High quality sound or voice chat. For years, Australian gamers were forced to make the decision. Separated at birth, each was seemingly mutually exclusive, unless you wanted to pay through the nose with extravagant shipping costs from the US.
That all changed with the arrival of Turtle Beach and SteetSeries, but they were arguably not what audiophiles dreamed about at night. Mature gamers, with their own money, wanted to emulate the professionals with the official headset of Major League Gaming: the Astro A40.
This August, that becomes a reality for Australian gamers. Bluemouth Interactive is working with Astro to bring its critically acclaimed range of headsets to Australia and New Zealand.
Last month at E3, I got the chance to sit down with Jordan Reiss, founder and VP of Astro Gaming, to have a chat about the brand and why its official release in Australia is of the utmost importance. In the spirit of transparency, I should mention that we’ve had a spectacular A40 in the office for a few weeks now, and it’s been marvellous.
“When we started looking at the market in 2005, the most expensive headset was [USD] $99 and the average was [USD] $25." Adult gamers wanted something that didn’t exist.
The Astro brand has gone from strength to strength since launching with its flagship A40 in 2008, explained Reiss. Back in 2008, Astro sold its headsets exclusively through its own website, pulling in USD $1.5 million. That’s a nice way of saying it had yet to branch out. Fast forward four years, and with partners such as Bluemouth, Astro expects to increase its sales by USD $7 million through retailers, up to a massive USD $28 million in 2012.
“The evolution from direct-to-consumer selling via our own website, to also offering our products through retail is an exciting opportunity. It opens up a new world of possibilities for exposing our brand and products,” said Reiss.
The key to that success is brand. Astro Gaming doesn’t want to be another headset, it wants to be lifestyle brand associated with serious gaming.
”We don’t want to be Plantronics or Logitech,” he said. ”We want to be a lifestyle brand just like Nike is for basketball or Burton for snowboarding." Astro wants to continue to develop a brand that ”gamers will be proud to wear.” That’s not limited to high quality headsets; it also includes hoodies, t-shirts, stickers and backpacks.
While some are strictly to display the brand, like a Nike t-shirt, others are just as indicative of Astro’s high quality gaming mantra. The backpack, in particular, is another hot little item we’ve been sporting around MMGN HQ to much pleasure. The one we have is designed to carry consoles, such as an Xbox 360, with compartments made to measure. Others are more suited to the PC market and general everyday use.
This is all being achieved through Astro’s partnering with Scullcandy, a reputable brand that has already established itself as a mainstay in pop-culture. Scullcandy has successfully turned its products into a brand, and is now imparting that knowledge to Astro. The master and apprentice.
The cardinal point of difference between the two is target market. Almost every product has a low end model in contrast to the coveted premium range; however, gaming was a startling exception when Astro first began researching in the mid-2000s.
"There was a total void because people thought games were for kids, this is the one area you don’t see premium products," explained Reiss.
"When we started looking at the market in 2005, the most expensive headset was [USD] $99 and the average was [USD] $25." Adult gamers wanted something that didn’t exist. They wanted a high quality product that wasn’t going to break after six months, and were willing to pay top dollar.
Enter the Astro A40, and subsequently the wireless and smaller models.
When is Astro coming to Australia?
Astro Gaming and Bluemouth Interactive are releasing four models of the Astro headsets in Australia: The A50 Wireless, the A40 2012 Wired -- the flagship model --, the A35 Wireless and the A30 Wired.
Prices range from RRP $229.95 up to $349.95 and will be available at JB Hi-Fi and EB Games stores across the country.
The most expensive model, the Astro A50, will be the first to arrive, and should go on-sale next month. It will be followed by the wired A40 and A30 models in September, and finally the wireless A35 before Christmas.
Astro Gaming Headsets Australian Pricing
- ASTRO A50: $349.95 (wireless)
- ASTRO A40: $299.95 (wired)
- ASTRO A35: $249.95 (wireless)
- ASTRO A30: $229.95 (wired)
Which Astro is for me?
The A40 has proved most successful, but the wireless A50 is undeniably more convenient. The smaller A35 and A30 are designed to be more portable and interchangeable between devices. For a better idea as to which is best for you, click the fact sheets below to see them full size.
Also check out our Astro A40 Review.
By Ben Salter - Bio