When we had our time with the Skullcandy PLYR 2 recently, we noted how much we liked both the industrial design statement it made and the audio quality. There were few issues we had with the headsets, even liking them more than products in the class above them, especially at the price that the company was asking. Skullcandy has benefited greatly from its recent purchase of ASTRO Gaming, in both design and quality.
At E3 we had time to sit with ASTRO’s Cris Lee and check out their current and upcoming lineup, as well as find out about how that partnership defines the relationship between the two companies.
“From 2007 to 2013, we’ve gone from $1.5 million in sales to an expected $40 million,” Lee explained to us during his presentation behind closed doors. Guiding us through their recent product launches, most notably the Dolby 7.1 Skullcandy PLYR 1, the company is bullish on the growing popularity of their products. “We’ve gone form sponsoring entire leagues, to focusing more on on individual teams as eSports grows in popularity.” This allows for more ability to co-brand with teams as well as gaming franchises.
When the companies merged, ASTRO’s 40+ team of designers and developers began taking on Skullcandy’s products, bringing their know-how to the other brand. But even though they’re owned by the same company, keep the product lines separate hasn’t been an issue.
“ASTRO’s lineup is geared towards the dedicated core audience, with prices generally $200 and up. Skullcandy is more of a casual gamer/lifestyle brand, with the products generally costing below $200.” Because of that, Skullcandy focuses heavily on style: purchasers want a great-looking piece of technology at a great price, depending on whenever they play. These headsets may end up sitting next to the TVs on a great base, like the PLYR 1′s charging station.
The games that Skullcandy associates itself with are more single-player experiences. The latest is the upcoming Assassin’s Creed IV branded “Animus SLYR”, which is a repainted SLYR headset, complete with new colors and decals to match the design of the game series. Another addition over the regular SLYR versions is that the materials used are soft-touch, meaning that the paint won’t feel like hard plastic but rather appealing to the hand. The SLYR is generally the budget headset by Skullcandy (though it’s hardly low-quality), so co-branding with Ubisoft on the game-specific version and selling it to a game with a considerably wide audience seemed like a perfect match.
ASTRO, on the other hand, is clearly focused on competitive gaming. Though appearance is important, comfort and audio performance trump style. Even so, the company still creates co-branded products that have a bit of flair to them. Multiple colors and material choices are available, and personalized tags can be created, uploaded, and applied to the headsets for style or club affiliation. This Fall will see the Battlefield 4 edition of their A40 & A50 headsets come to market. The sets, which feature four unique tag sets, are adorned in the Battlefield franchise colors and sport a sexy carbon fiber frame.
The relationship between the two divisions continues to grow and expand, as audio technology is shared and compatibility becomes company wide. With next gen looming, ASTRO/Skullcandy is working with Microsoft and Sony to make sure their products can run at optimal performance on the new consoles, as well as they do on current ones. Regardless, the company consistently brings terrific style and high-quality audio to the market across a variety of levels. “We have a lot of products that we’re working on, that we can’t talk about yet, but that we’re so incredibly excited about that they could really redefine the immersive experience we create.” ASTRO & Skullcandy seem to be doing a great job of keeping the bar pretty high.