From RAM to Royalty: How HyperX Built Its eSports Empire
As professional gaming (known colloquially as eSports) has continued to grow at a breakneck pace, so have the industries surrounding it. eSports organizations have popped up in all shapes and sizes, from new outfits like Echo Fox to veterans such as Team SoloMid. Events have grown, too; eSports competitions fill stadiums like the Staples Center with relative ease. But the biggest thing to come out of eSports isn’t the teams, the events or even the games themselves. It’s HyperX.
Starting out as a brand of Kingston Technology, a major player in the computer memory market, HyperX has expanded to become one of the biggest players in the burgeoning eSports industry. By listening to their fans, taking risks and continuing to learn and grow, they’ve become an essential thread in the fabric of eSports.
While these days HyperX is known as Kingston’s high-performance gaming brand, it didn’t start out that way. At first, it was just about memory. “HyperX was for this very dedicated overclocking community,” said VP of Marketing Mark Leathem. But they soon realized that a lot of their customers had one thing in common. “What we saw more and more as we met these people was that they were gamers. And that was kind of a lightbulb moment.”
It was also the moment that HyperX started to come into its own. The excitement of the gaming community spoke to them, quite literally, and it was at that point that Kingston’s high-performance baby started to walk on its own. “It was a passion that surprised us. We spent most of our lives in the corporate world, and your average IT manager is not going to get that passionate about server memory. So it was fascinating for us,” admits Leathem. But as overwhelming as it was, that excitement was something HyperX could be proud of.
It was off to the races from there. HyperX was a success, rapidly accounting for larger and larger percentages of the gaming market’s global sales, but their biggest break would come from a place they least expected. “During a passionate discussion about growing beyond memory, some key guys said, ‘why don’t we do headsets? Gamers need to speak to people and they need a mic and they need great sound,’” said Leathem.
Three years later, HyperX was the fastest selling headset manufacturer in the world. They also made a beeline for the hardest of their hardcore audience: eSports. HyperX sponsored their first eSports organization, Team Evil Geniuses (known commonly as Team EG), in 2007, and maintain partnerships with dozens of different teams and events. Even though eSports has grown significantly over the past decade, these investments can carry significant risk; where a sponsorship deal with the professional sports team is usually a sound investment, working with eSports teams still has some risks and a learning curve working at both the regional or global eSports levels. It’s something that Leathem sees simply as the cost of doing business.
Video games have always been about having fun, but eSports has become serious business. Companies of all shapes and sizes have thrown their hats into the sponsorship ring, looking to grab a slice of the pro gaming pie for themselves. At this stage in the game, the eSports industry still relies heavily on sponsors like these for capital, getting their money’s worth in likeness deals and content.
These types of deals can be … hit-or-miss, as Jessica Rago well knows. As the resident eSports specialist at HyperX, she interacts with teams and players regularly, making videos and working with them at events. Over the years, she’s heard a horror story or two. “A lot of companies who get into eSports actually weren’t a member in the community,” she told us. “I’ve heard stories where players were late for matches because they were still stuck doing deliverables at a sponsorship booth, which is never how it should be.”
Rago grew up in the world of eSports as a fan and a professional, and has seen the inner workings of the scene firsthand. It’s allowed her to work around these issues in some creative ways. “It’s probably frustrating for my team,” she said, “but I very rarely have a set schedule [at events]. For us, it’s a lot easier to plan everything out … but we have to follow who’s doing well, who’s dropped out, so generally we won’t find out until the day of, maybe if I’m lucky the day before.”
To sweeten the pot, Rago simply makes it fun! A quick look at HyperX’s YouTube channel makes that abundantly clear; while business is business, everyone’s having a good time, and that’s never a bad thing.
Despite all they’ve accomplished, HyperX is still working hard to push the envelope. Their products are as popular as they’ve ever been, and just this week they signed fighting game legend Daigo Umehara to their portfolio. Staying a level or two ahead of the competition is always the plan in gaming — and apparently one that HyperX has taken to heart.