Razer has a gaming problem. That might be confusing to hear if you just know the company for its excellent keyboards and mice. Razer is a company built for gamers by gamers, and it has a well-deserved reputation for making great products for its core audience. Some of its products are so good, in fact, that they should be used by way more than just gamers.
Image: Alex Cranz/Gizmodo
Looking at Razer's moves lately, it seems like the company would agree. Its new powerful and skinny laptop, the Razer Blade Stealth, is actively being marketed towards professionals, and in mid-October Razer went and surprised everyone by acquiring THX, a major audio company known for certifying theatres. This is a company ready to move beyond the gamers that built it, but that's never going to happen if it can't shake its tackiest tendencies.
The Razer Blade Stealth is an exceptional laptop - one of my favourites this year - and the company is curiously positioning it as a machine that's for creative Adobe Photoshop and Premiere types. "Whether editing content or sharing a presentation, the Razer Blade Stealth was designed for ultimate visual clarity," the Razer website says. "Standout performance," another part of the website shouts above a photo of the Blade Stealth running a CAD program.
Screenshot capture from Razer website.
It's a totally reasonable goal to have for a laptop of this calibre. Like the larger Blade, the Blade Stealth is the rare Windows device that genuinely gives Apple a run for its money in design, fit and finish. It has a super fast Kaby Lake processor, a gorgeous touch screen display and one of the best touchpads available, all starting at $1549 - a full $650 less than Apple's cheapest (and less powerful) new MacBook Pro. While the bigger Blade is an unmistakable gaming laptop, with a Skylake quad-core i7 processor and Nvidia 1060 GPU, it could easily rival the more expensive MacBook Pros (also with Skylake quad-core i7 processors, but opting for AMD Radeon Pro 400 series GPUs). If a company besides Microsoft or Lenovo is going to unseat Apple as the king of top-notch laptops, it could be Razer.
What's holding it back? Those "gamer" aesthetics. Namely, that intense colour scheme, that glaring green snake logo and that name. The Blade Stealth sounds and looks like something straight out of The Matrix.
While the computers themselves are hampered by Razer's gaming roots, the company has been making strides elsewhere to move beyond the niche and into the general consumer electronics market. Last month Razer acquired THX, the audio company George Lucas built to make sure the audio from Return of the Jedi sounded great in the theatre. It was a very big move for a relatively small company in an essentially niche market. Razer has been mum on the specific reasons it purchased THX, and most assume it's for a better position in VR, yet the acquisition also gives Razer an opening into the audio space and even Hollywood where THX certifies theatres for premium surround sound calibration. It's all for the taking, if of course it stops shooting itself in the foot by swearing allegiance to its core audience of gamers.
The problem became especially notable yesterday when someone at the company's Twitter wheel decided to pen a very, very bad tweet.
If you game, this tweet was less offensive as it was impossibly stupid. I've heard worse challenges from 13-year-olds in Overwatch. Divorced from the toxic banter of the gaming community, the tweet isn't just juvenile, it's sexist and homophobic.
And Razer is better than that. The company is on the cusp of being more than a gaming company, and it's time for it to grow up. The design of Razer's laptops, its inability to engage with its audience in anything but the most inane of juvenile tweets, and even the company's giant snake logo, are all holding it back.
As long as Razer kowtows to the gaming community it will continue to alienate the much larger community of laptop users. Look at that giant snake logo on the laptop or that impossibly stupid tweet and ask yourself, how embarrassed would you be to explain that crap to a stranger?