There are around 2.5 billion gamers in the world and chances are high that you are one, or at least sharing floorspace at home with one. With one third of the population chasing high scores it stands to reason that this is not a homogenous group, but there is one need a streamer, e-sporter and the occasional gamer have in common, other than the hardware, and that’s somewhere to sit and somewhere to put your gaming stuff.
When Sofia Wiktorsson, Product Design Developer at IKEA in Shanghai, and Luis Porém Pires, Range Design Leader in IKEA Workspaces, joined the very first workshop in Shanghai for the IKEA GAMING range development, they wanted to learn more about gamers needs. The collaborating partner, Republic of Gamers, has their own gaming team, and many coworkers that are hard core gamers, which meant a lot of valuable insights for Sofia and Luis. Together with ROG they invited hardcore gamers to discuss how design can increase performance and also welcome gaming into the home.
“We had gaming stations where we could observe the gamers in action and at the same time ask questions and discuss around the gear, and the movements taking place while gaming. Also, we got some quality time spent with the gamers exploring the activities around gaming, like preparation, breaks and eating,” says Sofia.
For Sofia, gaming is a fairly new world. She has a long experience developing IKEA products, and working with how design can be a helping hand in our daily life and increase the wellbeing at home. Last year she moved to Shanghai to work even more closely with the suppliers when developing IKEA products.
Luis, on the other hand, spent a fair amount of his youth playing computer and console games, and today he plays occasionally with friends. At IKEA, he leads the design work for workspaces and sees a clear connection between work and gaming.
“Health and well-being are very important. We want to offer good ergonomic solutions not only for gamers, but for many other customers. At home, the gaming activity either takes place in a dedicated room, or in the bedroom or living room and there is a need for complete solutions, well-integrated in a home context, says Luis.
What kind of gamers needs did you identify?
“The hardware is of course important, but after that a good chair is a priority. Since the gamers spend hours playing, ergonomic and comfort is important and also contributes to the performance. Also, a clutter free surface and environment to enable the gamer to stay focused, so a good solution for organising is also appreciated,” says Sofia.
While people are staying at home during the pandemic, there will be a time for LAN parties and gaming cafes again. IKEA and ROG also made sure to develop products that provide a good support on the go. One example is the neck pillow, which fits some of the IKEA chairs, and you can take with you. Other products are designed to organize and support your gaming gear at home, enhance lighting and sound, or even keep you warm and cozy in front of the screen.
“The cushion blanket origins from a need we detected in the exploration phase. Gamers in some parts of the world suffer from cold indoor temperatures in the winter, but there is also a need to recharge in-between gaming sessions. The cushion is a supporting friend in the lap. When leaning back you can hug and get support your back and shoulders, and also increase the level of coziness. Or if the room is a bit cold, you open up the cushion and you will have a nice and cozy blanket with arms so that you can still freely continue gaming,” says Sofia.
Could you describe how one of the needs resulted in a new IKEA product?
“The streamer community is growing, and we wanted to offer some good solutions to support this activity. Streamers need to look good on camera while they play so we have developed a streaming light, a flexible light source that can also hold your phone while streaming. We will also have accessories like the mouse bungee that holds the mouse chord while gaming to avoid the cord to get tangled in the middle of an intense gaming session, and I didn’t know this product existed before entering the gaming world,” says Sofia.
Sofia, you live in Shanghai. Why is the GAMING range developed here?
The IKEA Product Design Center is a development unit based in Shanghai. Being close to our suppliers enables us to develop products on the factory floor. It also brings us closer to the customers in China. We wanted to develop the GAMING range here since China is the largest gaming market in the world. IKEA China will be the first to sell the gaming range in February 2021. The collection is planned to be launched in other IKEA markets in October 2021,” says Sofia.