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SteelSeries Takes On The U.S Gaming Market

Another prominent European accessories brand has entered the U.S. market.

SteelSeries is launching its line of “professional gaming gear” here after successfully grabbing significant market share throughout 75 European and Asian countries since it was founded in 2001.

The Copenhagen, Denmark-based manufacturer is headed up by CEO Bruce Hawver, a former Motorola accessories executive. Hawver brought in Kim Rom, a well-known European gamer, as global marketing VP.

The company’s line of high-end headsets, keyboards, mice and gaming surfaces were designed from scratch with the help of “thousands of the top gamers from around the world,” Rom said.

Hawver explained the company’s philosophy: “We like to think of ourselves like the Ping brand in golf, or Burton snowboards. We are hard core — we focus on the details that make it possible to win. Our products are not cheap. If you’re a competitive gamer and you want to win, you’ll use our product. We are the extreme high end of the market.”

The philosophy is evident in the company’s first wave of products, which included gaming surfaces — essentially mousepads — that retailed for between $39 and $59.

Citing a $30 billion dollar global gaming market, Hawver explained that, in SteelSeries’ view, the U.S. market as still in the fledgling stage but poised for growth. “You have to understand, in some countries, like South Korea, they fill football stadiums with people watching gaming competitions. But the U.S. market is definitely growing. Fifty-five million U.S. Internet households have at least one gamer.”

Hawver stressed the importance of legitimacy among the professional and hard-core gaming community. “It’s where our marketing lies. SteelSeries is actively engaged with more than 250 teams globally and more than 800 events annually.” By 2006, according to Hawver, SteelSeries equipment was used by seven of the top 10 first-person shooter gaming teams around the world. “At the end of the day, if we can meet the demands of the person who makes a living using this stuff, we know the erst of the gamers out there can benefit from our products.”

The company’s newest generation of products that are making their U.S. debut include an optical laser mouse, two gaming headsets, and a gaming-optimized keyboard.

The SteelSeries Ikari laser mouse is the result of 15 months of extensive research or ergonomics, technology, shape, motion, hand grip and play styles by professional gamers from Team 3D, compLexity, mousesports, SK Gaming and Team NoA, among others, according to Rom.

The mouse features programmable macros and a high-precision sensor. It is driverless, which enables the mouse to remember settings and macros when plugged into tournament computers. The proprietary XY2 laser engine supports resolution settings as low as one count per inch, which allows the user to fine-tune the mouse’s movement to his or her personal reaction pattern. The gaming grade engine boasts a tracking ability of 40 samples per second, about five times the speed of conventional laser mice, according to the company.

Other features include a true 16-bit sensor data path, five action buttons, 1,000 Hz polling, a 6.5-foot braided cord for durability and a gold-plated USB connector.

It retails for $89.99.

Three headsets, the 5H v2 and the Siberia and Siberia Neckband, feature 7.1-channel virtual surround sound and pull-out telescoping microphones.

The 5H v2 is a first-person shooter gaming optimized headset that can be dismantled into three separate pieces for storage and travel.

The USB sound card was designed to offer a consistent sound experience, allowing gamers to always play with the exact same sound and setting no matter what computer they are playing on. It is intended for gamers with onboard sound cards and gamers who regularly compete on third-party computers.

Rom said the 5H has been used to win international events including the Electronics Sports World Cup, the World eSport Games, the World Series of Video Games, Kode 5, the World Cyber Games, the Samsung Euro Championship and the ESL Extreme Masters.

The headset features a custom-engineered soundscape designed to enhance performance and immersion by making in-game sounds like footsteps, alerts and gunfire especially clear, the company said.

The headset has a frequency response of 16 to 28Hz and impedance of 40 ohms. It also boasts a 12-channel equalizer.

It retails for $99.99.

The Siberia, which has been on the market overseas since 2004 but is new to the United States, is a dual-use model, optimized for both gaming and music listening, as it works with iPods and other MP3 players. A 12-channel equalizer allows for tweaking to personal listening preferences and a built-in effects processor can provide gaming ambience and other effects, Rom said.

Frequency response is 18 to 28 Hz with an impedance of 40 ohms. It features a 9-foot cord with a 1/8-inch jack and an included 1/4-inch converter.

It retails for $109 and is available in black or white.

Brand new to the market is the next-generation Siberia Neckband, a behind-the-head full-size version of the original with adjustable sizing that is the company’s first product compatible with the Xbox 360.

Final sound optimizations on the Neckband were set with the help of Abdisamad “SpawN” Mohamed, a 12-time grand-slam Counter-Strike champion.

Frequency response is 18 to 28 Hz with an impedance of 40 ohms. It retails for $89.99 and is available in white.