From Gamescom and ESports to the perfect Gaming Hardware
The - the number one fair for gamers and game hardware manufacturers in Europe - has open its doors! No other medium has such a creative and passionate community as games. Whether cosplayers, modders, e-sportsmen or streamers: What do they really want and need? Where do the designers of gaming hardware set in? How important is he/she? Do game hardware designers need to be gamers themselves to understand what their target groups really need? For a gamer, pro or not, the perfect gaming experience is paramount. We believe, a great looking, innovative and easy to handle hardware is irreplaceable to reach this experience. See for yourself and scroll through the Winners of the 2019 below.
That is why we asked designers and manufacturers in our iF Design Special on gaming what they believe the next trends are, what role design plays for gamers and what hardware you really need.
What Gamers Really Want:
Kris Verstockt of CRE8 on Gaming Design Trends
Established in 2001, constantly challenges the status quo, questions apparent constraints, and finds ways to innovate - with a multicultural array of over 45 award-winning product designers, branding experts, and mechanical engineers. We talked to CRE8-founder and about upcoming trends, especially in gaming hardware, and what the modern gamer really wants.
iF: A gaming PC case, a keyboard, mousepads: CRE8 was awarded for major components of a classical gaming hardware set. What product is your personal most favorite and why?
K.V.: As a designer, you usually have a mindset that you think the latest project is the greatest. The reason behind is that a good designer will always feel the obligation to make things better by discovering room for improvement, so the most recent design will be the most “enhanced” version, but after a while, you will start seeing things that you think could have been done better, and you will infuse these ideas into new projects. That being said, all of our designs are like our babies, and you don’t choose one child over another…You just love them all!
iF: The design of all awarded products has its own handwriting. How important is good and recognizable hardware design in the gamer scene?
K.V.: Gamers are very loyal to gaming hardware brands as long as they feel that the brand understands, solves their pain points, and provides the best equipment they need. Some of the most iconic products that we designed have been popular among gamers for almost a decade. The recognizable features do help, but they are not the main reason. Gamers love the design because of its usability and enhanced ergonomics. These days, gamers have much easier access to all the product information and reviews; they see the cool and recognizable elements as a plus, not the drive for decision making when buying an item.
iF: Last but not least, a rather personal question: Gamer or not?
K.V.: While personally I am a casual gamer at best (mostly Xbox), we have all kinds of gamers at CRE8. An interesting fact for you is that, our best gaming hardware designers are not necessarily hardcore gamers. A simple reason for it: hardcore gamers could be very, very, very opinionated about what a certain piece of hardware should do, and this is way too specifically geared towards their personal needs. Sometimes you see things more clearly when you are emotionally less involved.
DESIGNING FOR GAMERS: CRE8´S AWARDED DESIGNS OF 2019
Counterstrike, FIFA, World of Warcraft: Fnatic for ESports
Whether you are a pro gamer or beginner – ESports are the new trend in the gamer scene! Never heard of it? The term refers to the athletic competition between people in a computer game, by using the multiplayer mode. The rules of the competition are determined by the software or game itself and external competition regulations, such as the rules of the competition organizer.
ESport operates on personal computers as well as game consoles. There are national and worldwide cups and competitions, where the pro gamers can win huge amounts of money from sponsors. It is a much anticipated and growing sports trends. There are many ESport players, who earn a living with gaming. However, there is no “E” in ESport without the perfect hardware.
Since eleven years, has been one of the number one outfitters for ESports. “After 11 years of blood, sweat, and broken gear… we know what makes great Esports hardware”, says Fnatic on its Website. Esports gear is about simplicity, comfort, and reliability.
We talked to Fnatic's industrial designer George Barrett and asked him: what are the new trends for 2020? What are the next big things in eSports? "Our focus is on performance first with an increasing emphasis on individual expression and self branding. Our aim in 2020 is to continue to build on performance whilst being conscious of our consumer's lifestyle and the role our peripherals play in them. With the rise of mobile gaming the hardware we design needs to follow suit", he said. The design of hardware itself has not the major role, but: "The primary role is to reduce the gap between physical and digital. Peripherals are the tools used as a catalyst to heighten the immersive experience of esports", Barrett emphasized.
However, design awards, like the 2019 for their Mechanical Gaming Keyboard play an important role - though not exactly for the customers themselves: "Design Awards can be a great motivator for the internal team as they recognise the standard of their work outside of our industry which can help moral. The consumer in esports are less concerned with awards when it comes to purchasing so it is less important from that perspective."
"A Gamer's Headset": Designing the perfect Gaming Performance
As in ESports or any computer game where sound and the communication between multiple players is key, a good headset is paramount. There are many good headsets on the market - but what is actually "good enough", how do gamer headsets differ from headsets for musical use only? We talked to Tino Soelber, CTO at - one of the world's biggest and most awarded manufacturer in gaming peripherals and accessories such as headsets, keyboards, mice and mouse pads. Their Arctis Series, which was honored this year with an twice, got much recognition worldwide. We wanted to know, what the perfect gamer headset is? How they get to know their target groups and what role design plays?
ALL AWARDED HEADSETS BY STEELSERIES
iF: As a designer for gaming headsets: Are you a gamer as well? How important is a personal connection to the product you design?
T.S.: Most people on the product team (really in the entire company) are gamers at heart. Some of us play more than others, but we all play some amount of games. On the design team we are primarily FPS gamers with a secondary love for racing games.
iF: The Arctis headset series was honored with some design awards worldwide and is popular amongst gamers. How would you describe this success?
T.S.: We are very happy with the way the world has received Arctis. We set some very high goals for ourselves when we started the process, and the Arctis design process was by far the biggest and most rigorous design project we had done. To some extend it has changed our internal processes for all following products.
Would you say that there is a higher design awareness when it comes to gear among gamers? If so, why is this so and how would you describe it?
T.S.: There is always a high awareness when you design objects that enable people to perform better at something they are dedicated to. In many cases a good product design can help you get better faster by removing an obstacle between the action in your head, and the action you perform. For headsets like the Arctis line, another aspect is of course that we really wanted to create something gamers could use for other things than gaming - and be proud to do so. A gamers headset, not a gaming headset.
iF: Do you incorporate customer testing in the development and design process? How would you describe your customers?
T.S.: We do a lot of customer testing at SteelSeries; from the very first concepts, over feature testing with focus groups, UX testing in contained environments to full blown proto and pre production testing of actual physical products. Our customer-base has really expanded over the years. The first years were very focused on ESports or enthusiast gamers only, but over the years we got a good foothold with more leisure type and experience seeking gamers. The age spectrum has definitely widened as well - many of our customers have followed us for many years and that most definitely has an impact on the type of products and price points we are able to produce.
iF: What are the next big major trends, when it comes to Gaming gear, especially headsets?
T.S.: We believe that the key pillars are the same as always; Comfort, great audio reproduction, durability, customization, versatility. With an ever changing landscape of technologies we are able to push forward on all of these fronts - it is not a single trend that will change everything.