Razer's CEO is "super excited" about 5G's impact on gaming
Min-Liang Tan chats to us about his company's deal with Tencent and why game streaming is good for Razer
Min-Liang Tan is the sort of CEO who will say "dick move" on camera and play a round of Apex Legends with you.
His company, Razer, is a staple in the gaming and esports industries, known for a selection of high-end hardware -- everything from smartphones and laptops to keyboards and even mousepads -- designed with gamers in mind.
And the CEO is adamant that he's a hardcore gamer, just like his customers. It is undoubtedly a bit of showmanship and marketing. But it's also true.
Tan sat down with us for a live interview on Twitch. While he's always excitable, it's the possibility of what 5G will bring to gaming that really sparked his enthusiasm.
"It's all about enabling gaming, anytime, anywhere," says Tan. "So when I'm on the road, I'm going to be able to play Apex Legends, I'm going to be able to play whatever game I want, all streamed."
Is a 5G version of the Razer Phone coming? Tan wouldn't say. But his excitement about streaming games from the cloud is interesting, because it's a future that theoretically negates Razer's strength in building powerful smartphones and laptops.
After all, the selling point of Razer's devices is that they are optimized to run games as smoothly as possible, promising gamers the best experience. But streaming services like Google Stadia or Microsoft xCloud shift all the grunt work to servers in the cloud, allowing even the cheapest devices to run the most demanding games. What's the point in having a powerful device when all that power remains unused?
Far from a threat, Tan sees this as an opportunity.
"You still need a client," says Tan, pointing out that no matter what, you're still going to need something to play the game on and something to control the game with. "I think our user interfaces business, our peripherals business, is going to do incredibly well."
"You're going to be able to see PC games being played on the mobile, you're going to see console games played on the PC," says Tan. "How do you bring the keyboard and mouse experience to the console? We're working with Microsoft on that, with our Turret, where you have a keyboard and mouse experience on console."
This week Razer also announced a tie-up with Tencent, China's gaming behemoth.
Tencent is connected to a remarkable number of games. The company developed PUBG Mobile under license, owns a stake in the company behind Fortnite, and will soon launch a Call of Duty title built for smartphones.
Given Tencent's portable prowess, it's probably not surprising that Tan says the partnership is focused on mobile gaming.
"Our collaboration with Tencent is really focused on, how do we really optimize hardware for Tencent mobile games, like PUBG, and for mobile controllers?"
Tan also talked up the software side of the partnership. Razer Cortex Mobile, a game launcher for Android, will also work better with Tencent titles, and says the two companies will work on monetization and other services.
Talk of monetization in games makes older folk like me wistful for the older, simpler days. While Tan is currently playing Apex Legends, a list of his personal favorites dips much further back in history. He singles out Lode Runner and Rescue Raiders on the Apple II, but the game that really stood out for him was Ultima IV.
"It wasn't just hack-and-slash and about killing everything, you needed some kind of moral code," he says of the iconic 1985 role-playing game.
Tan also says he enjoys Civilization and Romance of the Three Kingdoms, because they take him back to when he used to play games with his brother. But, conversely, it also shows how far he's come -- and the impact his company has made on the gaming landscape.
"Today I'm meeting the developers themselves, and I'm saying 'I love your games!' And they're coming back and saying, 'We use Razer!' So, it's pretty cool."
There's much more from our interview with Min-Liang Tan, including why he thinks Razer's flashy prototypes are similar to concept cars -- and his appeal to people to stop asking him to make a Razer Toaster. For all that and more, check out our full interview with Razer's CEO right here.