It may shock you to hear that I know very little about video gaming. OK, that's actually an overstatement. I know nothing about video gaming. That's not to say I don't have deep admiration, nay, awe for folks who not only understand this robust industry, but who are finding new and exciting ways to make money from it.
That leads me to this week's guest blogger. Brett Lovelady is the founder and Chief Instigator of Astro Studios, one of the select design shops that last year was among the "Design Factories" featured in our October design issue. I've admired Brett and his company's work for quite a while—way back when they were first developing Nike's Triax watches, Microsoft's XBox 360 gaming system, and Alienware Computers.
What most impressed me was Brett's relentless focus on users—not just gamers and tech jocks, who instinctively know how to convert to iso files when their DVD drives overheat from excessive use—but the rest of us who muddle along trying to find the mute button on our cell phones. He told me about one meeting at Microsoft, where he advised the notoriously user-unfriendly software giant's hard core developers that dazzling their geekish brethren with their technological wizardry, while personally satisfying, did not always endear them to a mainstream audience. "They told us, 'Give people more features!'" he said, recounting the meeting. "I told them, 'If you want a killer product, you need to go simple, simple, simple.'" Indeed, he says, that dictum has become a mantra at Astro.
In June, San Francisco-based Astro celebrated a significant anniversary, turning 15 years old. Fittingly, Lovelady told me, over that period of time, the company's work has helped to generate some $15B in revenues for clients. Well, happy birthday to you!
Last year, Astro spun off a totally new venture-backed company, ASTRO Gaming, to leverage the group's expertise in the field by designing high performance equipment to improve the "sport" of video gaming, specifically for the sport's pros. ASTRO Gaming intends, Brett tells me, to become to professional gaming equipment what "Burton is to snowboarding, and Nike is to running." Nothing wrong with aiming high!
To that end, ASTRO has teamed up with Major League Gaming, the NYC-based, emerging gaming media empire (similar to leagues like the NFL/NBA/ MLB) to improve grassroots tournament play. And just this month, the Astro team earned two honorable mentions in I.D. Magazine's Annual Design Review for the Astro Gaming A40 Audio System and the A40 Packaging.
But, according to Brett, ASTRO and his "lethal team" have only just begun, promising some yet-to-be-divulged blockbusters in the works. We can't wait to see what comes next.
Here are some of Astro's greatest hits:
The Triax running watch for Nike.
Microsoft's XBox 360.
A slick Smartphone for Kyocera.
ASTRO Gaming's A40 Audio System.
Simplicity + Technology = Sweet Success