When you and Razer employees are playing games, you could plausibly make an argument that it's work related on some level, right? Because you're probably using your equipment and just testing that out on some level even though you're having fun. But I wonder, do you think about a future where work is increasingly gamified, where other people's jobs increasingly take place in CR, call it the metaverse, whatever you want to say, and different aspects of work and leisure continue to blend? Do you think about that future as you're designing and building the company? 

Bob Ohlweiler (06:49): 

Oh, absolutely. All of us, as I mentioned, all of us are gamers, but all of us are knowledge workers. We all work with technology, we all work in a connected world. We're all experimenting now with the metaverse. If you look at the last few years in the world where the world was locked up in their homes and many, many people turned to gaming, many of our products were used both for work from home, school from home, as well as gaming. 


And more and more, you see that gaming tends to build information technology products that are by far the cutting edge. They're the most powerful. They're the most interesting. And if you want to look great as a streamer, you're going to use a Kiyo Pro webcam, but if you want to look great on a board meeting, you're going to use the same webcam because the frame rate, the definition, all of those things work well in the knowledge/work world as well as they do in the gaming world. So gaming is a natural place for that conversion to be led. But having said that, our design center is always going to be for the gamer. 

James Kotecki (08:04): 

And I know that in a format like this where we're talking before CES, there's some things that you probably can't say about the products, but can you give us any teasers, any hints? What should people really be excited about or thinking about as they get ready for CES 2023 and what Razer's going to be bringing? 

Bob Ohlweiler (08:23): 

I'm glad you let me off the hook with your question because obviously we are so careful about what we share before things. But what I can tell you is that if you think about the gaming that we're all doing today, you're going to see two levels of things. Number one is you're going to see how we're taking today's gaming to the next level, and we're going to be showing all sorts of new products that really bring gaming to the next level on a computer side, on a peripheral and accessory side, in mobile gaming, in console gaming, and in PC gaming. 


On another level, and we do this because I think of our confidence in ourselves and our confidence in our vision, we're willing to expose our view of the future, and we always show some concept product. And that concept product, in many cases, it does make it to real product down the road, but in some cases it doesn't. But we're not afraid to share the concept of our future that we will show people when they get to our booth in CES. And we're really proud of that. Everyone who comes to our booth, they're going to see the innovation of the now and they're going to see our vision of the future. 

James Kotecki (09:38): 

I mean, we've all seen visions of the future in science fiction movies and read about it in books, about people controlling games and other kind of computer interfaces in interesting ways with their minds, in full body haptic suits. And when we think about the future, there's a lot of different possibilities. I wonder, is it almost easier from a philosophical perspective just for you to tell me, are there things that Razer definitely will not be doing in the future? Are there any constraints that you just put on yourselves as a company of like, "We really think the future is not going to be about that, at least not for Razer"? 

Bob Ohlweiler (10:10): 

I've been in technology for my entire career. Razer is configured, we do research and development, we're heavy in engineers, heavy in product managers, like any technology company. Our company feels like a cutting edge technology company, but a lot of times Min will talk about our company and call us a "gaming lifestyle company." So we also view ourselves as a gaming lifestyle company because we're so far out in front of the industry. And so, look, we've done things like chewing gum. We've done things like drink mixes, T-shirts, clothing. Up in my closet I have a collaboration between Razer and TUMI, and it's a beautiful suitcase. We also just did a collab with Panerai because that's another company that is so focused on sustainability in the world. So there's about 500 Razer Panerai watches out there floating around that are ready to buy in limited quantities. 


So to answer your question, we don't see any limits on what we can do. We'll explore things. We'll try. If we succeed, it turns into a line of business for us. If it fails, we put it on the shelf and maybe we come back to it. For example, years ago we were one of the early innovators in AR. We did a thing that was an open source AR that was trying to bring some of the smaller players, as well as the larger players, into the business. It really wasn't time yet, so we kind of put that on the shelf. But we're expecting to do more products and more things like that as that technology really comes to fruition. 

James Kotecki (12:00): 

And how much of this is driven by feedback from game makers? So if a game maker is creating a new game, do they sometimes push you or ask you, "Hey, can you create a different way to actually interface with this game outside of the traditional methods that exist?" 

Bob Ohlweiler (12:16): 

I would say the best way to describe it is an ongoing relationship of collaboration. While we're in talking with a studio about bringing to life their current set of games or games that they're working on within our current technology of Chroma, for example, and how to bring the level of immersion of a game to a higher level of height because of the lighting and coordinating with the game, we may get into a dialogue around something in the future. That dialogue, that collaboration can often end up into innovation that we start working on. 


And then that innovation, as it becomes commercialized or productized, it then gets shown to another set of collaborators that we have, which are esports athletes, and then we'll get the feedback from esports athletes as well. So the environment that we have is really one of collaboration with publishers, collaboration with technology providers like Intel, Nvidia, AMD, and collaboration with esports athletes. It's not a one-way request. It's usually a creative sharing of information that results in those innovations. 

James Kotecki (13:31): 

You mentioned AR. I'd love to just get your latest benchmark for where we are right now with what is possible with AR, VR, and where you think the industry is going in the near future. 

Bob Ohlweiler (13:44): 

Yeah. I think when I was talking about AR, I was more thinking about VR. There is a lot of interesting stuff with AR as well. But when VR originally came out, it had a promise, and I think everyone's expectation was that promise was a little bit closer. Well, we still think that that promise is there, and I guess years later now you see the technology get better and better. It gets more and more portable. And even if you take a side step for a minute and you look at the technology like cloud gaming where a lot of the heavy lifting is done on servers and then the video and audio are piped into the local device, this gives an amazing amount of flexibility and it allows the consumer to have an incredible experience without having to carry around a hundred percent of the computing power. 


We think that VR is really at a place where it's now starting to become very interesting. We can provide an amazing amount of immersion without VR today, with our haptic technology, with the imagery of our audio, with the frame rates of our monitors, and with the lighting that surrounds it. But there's a level of immersion that VR provides that becomes really interesting, and I think we're getting close to being on the verge of that having a much more material impact on gaming than it has previously. 

James Kotecki (15:18): 

And do you have a way to quantify how much immersion people want on a sustained basis? So you mentioned this metric of if you game for more than 10 hours a week, you're considered a hardcore gamer. But I imagine that maybe people don't necessarily want to be in VR for 10 hours a week, especially if it's a highly physical game and I'm moving around. There's times when even if I had the best VR system in the world and it was fully immersive, I would probably rather sit back on my couch and play something casually. And so do you have a sense to quantify how much people actually want to be in a fully immersive VR world? 

Bob Ohlweiler (15:50): 

I don't think I can satisfy that question quantitatively. What I do know is that even a hardcore gamer, who's maybe playing on a team, who plays 10 hours a day and they're practicing all of the time, when they're out with their friends or when they're sitting on a subway, they'll pull their phone out and they'll play some mobile games. So today, many of us are multi-platform gamers already. We play mobile in a casual setting. We play PC gaming when we're in a full immersion mode, and we might play console, Xbox or PlayStation 5, when we have a bunch of friends over. So already those different platforms play a role in a gamer's life. 


I just see VR coming into a gamer's life very similar. There's going to be titles and experiences that are best served by that form factor, and that's going to become a slice of gamers' playtime. As that becomes more material, then there'll be some research and we'll start understanding better how big of a share of the pie that becomes. But I don't see there being a genre of VR gamers where somebody will only play VR. I think it's going to be most of the early adopters of VR are gamers that play a lot of hours. It is, to your point, very difficult if you're going to play 10 hours a day to play with a VR headset on 10 hours a day. But the comfort and lightness and technology's getting better all the time. So anyway, we tend to view the world as there's fewer and fewer of single platform gamers. And so I think what's going to be interesting is how big of a pie that becomes. We'll certainly report that back to you as that data comes out. 

James Kotecki (17:42): 

And I wonder if one of the common threads that ties people's platform experiences together or at least allows them to jump across platforms is IP, intellectual property, franchises. For example. I've played Star Wars games across all different kinds of platforms on my PC, on a console, in VR. Will we see experiences that jump across platforms for those franchises, where if I've unlocked something in a franchise game on one platform it influences my experience on the other? 

Bob Ohlweiler (18:14): 

Oh, for sure. I mean, I think right now one of the most exciting aspects of gaming is that you can care less and less about the platform that you're playing on. With a phone, if you've got a great connection, you can pretty much play your favorite AAA titles on your phone. You can play on an Xbox and on a PC the very same title. And so already this is becoming one of the more interesting aspects of gaming where you don't have to rush to your basement to sit down and play that title. You can play it on the phone, you can play it on a pad. We just shared at our most recent RazerCon a new device that we came out with, the Razer Edge, that allows that kind of gaming as well. As studios are investing hundreds of millions of dollars to come up with a production quality that's equal to any movie that's ever released, we all get to benefit by playing that game or having that experience on any platform that we want. 

James Kotecki (19:23): 

You mentioned haptics a while ago. I wanted to give you a chance to tell us the baseline there, the ability to feel the game and get tactile vibrations or other kinds of things from equipment. Where is Razer right now? 

Bob Ohlweiler (19:35): 

Haptics have been around for a long time in gaming. They are just another vector of immersion that make a game so much more enjoyable. We've all played with an Xbox or a PlayStation controller that vibrated and enhanced the game somewhat. But we believe that tactile feedback and haptics in general can provide a deeper level of immersion than has been fielded before. In fact, we believe this so intently that we've been experimenting over the last couple of years with some products. Our Razer Nari Ultimate was a headset. Actually, there's still some out in the market, and it has haptics in it. So at the lowest, lowest frequency base, you get a vibration in the headset, and it just gives this feeling of deep bass that you can't get through even a subwoofer. 


Our latest line of Kraken headsets, our Kraken V3 and our Kraken V3 Pro, both have haptics as well. And our console headset, Kaira Pro, has haptics. So we believe that the next level of haptics is already here, where we've built it into some of our headsets to give that deep experience, that deep immersion of bass that you can't get anywhere else. We think there's more to it than that as well. In fact, we just bought one of the top companies in haptics called Interhaptics, and that was an acquisition we did earlier this year. And so we're expecting that with that technology, with that expertise, that haptics can play a broader role in gaming beyond the controllers that are out there today and Razer headsets that use HyperSense technology today. So as usual, I can't signal specific products that are coming out, but you can read between the lines that when we invest in a company, there's an interesting roadmap ahead. 

James Kotecki (21:37): 

Well, we got to give people a reason to show up to CES 2023 and see your stuff in the booth. So much of this is your brain filling in all of the gaps to create that fully immersive experience, whether that's graphics, sound, haptics. If all those things are working together and giving you like 80% of what would really be felt in reality, your brain will pretty easily do the last 20%. I assume that's kind of what you rely on. 

Bob Ohlweiler (21:57): 

Yep, exactly. There's really two vectors as we're developing and refining our products. One of the vectors that we have is full feature immersion, where it's about creating this amazing experience. And so the headset line that goes with that is our Kraken line. The keyboard line that goes with that is our BlackWidow line. All fully featured, a lot of lighting and things like that. And then for the advanced hardcore gamer or pro gamer, we have a set of products that's focused on just pure solid performance. And some of those products are like the BlackShark headset and the Huntsman keyboard and some of our latest mice that are super lightweight, like the DeathAdder V3 Pro or the Viper V3 Pro. Those products are without lighting. And so they're all about performance. Haptics may or may not move across those, but the execution, one execution could be around immersion, the other could be around providing an advantage in tactile sensory input that allows a professional or a very competitive gamer, a little bit of a competitive advantage by giving them a sensory input that they didn't have before. 

James Kotecki (23:19): 

Yeah. And by the way, as the marketing guy, I have to say you have such cool names for all of your products. They all sound so aggressively animalistic but in a cutting edge, technical way. I'm not sure if that's the way that you would describe what you're going for, but I think it's very cool. 

Bob Ohlweiler (23:32): 

I think our CEO, Min, has incredible instincts on both the product itself as well as the naming. And I agree with you, I love the naming of our products. It's part of the fun. 

James Kotecki (23:44): 

A key theme of CES 2023 is this idea of human security for all, which is about how technology improves human life in all sorts of fundamental ways. How do you see Razer fitting into that? 

Bob Ohlweiler (23:55): 

For the last four years or so at Razer, we've had sustainability pop up in our very, very short list of corporate objectives. We have a chief sustainability officer. We have a sustainability team. Many people don't know this, but Razer and Min have some incubator activities where we're incubating new companies. And so many of the investments of the incubator go towards products or companies that contribute to sustainability. And if you just go look online, you'll see a bunch of really cool examples of Razer boats that are picking garbage up out of the ocean and things like that. But as a company, we're very, very serious about this. It's been one of our top corporate objectives, right alongside with profitability and people and growth. It's a very important thing. 


The company is committed to becoming entirely carbon neutral by the year 2030. We've got all sorts of initiatives. If you go check out #GoGreenWithRazer, we're planting millions of trees. We have the Sneki Snek, which is a plushy that we sell. For every Sneki Snek product we sell, we go plant some trees off of it. We've partnered with UL to create an eco logo certified gaming mice, which is the first on the planet. And while we're continuing to make breakthrough improvements in our sustainability, we're allowing consumers and our gamers to pitch in as well. In fact, at CES, we're announcing a Restorify initiative. So as people are buying products from, they can learn about sustainability, they can buy carbon credits and help contribute to solving the problem and help contribute to Razer's continuous improvement on becoming carbon neutral. That initiative's also an initiative where we're educating and we're working with other businesses to get the message across. And so it's a hardcore theme that's built into Razer's whole being now, and we continue to look at ways that we can improve and continue to make a contribution to sustainability. 

James Kotecki (26:17): 

Hardcore sustainability for hardcore gaming. 

Bob Ohlweiler (26:19): 

There you go. 

James Kotecki (26:21): 

It all makes sense. Bob Ohlweiler, SVP Sales and Marketing at Razer, thank you so much for joining us. 

Bob Ohlweiler (26:26): 

Thank you so much, James. Look forward to seeing you at CES. 

James Kotecki (26:29): 

That's our show for now, but there's always more tech to talk about. Here's a preview of the next CES Tech Talk. 

Speaker 3 (26:37): 

Today, actually, the astronauts wear their clothes for three to four days and then they discard them and they're actually burned. But for long-term and deep space missions, this is not viable. So, NASA approached us to determine the viability of doing laundry in space. 

James Kotecki (26:54): 

Please subscribe to this podcast so you don't miss a moment, and get more CES at That's Our show is produced by Nicole Vidovich, with Kristin Miller and Mason Manuel, recorded by Andrew Lynn and edited by Third Spoon. I'm James Koteki, talking tech on CES Tech Talk.