At E3, MCV sat down with Jordan Reiss, VP of Astro Gaming, to get the lowdown on the newest headset brand to hit down under.
The company, which takes its pedigree from Astro Studios, which has previously worked on the design for the Xbox 360, is now a separate entity with what Reiss calls a 'shared DNA', and has enjoyed steady growth since the launch of its flagship A40 headset in 2008.
Reiss told MCV: "The goal is to not just become a headset or an equipment company. We don’t want to be Plantronics or Logitech, we want to be a lifestyle brand just like Nike is for basketball or Burton is for snowboarding."
"We want to make amazing equipment that lets you enjoy your activity better, but also a creative brand that gamers will be proud to wear. That only comes with authenticity, and we’re focused on the product and we figure that by supporting the gaming community and doing whatever we can to improve gaming and players’ ability, we’ll get there over time."
This ambitious goal is being met through a partnership between Astro Gaming and lifestyle headset brand Skullcandy.
Reiss continues: "We’ve started with some functional soft goods, just some packpacks and gear bags that are custom-built to carry consoles and headsets. We’ve been selling those for a while and they’re very popular. We’ve been selling a couple of tee shirts, but nothing that we’ve really put effort into."
"But with Skullcandy’s help, we’ll be able to do more. They’re really good at that side of things. We have a bunch of hats, hoodies and tee shirts coming out in the next few months to foster that."
Astro has previously only sold its headsets through its web site directly, posting revenue of USD$1.5 million in 2008 and enjoying steady growth year-on-year since then, with an aim to hit $28 million in 2012, $7 million of which is designed to come from its push into retail.
Astro headsets have been sold in Best Buy in the US on a trial period for one month, and will shortly be moving into GameStop. Canada, Europe, Australia and New Zealand are all receiving a similar retail push at the same time, with Bluemouth Interactive handling the brand in this region.
Reiss added: "In almost any mature industry, there would be the low end, which we could see, but also there would be a premium trail of high-end products, be it in bicycles, watches or anything else, there was always a premium market. In gaming, there was a total void because people thought games were for kids. This is the one area you don’t see premium products – toys for kids – where things are always expendable."
To this end, Astro came out with the A40 headset and mixamp (a device which mixes all voice channels together while also serving as an amplifier) in 2008 to reach the high-end market and is set to release the A50 series soon (which are priced at USD$299).
Reiss concludes: "We started looking at the market in 2005, the most expensive headset was USD$99 and the average was $25. Controllers would last a couple of months, then break, and we were adults who played games and hated the quality of the peripherals, knew professional gamers who made money off playing games, and there really was nothing going on except for this cheap stuff."
"We are committed to improving the sport of gaming. We’re product junkies who come from a product design background and recognise an opportunity where we just didn’t think gaming peripherals were up to par with the demands that gaming puts on them."
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