Catering to the growing popularity of e-sports and other electronic games, Puma has contributed some of its research on ergonomics and materials, including its breathable fabrics, to a new product developed in cooperation with a Dutch brand of gaming seats called Playseat. The fruit of this union, the Playseat | Puma game seat, made its debut at the latest edition of Gamescom, Europe's largest trade fair for digital gaming, which ran throughout the week of Aug. 19 in Cologne, Germany.
The Puma seat looks like a cross between a rocking horse and a recliner without armrests. It has been designed to allow gamers to sit comfortably for long stretches in a variety of positions while maintaining their freedom of movement and their command of the game controller. In other words, it is an ergonomic aid to what the sports industry is starting to view as a sedentary and digital sport of endurance, or e-sport.
Charles Johnson, Puma's global director of innovation, says that “we have to start seeing gamers as athletes, with requirements particular to their sport.” Fernando Smit, president and founder of Playseat, has a simpler take, more in line with his background. “Gaming,” he says, “is greater with full sitting control.”
In addition to being a fan of motorsports, Smit is a former professional kart racer – and the Dutch Enduro Champion for the 125 cc class in 1997 and 1998. Playseat began as a way to replicate for himself, through videogames, the sensations of actual racing. He constructed a gaming chair by mounting an old bucket seat on a metal frame and attaching a steering wheel and pedal box. The contraption was even adjustable. In 2003, having seen the delight of his friends and family with the chair, he had a local factory do a production run of 100. He then set up one of these chairs at a local game shop. Within two weeks, it was spotted by an employee of Sony's PlayStation division. A distribution deal with Sony quickly followed.
Two years later, the company was broadening its focus to the development of seats for PCs and other game consoles. Now, it sells thousands of chairs a year. Europe is the biggest market, followed by the U.S. and Australia. Brazil and Asia have seen the chairs as well. Playseat has taken control of its distribution, seeing out partners in the U.S. and Italy and opening warehouses in the U.S., Europe and Asia.
The company handles design and development in the Netherlands, farming out most of its production to China. The company now holds licenses to design chairs under the brands of such big franchises as WRC, Forza Motorsport and Gran Turismo. Other partners include Mercedes, AMG and Petronas. One of Playseat's latest collaborations is with Red Bull Racing. The company's corporate has testimonials from more than a dozen professional race drivers, some of whom train with Playseats.
The Puma game seat will go on sale in November 2019. Puma and Playseat will be creating a “community” for the first to try it out. Details are available at: playseat.com/puma.