This week was bittersweet in the gaming peripheral industry. On the one hand, I have bad memories of using crappy Mad Catz controllers as a child so I wasn’t too sad to see Mad Catz go out of business. On the other hand, Mad Catz has been producing affordable 3rd party accessories for gamers for almost 30 years so it’s sad to see such a major player unable to keep up with the times. The bankruptcy of Mad Catz brings up an interesting question: Can anyone compete with Razer and Corsair when it comes to Game peripherals?
The downfall of Mad Catz knocked out what was previously a major player in the peripheral industry, and the situation is not great for the consumer. While Mad Catz hasn’t always had quality products, they’ve produced some legitimately cool peripherals in the last few years. Unfortunately that wasn’t enough to compete with the behemoths Razer and Corsair who have a chokehold on the peripheral market – even more so now that Mad Catz is gone. This leads to increased market share for the two companies, but less choices overall for the gamer.
With Razer estimated to be worth over $1 billion back in 2015, there’s no doubt that their valuation has increased since then. To me, Razer is the Apple of gaming peripherals. The company relies heavily on branding and they produce some decent quality and seriously expensive products. There are definitely better options out there for a lower price, but Razer has branded themselves as the gamer company. With flashy lights and an aesthetic that appeals to most gamers, they’ve managed to market products that, while definitely decent in quality, are honestly not worth as much as they cost.
Apple has done extremely well with this business model, but you can’t draw a direct comparison between Apple and Razer. Apple still innovates despite their reliance on branding and offers a unique ecosystem to their consumers, while Razer mainly produces peripherals that light up and look nice. This model may end up paying off despite their lack of innovation, however, as there’s one less company to contest Razer’s rule.
Corsair, on the other hand, I’m more of a fan of. Their designs are largely more muted than Razer, which appeals more to my aesthetic. From my experience they also have a slightly higher build quality than Razer, though that’s probably up for debate. While not as much as a household name as Razer, Corsair produces some seriously high-end mechanical keyboards that feel awesome to game on. While the keys still light up it feels like Corsair isn’t trying as hard as Razer to build up this aura or aesthetic of being a “Razer Gamer” or “Corsair Gamer”. This less aggressive marketing style combined with quality products appeals to me, and it must appeal to others too as Corsair is obviously the second biggest name in peripherals right now.
It’s prudent to raise the question of whether Mad Catz was really a direct competitor, however. Razer and Corsair focus mainly on PC peripherals, and a lot of people think of Mad Catz as a controller company despite their efforts to expand into the PC market. Razer offers a controller, but it may be hard to draw a direct connection between the demise of Mad Catz and the near-monopoly that Razer and Corsair hold on peripherals.
What exactly led to the downfall of Mad Catz? Was it Razer and Corsair edging them out or were there other reasons the company couldn’t keep up? From some preliminary research, it seems like Mad Catz was their own worst enemy. A string of bad business decisions, including investing heavily into instrument accessories for games like Rock Band and gaming pads for more niche markets like fighting games resulted in a bunch of money invested with no profit.
Whether or not Razer or Corsair killed Mad Catz is kind of irrelevant. The end result is the same: one less option when it comes time to buy peripherals. Are Razer and Corsair the “uncontested rulers”? They definitely have the majority of the market cornered, but for the time being there are definitely other options for the informed gamer. Logitech produces some quality peripherals for gaming, including some console options too. Turtle Beach is another option, though I’ve had some questionable experiences with their products.
The fact of the matter is that Razer and Corsair are not uncontested, but the bankruptcy of Mad Catz is a loss for the consumer. Razer and Corsair will squeeze the market just a little bit tighter, and while Logitech isn’t likely to go anywhere anytime soon, we may unfortunately be looking at a future with fewer options and more expenses.