The SteelSeries story: From mould-breaking mousepads to epic esports and saving our sanity (Sponsored)

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When Jacob Wolff-Petersen launched a company called Soft Trading, way back in 2001, nobody could’ve guessed that it would go on to become one of the biggest names in gaming-tech. You may not recognise the name Soft Trading, but you will definitely have heard of SteelSeries, which became the Danish brand’s moniker after a 2007 rebrand.

Known the world over for producing high-quality headsets, incredible keyboards and heaps of other awesome peripherals, SteelSeries has long been established as a brand that gamers can trust. The company always aims to innovate our gaming gear, and there have been plenty of groundbreaking moments in SteelSeries’ 20-year history.

Join us on a walk down memory lane, then, as we look back on the excellent innovations that SteelSeries has served up over the years, including some impressive moments from the past year...

Humble beginnings 

Even before the SteelSeries name was dreamed up, this company achieved an impressive amount of ‘firsts’ in the gaming world. Back when Soft Trading was still the name above the door, the innovations came thick and fast straight out of the gate.

Take a trip down memory lane.

In 2001, the same year the company launched, Soft Trading launched its famous Icemat, the first mousepad made especially for esports players. Then came Icemat Audio, in 2004, the first dedicated gaming headset - that, of course, is an idea that many companies piled onto in the years that followed.

Seemingly having no intention to rest on their laurels, the team behind the scenes soon starting iterating on these ideas and dreaming up fresh ones, achieving more industry ‘firsts’ along the way: 2005’s SteelSound 5H was the first gaming headset to have a retractable microphone; and the SteelKeys 6G, in 2006, was the first mechanical keyboard dedicated to gaming. Clearly, this is a company that consistently changes the game.

A new name for a new era

‘Steel’ was already in the DNA of the brand (just look at those last few product names), but there’s no denying that changing the company name to SteelSeries marked the start of a brave new era. As gamers began to demand more from their gear, SteelSeries kept up with the pace and continued to innovate in major ways.

Steel Series graphic
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The rebrand was a key step in SteelSeries’ evolution.

Under the new name, the ‘firsts’ kept on coming: 2007’s Ikari was the first mouse with onboard profiles; 2008’s Xai/Sensei was the first mouse with an onboard ARM processor; 2012’s Stratus was the first official iOS gaming controller; 2015’s Rival 700 was the first gaming mouse with haptic feedback; 2019’s Arctis 1 Wireless was the first multi-platform wireless headset. The list goes on and on.

These products do much more than simply looking good on paper, with gamers voting with their wallets to show their appreciation and awards’ juries voting with their actual votes. The QCK mousemat has sold over 10 million units since its launch in 2004, for example, and 2016’s Arctis headset has been dubbed the most-awarded gaming headset in history. With commercial and critical success like that, SteelSeries really has conquered the industry.

Growing in tandem with esports

As well as making products that the general public loves, SteelSeries also has a storied history of working with esports pros, teams and competitions at the highest level. It started back in 2002, when the brand sent Team 3D to the biggest Quake tournament in the world, which they went on to win.

SteelSeries is beloved among pros.

In 2003, SteelSeries broke new ground by sponsoring SK Gaming, the world’s first professional esports team. And in 2013, they were the first company to sponsor an individual player, through a mould-breaking team-up with Grubby. Again, SteelSeries is right there at the heart of innovation in the industry.

The prominence of esports has grown massively over the years, in tandem with SteelSeries’ ever-growing reputation. Right now, SteelSeries has global partnerships with such massive brands as FaZe Clan and OG, as well as partnerships with almighty influencers including Henry Cavill. Clearly, SteelSeries plus esports is a match made in heaven.

Powering through the pandemic


Most of us spent the majority of 2020 indoors, looking for things to do, with 2021 so far being more of the same. Although a lot of industries suffered, gaming is one of those that blossomed under lockdown conditions, and so it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that SteelSeries continued releasing high-quality products and earning plentiful plaudits throughout the COVID-19 era.

The Arctis 7P and 9X headsets are among the stellar products that SteelSeries launched last year, with the 7P complimenting the PS5 while the 9X is a trusty companion for the Xbox Series X/S. There was also the Apex Pro keyboard, the Sensei Ten mouse and a great many more. Gamers found a lot to enjoy in their SteelSeries products, with a memorable article on Tom’s Guide even going so far as to say, “a SteelSeries gaming headset kept me sane during the pandemic”.

Despite everything, SteelSeries had a huge year in 2020.

As well as helping us enjoy some gaming escapism throughout the chaos and confusion of being locked down at home, SteelSeries also stepped up to make a tangible difference in the real world. Throughout April and May 2020, SteelSeries pledged to make a donation towards The Global Foodbanking Network for every purchase on - a very kind gesture that will have made a real impact.

And so, after 20 years, countless innovations and one globe-halting pandemic, SteelSeries has very much proved that it’s a brand that has gamers’ best interests at heart. We can’t wait to see what they do next...

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