I usually avoid shopping malls like the plague, especially ones in pricey San Francisco, one of PC Gamer's backyards. When I walked into the Westfield Centre in downtown San Francisco, however, I was there for a reason. I had to find the RazerStore for its press opening.
There it was: a foothold for PC gaming, right beside the Abercrombie and Fitch and the Market Street level of the mall. It was a little surreal, but exciting to see. It wasn’t a far walk from the front door to Market that is right next to the stairway down to the Powell Street Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) station. Needless to say, this is some expensive real estate, and Razer is investing a lot of money in this location. Especially since there’s hardly any inventory inside.
Although Razer already has stores in Manila, Bangkok, and Taipei, it’s an unexpected move to open a brick-and-mortar storefront in the age of Amazon and Newegg. But with its first store in the Western Hemisphere, Razer seems to want to bring PC gaming out into the open, and make it more social. Part of the goal is to create a space that caters to lifelong PC gamers and passionate esports fans as well as act as a gateway to PC gaming for folks on their way to Sears.
The space inside of the RazerStore is fairly big, with—you guessed it—black floors, ceilings and walls, with green accents everywhere. An illuminated Razer logo is positioned on one wall, and further into the store, there’s a huge LED screen that showcases Razer products.
In the middle of the main area are two tables, each with five chairs that sit in front of Razer gaming laptops. The laptops are free for people to use, and a Razer Mamba Tournament Edition accompanies each one. Product displays show off keyboards, mice and headsets in a style that’s reminiscent of what you’d find CES booth, but with interactive displays that give you a little information on each product.
What you don’t find is rows upon rows of inventory shelves and plastic packaging. This isn't a warehouse, or a Razer-ified Best Buy. All of these products are meant to be touched and used by visitors to the store. After talking to a few Razer reps at the press event, it became clear that this store is meant to serve also an experience space.
The RazerStore is more of a highly-visible, versatile location where Razer can hold events, contests, tournaments, and product releases. It’s more of an exercise in brand recognition and gamer community outreach than a place where the company can sell product. After all, they’re still making money if you buy a BlackWidow on Amazon.
Besides the likes of Apple and Microsoft, you don’t see very many brand experience stores—yet. Malls all over the country are losing tenants since people are shopping online to save time, money, or both. But the downside to shopping online, of course, is that you can’t try out a product before you buy it. Razer may be ahead of the curve here when it comes to the new retail experience.
If you’re in the Bay Area, Razer’s opening event starts at 9 a.m. tomorrow and will have a series of meet-and-greets from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Parking (and traffic) around Market Street can be a bit hectic and batshit crazy, so I’d recommend taking BART to Powell Street if you plan on attending.