The Razer Kishi V2 has been my goto controller for a while now on iPhone thanks to it supporting gameplay while the phone is in a case, the triggers, and more. The future of mobile controllers is bright right now with both the Backbone One and Kishi V2, but I’ve been curious about Razer’s investment into mobile gaming, mobile controllers, and more with its recent huge update to the Razer Nexus app. I recently had a chance to chat with Joey Hanna (Product Evangelist), James Rafael Montalvo (Product Evangelist), and Will Powers (PR) of Razer right after the launch of the new Razer Kishi V2 Xbox Edition to discuss mobile controllers, the Razer Nexus app (Free), Kishi hardware, future plans, and more. This interview was conducted on a video call and has been transcribed and edited for brevity in the case of some parts.
TouchArcade: I want to start with the Kishi V2. I’ve been using both the Kishi V2 and the Backbone One PlayStation Edition a lot while playing games and for testing review games. I want to know the thought process that went into improving the Kishi that much compared to its first version. Did this involve some features that couldn’t get into the first version or was there any inspiration from console controllers?
Joey Hanna: I think the second version was a combination of learnings from the first version and learning from the user experience. Mobile gaming is kind of new and a lot of companies have gone about mobile controllers in different ways. We feel like we are converging on a, you know, more console class controller every generation. So you know, in the long term, we’re not done for sure. But I would say it’s a combination of looking at user feedback from the V1, and then looking at how we can make this more console-like, more console class, enhance usability, durability, so things like drop tests, things like being thrown around in a bag. All these are kind of things that we think about when we’re talking about mobile controllers even more than you know you would get on potentially a console controller.
It’s a combination of both the user feedback. We had a lot of learnings from the V1 as well as us trying to lead mobile where we see it going.
TA: So I’ve been using my Steam Deck quite a bit since getting one, and one of the best features on that is its paddles. The Kishi V2 has something similar with the L4 and R4 buttons which I like quite a bit. Are paddles on the bottom or improved vibration on the roadmap for the next iteration of the controller?
JH: I think you can definitely expect to see a lot of things like that on the road map for sure. We’re looking at every single possible way we could upgrade mobile controllers in the long term. I would say all of those are definitely on our radar at this time.
TA: I noticed that there’s a Razer Kishi Pro for Android, but I don’t use Android so I’m not too familiar with the controllers there. That got me thinking about whether Razer would consider doing a full size controller. The current one is pretty compact and it does its job really well, but have you thought about doing a larger size controller with full size console buttons and grips for people with big hands like myself?
JH: I have big hands as well, so I hear you. I think that is definitely also something that we’re looking at on the road map, but not not something I can comment on fully at this time.
TA: Another device I play on quite a bit is the iPad, but what I’ve noticed is a lot of people just use an external Bluetooth controller. In fact, I just bought a dedicated DualSense just to play games on the iPad. Is this an area Razer has looked into or is the iPad still too small a market compared to the iPhone to do dedicated stuff for?
JH: I think it’s a very interesting market because you know mobile gaming includes tablets, right? So I will say to do an iPad, you’ll probably have to do it a little bit differently than you would do a phone. We believe that it’s something of interest even if it’s a smaller market, if it can enhance mobile gaming, then that to us is important enough to do it. I’m not commenting on anything long or short term. I’m just kind of giving you the vibe internally.
TA: One of the things I noticed when we got the Kishi V2 is the buttons and triggers feeling really nice. I then found out that these are Razer’s own switches, and that actually got me thinking about the Razer Kitsune arcade controller because I play fighting games regularly, but I never actually looked into getting an arcade stick until probably in May. I then saw the Street Fighter 6-branded Razer Kitsune controller coming. So that also had Razer switches being used. Is it ever gonna get to a point where we see like, say Razer release a new keyboard lineup and we see the technology from that in the next Kishi?
JH: I think in an approximate way. Yes, it’s not like a one to one mapping of the technology exactly. But in terms of the connectedness of all of our engineering and development departments, and manufacturing resources and things like this, there’s tremendous overlap. So there is constantly, you know, usage of various things we learn on the PC side, on mobile. We definitely have a lot of those kinds of hardware features that we integrate from from the entire company, like from the console class controllers as well and stuff like that.
It’s definitely something you can expect, but don’t don’t expect to see it as a one to one of this exact technology being the exact same on the controller. Usually it will be optimized for a mobile gaming controller. We don’t just kind of like to reuse stuff, but there is tremendous connectedness between all of our engineering departments.
Will Powers: I think the one thing that you could pull from that we’re saying a lot right now is our cross collateralization of our R&D efforts across the company. I think that statement or that, that line is really important because we’re a large company that makes a ton of different products, and because we make a ton of different products and because we’re able to cross collateralize our research and development, we can make products that no one else can.
I think that we can bring them to market faster than other people can because of that, so you see whether it’s your switches and Kishi, and I’ll focus on like our console stuff specifically, but like we have micro switches and our Wolverine controllers. Kitsune is a great example. We use the same low profile optical switches that we use in our keyboards. It’s the same anodized aluminum top plate that we use in our Razer Blade laptops. You will actually start seeing more of that across. We’re just now tapping into the potential of that and I think you’ll start seeing more than that on our product road map as we’re able to share more.
TA: I saw that Razer has a lot of collaborations with brands where you can get custom plates for the mice and the mouse pad. Is that something which might make its way to the Kishi lineup so that you can have like custom game branded stuff for maybe Razer’s own potential custom plates which come to it?
JH: We do have Razer skins which are like artwork branded like, you know, Camo, Hex, like different patterns. As far as games, I can tell you, I do have certain levels of partnerships with various games. I am very interested in doing branded skins, potentially something that would involve in game items like a good collaboration with games. That’s definitely something that is on the table.
TA: The Nexus App is something I didn’t even know existed until the Kishi V2 launched. The app wasn’t up to snuff initially, but the new update, which launched recently, is amazing. Does Razer work with game developers to get their artwork into the app or is it all public and press assets?
JH: It’s a combination of both. So we are able to accept artwork from games. So if I’m in direct collaboration with a certain game, I might get their artwork, but otherwise a majority of it is actually pulled directly from the App Store, and as they update, for example, Fortnite updates their game artwork every season. So as it updates from their end, It will update in the app like what the background image is.
TA: This update which came out recently was excellent, but was there anything which you couldn’t add that you’re hoping to feature in the next major release, or should we wait for the next hardware iteration for those updates?
JH: No, there’s definitely a software road map, and we’re doing active improvements, and we’re squeezing every improvement we can get on every update cycle. So you can definitely expect to see a lot more improvements to Razer Nexus. You know, throughout the rest of the year throughout 2024, uh, we’re working on it actively. I’m excited for you to see some of the stuff that is in the works. Nexus is definitely something we see as now a foundation to the product, because you know you said you showed it to your friend and it’s like a foreign concept to them. The number one thing you have to communicate to someone like that is the plethora of games they have, and putting it all in one place, making it super accessible, organized, a pleasurable user experience with all the features they could possibly need as a do it all in one game launcher.
(At this point Will brings up a feature I didn’t know about in the Razer Kishi for Android: Virtual controller mode. I was curious about this feature, and understood why it exists soon after.)
JH: This is a big feature on Android. You wouldn’t have maybe dealt with this problem without an Android device, but many of the game developers for mobile, since this is new terrain for them, enabling controller compatibility, they usually make a resource assessment to enable controller compatibility on iPhone but not on Android.
(I saw that happen with huge games like Genshin Impact myself).
JH: So there’s also Call of Duty Mobile there. League of Legends Wild Rift is not controller compatible on Android. PUBG mobile. But virtual controller mode basically allows you to remap the controller buttons to touchscreen commands, so you can basically play almost any touchscreen game on Android with virtual controller mode.
TA: Back to the hardware and the analog sticks in the controller. Have you had any issues with drift? I’ve had loads of drift issues on my Switch, PS5, and Xbox controllers.
JH: Actually, they’ve been super durable. You know return rates, defective rates, all these kinds of complaints are super low, which I’m happy about, and it kind of gets back to that R&D and build quality. It’s not something that shows up in a feature comparison against the competition, but every component of the controller is really sturdy, and that’s a part of who Razer is for every product we make. It goes through really stringent testing on durability and reliability and stuff like that. So we haven’t really had any stick drift issues that have been reported from Kishi V2.
We’d like to thank Joey Hanna, James Rafael Montalvo, and Will Powers from Razer for their time here.
Stay tuned for another interview we have planned with Razer discussing the Kitsune and more.