For the past few years, Razer has made itself a household name among gamers of all stripes. The company has reached so many corners of the gaming market, with a strong presence in PC peripherals and gaming laptops especially. While it's no stranger to penetrating new markets, there's one that the company has only started diving into fairly recently: the brick-and-mortar store experience.
Dubbed the RazerStore, these locations function both as a store, showroom, and venue. Razer opened its seventh location in Seattle, Washington, on Dec. 4, where I got the opportunity to see what it's all about. So what exactly can you expect when you walk into a RazerStore? And is it worth going to one if it shows up in your area?
Touch - The Hands-on Razer Experience
The Seattle location can be found in University Village, a short walk away from the University of Washington. When you walk in, you'll find a sleek, clean, modern-looking store, with a healthy dose of RGB lighting coming off the mice and keyboards strewn about. Along the walls were pleasant hexagonal lights, along with vinyl albums from local Seattle heroes, like Nirvana's In Utero and Jimi Hendrix's Are You Experienced? It gave the space a fairly local energy, despite being part of a major, international conglomerate.
The RazerStore in Seattle greets you almost immediately with laptops and headsets, with mice and keyboards not too far off. All in all, the inviting atmosphere simply begs you to play with everything, tying into its motto: "Touch, Play, Stay." Andy Shafer, the RazerStore manager for the Las Vegas location, came up for the weekend to oversee the grand opening, and he explained about the motto's importance when it comes to the in-store experience.
"We want you to come in and be able to touch our product, feel the difference between the keys, hear the different audio drivers, see how those mouse clicks are, and everything from there," Shafer said. "You can buy online, but it's so much better when you can touch and feel it all and see it all in action and be like, 'Yes, that's the keyboard I want.'"
Like any PC gamer, I've considered picking up some Razer products in the past, perusing reviews and forums to figure out whether these products would fit my needs. After spending nearly two hours at a RazerStore, physically playing with a DeathAdder and a Basilisk side by side did more to shape my opinions than anything I read online. That in and of itself is one of the biggest strengths of the physical location -- if you're curious and need to feel something for yourself, you're covered.
"Our team here is so knowledgeable about all the products to be able to share so much more, whether it's about products or gaming or music production or whatever it is that everybody's all involved with," Shafer said. "That's what we really love, and that's the experience you don't get online."
While Razer sells its products through third-party vendors like Best Buy or Target, the RazerStore gives you a space to try out practically every one of their major products. Beyond that, these locations sell exclusives that other stores won't have, like Sneki Snek plushies or the ludicrous RGB Zephyr mask. However, these spaces want to do more than simply sell product.
Play - A Space to Game
A majority of the floor space acts as a showroom, where guests can play with Razer's tech. Toward the back of the store, however, you'll find the store's "battlestation" space. Razer Blades -- the company's flagship laptops -- stay docked and connected to keyboards, mice, and monitors. Local esports teams, like the ones at the nearby University of Washington, can come in to practice or even face off against each other. Meanwhile, a large TV on the wall mirrors the action for any passing-by shoppers and potential fans to watch.
"In Las Vegas, we built a connection with the Valorant team at [University of Nevada, Las Vegas], so they come in and do practices at our battlestation areas and our PCs," Shafer said. "That's one of the things Jonah [Wang], our store manager here, has been working on building, is getting involved in the gaming scene. So hosting the space for them to come in and game on our world-class systems, and really be able to experience everything Razer."
The proposed energy might feel reminiscent of your local comic book shop. Sure, you can go in to pick up the latest issue or thumb through some omnibuses, but chances are, you might stumble into a lively night of Magic draft. Suddenly, the space evolves from shop to lounge, where people can gather and enjoy each other's company. These RazerStores feature a similar energy, but instead of tapping cardboard, it's tapping keyboards.
Manifesting into a physical, brick-and-mortar environment gives Razer new opportunities to reach consumers who might otherwise be unfamiliar with their brand. After all, how many times have you been to the mall and walked into a store you've never heard of before? With locations like University Village in Seattle and the LINQ Promenade in Las Vegas, all sorts of people will come across the store's red, green, and blue vibes.
"I would say probably seven out of 10 folks that come into RazerStore Las Vegas know of the brand in some way, whether they've been in the physical store, seen RazerStore live, shopped online, something like that," Shafer anecdotally said about the Las Vegas location. "And the other three out of 10 are folks that are truly like, 'What is this?' That's just in my eyesight, ballpark numbers."
Stay - Seven Stores and Counting
The Seattle location is Razer's seventh physical store in the world, but it's only the third in the United States. However, Razer doesn't plan on stopping there any time soon. Will Powers, Razer's Public Relations Lead, was on site for the weekend, and he was enthusiastic about the future of RazerStore's in the U.S.
"We're aggressively expanding a lot of stores," Powers said. "We have data from online sales and retail partners, and we know where we have tons of fans. So really, it's about looking at where our fandom exists, and then planting a physical location there to be able to nurture it."
For now, the company's biggest focus is on major metropolitan areas, with San Francisco, Las Vegas, and now Seattle being prime examples of that strategy in action. While the company isn't ready to announce a specific number of stores or locations on the horizon, there's a good chance a local RazerStore could show up near you, if you live in a larger city.
If a RazerStore does open near you, you can expect a focus on integrating with the local gaming community in some way, like teaming up with your university's esports teams. Above all, however, if you're already set on purchasing something from Razer, you can really weigh all your options in a place that's a little more focused than a Best Buy or Target.
"Being able to come into the store and feel the product and just see them like, 'Yes, my friend told me this, I read a review and it was all about this, I just wanted to see, and yep, this is exactly what I want,'" Shafer said. "That, in my opinion, is the biggest thing with RazerStores, is being able to come in and touch and see the products."