Why isn’t the design industry catering to the world’s 3 billion gamers?
We speak to industry executives, deep-dive into the stats, and share a few examples that successfully target style-conscious gaming consumers.
By THE EDITORIAL TEAM
October 05, 2022
According to market and consumer data provider Statista, the number of active video gamers worldwide reached more than three billion users this year. And by the looks of it, the mainstream adoption of gaming that surged during the pandemic is not slowing down anytime soon. It’s estimated that the number of those who play games via PC, consoles, tablets, and smartphones will surpass 3,32 billion by 2024. And since the turn of the decade, gaming has come a long way in washing out the masculine toxicity that has stained the culture for years, as more and more women have caught interest in gaming during the pandemic.
The term “gamer” is not only confusingly wide-ranging since everyone from Candy Crush-playing pensioners to desktop-devoted teens fall under the title, some even consider it condescending or regressive. Elle McCharty, vice president of brand at Electronic Arts, told VGC that 14 per cent of people who play games would describe themselves with the G word, and for women that number falls to 6 per cent.
— Gaming is no longer a medium or an industry, it is simply ’interactive’. You can now interact with almost everything through it, from an interest area like interior design to a movement like Black Lives Matter or exploring your sexual identity, McCharty added.
With this in mind, it would be a no-brainer for different industries to tap into the diverse gaming consumer base, all with varying needs for their individual gaming setup. Industries like fashion, music, and entertainment are already locked in, but one player is conspicuous by its absence — the design industry.
In a world with colour palettes of black and neon, gamers with an eye for interior design will know the struggle of blending in consoles, screens, desks, or chairs with the style of their home. It can be hard to go for a sophisticated design choice without having to cut back on comfort or gaming experience. A stylish office chair will perform just as well as the racing-style gaming chair for desktop gamers, and the staple living room armchair can easily be ”gamified” if it’s communicated as mobile and light for console gamers wanting to get closer to their TV. The same thing can be said for pricy WFH desks, which often have all the right characteristics to be gaming desks, but aren’t marketed as such.
Telling enough, when we reached out to ten different Nordic design brands to ask them about their view on gaming furniture, only two wished to comment.
”The most comfortable things are usually very ugly”
There are an estimated 3 billion gamers globally today. Yet, we barely see any design brands releasing gaming chairs or other products targeting this vast group. Why is this, you think?
Niclas Ahlström, co-founder, Made by Choice: The industry is still very traditional and slow-moving — it has been less reactionary to global trends when compared to, for example, the fashion industry.
Levi Di Marco, head of brand & communications, Hem: Even though we value both form and function in our design culture I think there can be a pretty fundamental disconnect between maximum ergonomics and aesthetically pleasing design. That’s a complicated way to say that the most comfortable things are usually very ugly. A key part of being a premium design brand is to accept that you’re not for everyone. There are already billions of people who aren’t design-oriented at all, and even though that behaviour is gradually changing, it will take time, so we need to be patient. Developing products like task chairs — or gaming chairs, for that matter — requires a very scientific approach to design, and there’s no ’one size fits all’ solution. The difference in needs between a piece of furniture you sit in occasionally — or for a maximum of a couple of hours during dinner or when watching a movie — and a chair in which you’ll sit hour after hour is huge. Looking at trends in other product categories I’m sure we get to a point where both values meet. like ’Gorpcore’ in fashion where high-tech solutions, comfort and materials, and high-end design aren’t mutually exclusive.
It should be said that we’ve seen mainstream design companies actively produce and market some parts of their assortment as gaming products. 108-year-old furniture manufacturer Herman Miller started actively developing a gaming-branded assortment in 2020 and has quickly come to be known as the best gaming chair manufacturer out there. Its bespoke design stands out from the standard racing-style gaming chair and offers gamers a more sophisticated if you’re not into the arcade hall aesthetic. The American manufacturer does however only make gaming-specified chairs and desks, only catering to desktop gamers.
Furthermore, IKEA released a range of more than 30 gaming products last year, from general pieces like gaming desks and chairs, drawer and storage units, to the more well-qualified mouse bungee and ring light options. The collection still possesses that characteristic neon look, and even though it offers a wide array of products, most products are meant for desktop players.
Even though desktop gamers make up around half of all three billion gamers today, console and mobile players are also looking for gaming-friendly furniture and interior design objects. The design-conscious Xbox, Playstation, or Nintendo Switch user might look for sideboards, cabinets, or storage boxes that neatly tucks away their controllers and consoles in the living room.
Will you cater for gamers in any way, now or onwards, releasing gaming chairs or anything else?
Levi Di Marco: I’d say that we definitely cater to the occasional gamer already today, with our range of soft seating products like the Puffy Lounge Chair, Hai Chair, and Boa Pouf for console gamers, or the Kendo Chair which is the closest we currently have to a task chair. To be honest I don’t really think the term ’gamer’ will be as binary in the future as it is today either. I think everyone will ’game’ at some capacity, and design their homes around it like we design our living rooms around TVs today. And for that, I think people will be looking for versatility in their furniture, and go for products that are comfortable, but also fit a certain style, and can be used beyond just a singular purpose.
Niclas Ahlström: We are a very agile brand as we have our own production. We are very nimble in producing products to fit a market need. During the covid-19 pandemic, we released the FEM work desk to cater to remote working and the Space of Mind cabin for spending time in nature. This is absolutely something that interests us and we have always been inspired by the technology industry in general. We launched a spin-off company called Aino.ar which is almost like a game to configure furniture and spaces. Consumers and interior architects can use it to design products and spaces as they wish. This will give gamers the possibility to customize their chairs and products as they wish to cater to their needs. We might start to attend gaming events to launch new products for the space. Covid-19 definitely increased interest in the gaming industry as well. We have not seen a lot of high-end design furniture for the industry. We will look into gaming chairs, laptop stands, bean bags, and more in the future and try to reinvent these for the modern gamer.
”We might start to attend gaming events to launch new products for the space”