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Interview with Robert Krakoff RE: Mystify/Razer Boomslang 2500
From Karna LLC Date: March 28th 2003

Robert Krakoff -- "Razerguy" on the Razer Boomslang: It's Back!

This was a wonderful interview to get put in -- and it was glorious to see the company still around and getting back into a thriving position again. The Razer Boomslang, from its original release to this day, has remained a pinnacle of performance for its users, and I'm happy to say that my dependable Boomslang 2000 has so far outlasted three high-end mousepads and shows no sign of stopping.

Robert was kind enough to answer a doubled set of questions, on every topic I could pass his way, and our thanks go to him for the time he put in answering all these questions. The goods are below: as usual, my questions in blue, his answers in tan.

Starting big... Way back when the Razer mice were just an idea, did you ever see the gaming world becoming what it is today? Back when we first met, 3dfx were fighting tooth and nail against NVidia, ATi wasn't really big in the picture, and the only products that were even coming close to what the Razer mice do were optical mice, which seem to have stalled in their designs.

At the very beginning we did a great amount of research on the gaming market. We interviewed hundreds of avid gamers, both on the PC side and the console side. Many people told us that the market was too small for us to be successful. We spoke to 3Dfx in 1999 and they gave us much hope about the future and expansion into a worldwide global market. They were extremely nice and helpful to us, and we were saddened to see them absorbed. They owned the hardcore video card market in 1999, and they lost their edge when they decided to enter the mass market and become just another brand. From a technology standpoint they made some mistakes and lost touch with the marketplace that made them. They became vulnerable to a company with superior technology.

How does it feel to be back in the "we can't make them fast enough" position, as opposed to the position Karna was in previously, selling limited-runs through an eBay store?

To be very clear, selling Razer products through eBay was not our idea or doing. Our previous distributor couldnít find the proper channels to sell the product and used auctions as a method to dump product. We are now associated with a ďrealĒ distributor, one that can move products into the retail channels, one with the sales and support structure to take care of our loyal customers. They actually did too good a job selling our new product in Europe and we are now on allocation to the rest of the world. Naturally, it doesnít hurt too much that the new Mystify/Razer Boomslang 2500 appears to be a great product.

Hindsight being 20/20, are there any things you might have done differently that might have kept things a bit rosier, or was it just a stroke of bad luck?

There are always things that one could have done better, such as select a better business partner to distribute our products in the past. However, our largest challenge was just bad timing. We had a successful product that was in high demand around the world. After about 18 months of initial sales, it was time to begin the process of adding new products. We never had a lot of capital when we started and the sales form Boomslangs kept us going, but the pressure was on to develop the next great product. Our fans told us what they wanted, and we began the research and development phase for Mamba, Raptor and testing of headphones. When the time came to raise capital to complete these projects, we went out to investors and venture capitalists around the world. What happened is that we could not raise any money because our timing coincided with the .COM disaster. Investors lumped us into that area, saying that we were a technology company and they were no longer loaning money to technology companies. Our loyal fans and our dreams kept us alive for the next 18 months.

Whatever did happen to the Mamba? Just curious.

Itís still on the drawing boards. We will make decisions to add new products after we can fulfill the product demands for the 2500 model.

What differentiates the new 2500 model from its predecessors?

Only about 200 engineering modifications and improvements Ö the most noticeable being the new optic encoder lens, the lighter weight, the forged steel rollers, the softer and even longer cable, the new mouseball, new Teflon glide-pads, new micro-switches, new scroll wheel assembly, etc, etc. Itís really a brand new product reengineered from the ground up.

Is it nice to see original series 2000's and 1000's, faithfully maintained, that owners still love and play with?

We may have some of the most loyal and proud fans of any other product ever. They write me with ideas for mods, new designs, product fix, new product concepts, wallpapers, you name it. Most of them proudly include their model number along with their name. Some own 6 to 8 Boomers and just want to make certain that they have a backup just in case Ö itís also amazing that so many today still own an operational first edition Razer mouse. Very cool stuff indeed.

Looking over the proliferation of optical mice and the Razer's performance by comparison; while some of it is obviously the Razer's design, fitting the fingers where most mice are an entire-hand operation, there's always the raw performance of the Razer's trackball when combined with a decent mousepad. Would you say the comparison between cars of automatic or manual transmission is a fair analogy?

Maybe itís the difference between a Ford and a Porsche. Both will get you there, but one is a whole lot more fun to drive. And once youíve driven a Porsche (or a Razer) is really hard to go back to that Ford (you fill in the brand).

Any thoughts on why, where the Razer mice proved that a mouse doesn't have to have the tried-and-trite look and function relying on a full-hand grip, no optical mouse creators or other companies have embraced a similar shell or tried to come up with a third design?

The industrial design served several purposes. Initially, we were a really small and unknown player in a very crowded arena. We had to take some risks with our product design and marketing just to get noticed. Secondly, due to our ultra-high sensitivity, we could create a design that could be utilized with a minimum of movement and fingertip controls. Ours is still the only mouse that you can actually control using only a single finger.

Any ideas on other Razer products that might come eventually? A Razer trackball, perhaps? Or gamepad/joystick devices with the high precision technology the Razer mice contain?

This is where your questions really get tough. Without hedging or sidestepping the question, I can answer it like this Ö Razerís mission, as a company is to ďenhance the gaming experienceĒ. We can play in all of the product classifications you mentioned, BUT we donít want to become a ďme-tooĒ company. That is, we donít want to come out with an optical or wireless mouse just because everyone else offers one. We will only create and develop products under the Razer or Mystify brand that offer the end user an advantage.

What's your favorite computer game, currently? Of all time?

Easy, Quake II, although I believe that the Thief series were the most innovative FPS games ever.

If you've seen it, what's your take on ATi's remote control device that they sell separate as well as packaging with the All-In-Wonder units?

Unfortunately, I havenít placed my grubby paws on one yet.

PS2, Gamecube, or Xbox?

Which ever company figures out how to apply itís hardware and software to the mouse and keyboard, so real gamers can play action/adventure/sports games without having to use those f___ing controllers. From where I sit today PS2 would seem to have an edge.

Following up on Question #1: ("They became vulnerable to a company with superior technology") -- do you see parallels between the NVidia/3dfx wars and the ATi/NVidia competition going on right now?

Iím not really an expert on whatís happening today. While Razer was on the beach for about 18 months, I began working on a couple of other projects within the gaming area. I see some similarities inasmuch as NVidia is pretty much in the same position as 3Dfx was when they lost their focus. Although ATI has been around a while, they can be quite formidable with their focus attacking technology while the competition is busy defending all fronts.

What do you think of Microsoft's current idea for PC gaming in the future: to set up a "Levels" system, probably using some form of a benchmark tool, such that PC games instead of listing system specs will say "Level 3 or up" or something similar on the hardware requirements section of the box, and maybe system specs in the manual. Is this a good thing or something to wait and see on?

Itís so radical a concept that weíll have to wait and see. I really havenít heard what the avid gaming community thinks of it yet.

Is it getting closer and closer to the time when PCs should dump the PS/2 port and move keyboards and mice exclusively to USB, or is the technology not quite there yet? Will the new Razer line continue carrying around the PS/2 adapter with the PSFlex port overclocking software for users who somehow wind up with a Razer mouse and not enough USB ports to go around?

The PS/2 is going the way of the serial port.  USB is the standard for input devices today and in the future. Players who donít have enough USB ports should invest in a USB hub. PS/2 uses system resources. Why bother? Our new XP drivers donít support PS/2. Say bye-bye.

Gotten that rocket jump down yet?

Second in the world, right behind Fatal1ty ;-)

When I initially reviewed the Boomslang 2000 I noted that, for users with shorter fingers, the scroll wheel is in a "just out of reach" position. It appears the 2500 has a very similar form factor to the 2000, but since it's hard to tell from pictures, is it any larger/smaller and how's the positioning of the wheel.

Pretty much the same positioning. We had many requests to move it up, and many requests from existing users to leave it where it is. When Mamba comes out it will solve that issue for players with smaller hands. Personally, when gaming I prefer the keyboard to the scroller in any mouse.

Have you seen Freelancer yet? If not, what are your thoughts on companies doing like Digital Anvil did, and foregoing flightstick/gamepad support in favor of making an interface that works exceptionally well on keyboard/mouse alone?

In the long run any interface that supports the keyboard/mouse is great for us. I havenít played Freelancer yet, but if it IS Diablo or Morrowmind in space, I will definitely check it out. Iíve never warmed up to the learning curve of RPG space adventure games. Personally, I have never found a flight stick that responded as well as a mouse. Come to think of it, I have never used a flightstick that I really liked. The same goes for gamepad; give me the keyboard any day.

Thanks so much again to Robert for taking the time on these questions! The next interview will come... well, when I get ahold of the next person and fire away the questions!


Robert Krakoff re: Mystify/Razer Boomslang 2500

Added:  Friday, March 28, 2003
Reviewer:  Michael Ahlf


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