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E-sports brand Razer eyeing expansion in Chinese market

Mr Tan says the new Hong Kong store, located in the heart of the city's busy Causeway Bay business district, is a "big step" for Razer at just the right time.

Hong Kong

LEADING global gaming lifestyle brand Razer is eyeing expansion in the Chinese market and exploring new mobile devices for gamers, said the company's Singaporean co-foun-der and CEO Tan Min-Liang.

"We are the biggest e-sports brand in China today, and we think there's so much more potential in China, we want to expand and grow it," Mr Tan told The Business Times at a media preview for the launch of Razer's first Hong Kong concept store - the brand's sixth worldwide - last week.

"We've not done much in Hong Kong yet. In (mainland) China, we've already got a store in Shanghai, and we're exploring new stores for the future."

He added that the new Hong Kong store, located in the heart of the city's busy Causeway Bay business district, is a "big step" for Razer at just the right time.

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"Gaming has become the biggest segment in entertainment, it's bigger than movies, it's bigger than music, it's a hundred billion dollar industry . . . There are over two billion gamers everywhere in the world, and many of them are right here in Hong Kong," he said.

"The government over here has a renewed interest in e-sports at this point of time . . . and we'd like to see how we can support that."

Razer, which designs and builds integrated hardware and software platforms for gamers with over 35 million users, has found immense success since its 2005 inception, growing in "double digit figures" and gathering a cult-like following around the world, said Mr Tan.

Among its signature products are high-performance PC and console peripherals, gaming laptops, software services and a virtual currency and payment engine for gamers called zGold.

In October 2014, the San Francisco-based company was valued at US$1.5 billion, according to data from researcher CB Insights, and it now counts Hong Kong's richest man, Li Ka-shing, Intel Capital Corp and Temasek Holdings' Heliconia Capital Management among its backers.

Three Group, the mobile telecommunications arm of Li Ka-shing's CK Hutchison, has partnered with Razer for the Hong Kong RazerStore, which will offer mobile devices and tariff plans specifically designed for the gaming community.

At the store's official opening on Saturday, over a thousand Razer fans and gamers waited for hours in heavy rain for a chance to test out the latest gadgets available, including the brand's critically-acclaimed Razer Blade laptops.

Razer's foray into Hong Kong and and its new partnership with mobile communications service provider 3 Hong Kong could serve as subtle affirmation to observers speculating that the gaming company is developing a smartphone and planning to list on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. Talk of a future Razer phone and the company going public have been rife since Razer acquired smartphone start-up Nextbit earlier this year and reports emerged in April about Razer considering an initial public offering in Hong Kong that could raise about US$400 million.

Mr Tan declined to comment on Razer's listing plans, but appeared to hint that his company's next device would cater to the mobile industry. "Our partnership with 3 is a strategic partnership . . . We will be exploring new devices together in the future, new whole devices for gamers, and . . . we're really focused on the mobile industry," he said.

"I can't specifically talk about whichever future device it will be, but it spanned from a few years ago when we acquired Ouya (maker of an Android-based video console) to have the great content and platform to focus on mobile games. Recently we acquired Nextbit, so we've got some of the top talent in the mobile industry. Anything that comes about will be pretty kick-ass for gamers."

Noting that his company is "known to take years and years to design products" - Razer spent nearly three years from its 2008 acquisition of computer maker OQO's core engineering team to launch its first Blade laptop - Mr Tan said that there is no strict timeline for the unveiling of Razer's next device.

He added: "Given all the work that we've done on the mobile side of it, I would say that at Razer it's ready when it's ready."

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