Robert “Razerguy” Krakoff, the co-founder and former president of gaming hardware company Razer, died last week at age 81. You may not have heard Krakoff’s name before, but it’s possible you’ve been influenced by his far-reaching legacy.
In 1999, Krakoff was behind the very first gaming mouse: the Razer Boomslang. Not only was it the foundation of Razer’s now massive lineup of gaming mice, it was arguably the start of the entire gaming peripherals industry. Below you can see Krakoff himself in an ad promoting the Razer Boomslang mouse in 2002 – along with professional gamer Johnathan “Fatal1ty” Wendel, who signed a historic sponsorship deal with Razer long before the word “esports” entered the lexicon.
Origin stories can be complicated and Razer’s story is more complicated than most. Razer was actually not a company until 2005 – it was the trademark of an entity called Kärna, who invented an opto-mechanical coding wheel that could track a mouse’s movements at 2000 dpi, a much higher resolution than other mice at the time. (Yes, the first gaming mouse coiled wheelseven though optical mice were starting to become a thing.)
Kärna went bankrupt in 2001 and Krakoff co-founded Razer in 2005 with current CEO Min-Liang Tan, but neither man invented the gaming mouse: This case study (PDF) describes how a marketing agency named Fitch the entire Razer brandincluding the name, the iconic three-headed snake logo, the website, the packaging and most importantly the design and engineering of the Boomslang mouse itself.
None of this is up for debate: Razer’s first press release states that the Boomslang was “designed by Fitch, Inc. for kärna.”
But it also cites a “Robert Krakoff, CEO of Razer” — who would not only become and change the public face of the company for the first decade, but also make an incredible impression as one of the most accessible public faces of a company that you may someday have the pleasure of knowing.
You would get a message from Razerguy with every Razer product you bought, and his public email address wasn’t just for show. He was known to respond to fans and sit down for interviews with sloppy journalists who barely had a following. Sometimes he gave them jobs. According to his Facebook page, he studied journalism at UCLA himself, although he did so on a football scholarship.
He was also remarkably candid: In 2009, he told me, Sean, an equally unknown journalist, that the company didn’t actually have to sell a single unit of its brand new Razer Mamba wireless mouse at the then exorbitant price of $130. The point, he said, was to inspire a huge audience of gamers with the innovation, knowing they would pick other cheaper mice and merchandise from Razer.
He was a known left-hander and also told me that he wished Razer could make a left-handed mouse, but as president of the company he didn’t have the power to make it happen – the board had apparently decided it didn’t make financial sense. . A year later, I smiled when I saw Razer release the first left-handed gaming mouse, a mirror-image version of its best-selling DeathAdder.
Although Krakoff advised the company as “president emeritus” for years to come, Razer was far from its last act. He also founded MindFX Science, a brand focused on selling energy drinks and supplements that serves as “a healthy alternative to the highly caffeinated energy drinks and pre-workout products.”
Fitness seemed to be an important part of Krakoff’s life. He played for the Los Angeles Rams for five years in the 1960s. As he got older, Krakoff said he loved tennis, cycling, and fitness training. He and his wife, Dr. Patsi Krakoff, even had a blog about fitness and nutrition tips for seniors, and co-wrote a book about the secrets of staying young.
But under the name RM Krakoff, he also had a literary career all his own – writing a dozen books since 2009. After working as a copywriter, Krakoff said he “put his proverbial pen in place of his mouth (the ink tasted like shit).” He dabbled in both fiction and non-fiction, writing everything from black comedies to sci-fi fantasies. his description of America Unbound: Fighting Demons in a Lost Democracy is much.
On Krakoff’s Facebook page, he said he would split his time between Jalisco, Mexico and Peoria, Arizona, because he liked being “a sun bird and spending six months a year in every house.” He leaves behind two children, Scott and Robin, and five “really cool” grandchildren. Scott contributed the cover art for most of his novels.
“We are saddened by the passing of co-founder and president emeritus Robert Krakoff, known to all as RazerGuy,” a statement from Razer reads. on Twitter† “Robert’s unwavering drive and passion for gaming lives on and continues to inspire us all.”