Gaming chairs are kind of a thing now. Pretty much every decent gamer, streamer, or Twitcher will have a dedicated chair for gaming. In 2019 alone, the gaming chair industry has surpassed $1 billion in sales.
It wasn’t always like this. Believe it or not, it was 9/11 that indirectly ushered in the era of gaming chairs.
Most of us ‘old guys’ started gaming on ordinary desk chairs. You know, the ones that were in your room. There wasn’t anything special about them; they lacked both comfortability and ergonomics, and we generally didn’t much about the sitting.
In the 90s and early 2000s, everybody was playing video games of these simple chairs. According to the CDC, the number of cases of back pain started to increase substantially between 1998 and 2013. In short, these seem to be ‘more gaming – more back pain’ correlation:
With the invention of gaming chairs, all of that changed. Of course, our gaming setup and the games we play are still a priority but no gaming setup in 2020 is complete without a matching gaming chair.
How did all that gaming chair thing start? I’ve looked into the history of gaming chairs to figure out how this chair craze started.
There are 3 specific periods in the history of gaming chairs. In the last 15 years, we have seen a rise of 10+ gaming chair brands that sponsor individual Twitchers as well as big World Tournaments.
For a quick overview of gaming chair history, I’ve prepared a short infographic. It depicts all the best gaming chair brands in the gaming world today. You’re welcome to share it with your friends or feature it on your own gaming blog:
1st Period: Invention Of Gaming Chairs By Car Seat Companies (2006-2012)
Gaming chairs didn’t just happen of out the blue. Of course, guys who played the early Atari games knew that back problems can develop over time. In short, the need for having an ergonomic seating for gamers was there.
The event that really started the development of the 1st gaming chair was are the 9/11 attacks in 2001. This lead to the economic downturn in the subsequent years and the industry that was hurt the most was the car industry.
Oil prices hit all-time high prices. As a result, fewer cars than expected were being produced. That presented a problem not only for big car manufacturers like Ford, Volkswagen, and Toyota. Every company that produced parts for cars was hurting badly; including the developers and producers of luxury car seats.
DXRacer Invents 1st Modern Gaming Chair (2006)
One such company was DXRacer. Established in 2001 in Michigan, DXRacer started producing high-end luxury car seats. With the falling outlook in the car industry – Chrysler cutting the Plymouth line and GM outright discontinuing the Oldsmobile line – the company struggled.
In 2005, the brilliant heads at DXRacer had a revolutionary idea. They had all the know-how of designing car seats that made sitting in a car both comfortable and ergonomic. And there’s this bunch of gamers that would really like to have something else than an ordinary chair for gaming.
Based on these two premises, the 1st gaming chair on the world was designed. In 2006, DXRacer launched the revolutionary original DXRacer gaming chair. As time will tell, the basic framework they’ve come up with will set a standard for almost every gaming chair that will be designed in the next 15 years.
You can see the 3 basic areas of gaming chair design:
- Backrest. Here you have support for lower back (pillow), high back (pillow), and wings on the left and right. The whole backrest is supported by a sturdy steel framework (1.2 mm steel is used). The correct use of padding is very important.
- Seat and armrests. The seat has to be thick and therefore comfortable. The armrests have to be adjustable. DXRacer started with 2D armrests and then progressed to 3D and even 4D armrests.
- The base. 5-star nylon base is the standard, along with the Class 3 SGS gas lift piston in order to adjust the height of the chair overall.
Being the first gaming chair brand, they invested heavily in marketing. Here is one of their early marketing efforts:
It paid off massively. DXRacer has reinvented itself as a gaming chairs company. They went on to sponsor gaming tournaments such as Major League Gaming (2014), LCK League Summer Games (2015), and World Cyber Arena (2015).
Today they sponsor tournament teams like Natus Vincere, the Ninjas In Pyjamas (Swedish guys, quite cool), and SK telecom.
DXRacer chairs created the entire gaming chairs industry. They are still known as one of the most classic and best chairs for gamers around the world.
AKRacing Start Designing Their Own Chairs (2008)
DXRacer was not the only luxury car seat manufacturer that was struggling as a consequence of 9/11, high oil prices, and lower demand for new cars. AKRacing, another US company producing car seats, noticed the success DXRacer chair had.
There was nothing stopping them from using their own know-how in the race car seat design and applying it to design gaming chairs. They started using premium high-grade leather and padding and created the AKRacing Core Series gaming chairs.
Even in the early AKRacing chairs, you can see the subtle move for more ergonomic and less-flashy more-classy gaming chairs. Here is some of the AKRacing early promo material:
AKRacing brought a bit of class that DXRacer needed. They were also the first gaming chair brand to actively start sponsoring different tournaments and gaming teams.
In 2013, they became the official sponsor of World Cyber Games 2013 (WCG). Similarly to DXRacer, they’ve signed a partnership with Ninjas In Pyjamas in 2014. Lately, they have been embracing LOL and Fornite themed events such as League Of Legends Championship Korea in 2016.
Over the years, they have developed a wide variety of gaming chairs. Currently, they have 4 main series of chairs:
- Core Series. This includes EX, EX-Wide, SX, and LX Plus chairs.
- Master Series (most appropriate for gamers). Available chairs are Max, Premium, and Pro.
- Office Series. These ones are most appropriate for office work; they are a cross between gaming and office chairs.
- Limited Series. Recently, they featured special gaming chairs such as California and Nitro.
Overall, the AKRacing is the 2nd company that entered the gaming chairs industry successfully. Both DXRacer and AKRacing were primarily focused on building car seats.
When the furniture brands got a wind of how successful these gaming chairs are, they started to come up with their furniture-based designs of gaming chairs.
2nd Period: Furniture Brand Start Developing Their Own Gaming Chairs (2012-2014)
For furniture brands, gaming chairs were at first an interesting novelty. However, they’ve quickly realized that producing gaming chairs adds much-needed diversity to their existing furniture portfolio.
The biggest and most prestigious furniture companies are based in the US, Germany, UK, and Sweden. However, it was the Chinese furniture companies that first tried to imitate the success DXRacer and AKRacing were experiencing.
The first knock-offs weren’t particularly successful. They looked like DXRacer chairs, sure, but instead of high-quality material like steel framework, they included cheap plywood and low-density foam.
Nonetheless, after a few years of research and design, one Chinese company came up with a gaming chair that will become a hit.
Homall Gaming Chair Costs Less Than $200 And Becomes The Most Popular Chair On Amazon (2012)
Up till now, gaming chairs cost anywhere from $400 to $600. Of course, PRO gamers could afford that. But that left most of the regular players out of reach. What was needed was an affordable gaming chair; and that’s exactly what Homall gaming chair is such a success.
Chinese-designed Homall chair was the first gaming chair that not only cost less than $200. It also didn’t suck like other knock-offs of DXRacer chairs. This was the first chair by a furniture company that correctly applied the DXRacer blueprint into gaming chair design and was successful at reducing costs.
In order for the Homall chair to attract the US market, it needed a lot of exposure. Parallel to Homall, an American eCommerce giant Amazon was also steadily rising. With back pain awareness gaining traction, many gamers started looking to buy a gaming chair.
Checking what Amazon had in stock, the most affordable gaming chair was Homall. It got terrific reviews because it was both well-design, cheap and it didn’t totally suck like most of the other budget gaming chairs.
In record time, the Homall has become the most popular gaming chair on Amazon.
Homall’s success opened the floodgates. In 2012 and 2013, many bigger furniture companies started creating blueprints of their own gaming chairs.
These include established furniture designers like German-based Maxnomic and Noblechairs. What is more, this is the moment that people who will later launch AutoFull, Secretlab and Vertagear start brainstorming about how to create the best gaming chair and enter gaming chair industry.
In the meantime, another furniture company launched a series of gaming chairs that will surpass in quality the Homall – it was the GTRacing.
GTRacing Introduces Gaming Chairs With Speakers (2013)
On many levels, gaming chairs were just a better way for gamers to seat. People wanted to know if they are comfortable, if they have an effect on a player’s focus, and if they are even worth it.
GTRacing, on another note, created something more than a gaming chair. It added music to all this lazy seating. Using the DXRacer blueprint, they went in a similar direction that Homall designers went in. They cut costs while keeping a comfortable gaming experience.
GTRacing created a chair that is more comfortable than Homall, less expensive than DXRacer chairs, and added something special: the speakers.
This truly transformed gaming chairs from just something to sit on into a chair that immerses you into the game. Having the ability to hear footsteps in Call Of Duty is very useful; the addition of speakers to the gaming chairs immersed COD players in the game.
Speakers with Bluetooth connectivity added another dimension to gaming chairs.
Maxnomic And Noblechairs; German Furniture Companies Enter The Market (2014, 2016)
German engineering is famous across the world. When Homall achieved success in 2012, it was noticed in Europe as well. German engineers in companies like Maxnomic and Noblechairs started to work on their own designs.
In took them several years but it’s safe to say that these office furniture-based companies have developed the most ergonomic gaming chair thus far. The ergonomic know-how coupled with German engineering resulted in the development of gaming chairs that kind of look like office chairs.
Maxnomic chairs and Noblechairs HERO and ICON are designed to accommodate adult gamers. The design of these chairs have two distinct characteristics:
- Upgraded economics. Furniture companies have a much better understanding of how sitting in front of the computer can be hurtful for the back compared to car seat producers.
- Office look. Noblechairs HERO and ICON can easily be seen both as office and gaming chairs. This accommodated working people who could now use a single chair for both gaming and office work.
The synergies of the merging office and gaming chair are evident. Nobody working in the office can afford to be seen in flashy-colored DXRacer. These German furniture companies played to their strength; their core is office chair design.
When you merge the design of office chairs and gaming chairs, you start seeing the trend of people who work from home office invest in these chairs. If you couple this with the increasing number of people working from home in recent years (graph below), you can see what Noblechairs is enjoying record-number sales from their gaming chairs department.
In 2020, the number of people working from home nearly doubled. They can now enjoy working from a gaming chair designed by German office chair designers.
3rd Period: Rise Of Dedicated Gaming Chair Companies (2014-2020)
The gaming chair industry was, from 2006 to 2014, invented and developed by car seat manufacturers and furniture companies. The sales of this now necessary addition to every proper gaming setup were so substantial that new companies started to form.
These companies have learned lessons from both DXRacer and Homall gaming chair success and started to design their own gaming chairs. These companies are focused and specialized solemnly of gaming chairs. This has ushered a new era of companies dedicated exclusively to the design of chairs for gaming.
The first of them – a company that is widely renowned as the best gaming chair designed – was Secretlab.
Secretlab Meteoric Rise By Being 1st Dedicated Gaming Chair Designers (2014)
There is no denying that Secretlab is one of the key companies that has contributed massively to the development of the giant gaming industry we see today. In 2019, this industry has generated more than $1 billion in sales, thanks in no small part to the Secretlab. They have become the golden standard PRO gaming chair company that everybody wants to emulate.
In seems that what was really needed is a hands-on insight of PRO gamers. Two competitive PRO gamers, Ian Alexander Ang and Alaric Choo, realized that gaming chairs gave them a competitive advantage. But they had good ideas on how to upgrade the existing DXRacer gaming chairs.
In 2014, they have founded Secretlab in Singapur, with the help of Singapore’s wealth fund Temasek Holdings. The official company launch was in 2014, in 2015 the first Secretlab Omega chair was developed. In the following years, the company has expanded in the US, UK, Europe, and Canada.
Secretlab had a unique approach of building a gaming chair. They have incorporated the ergonomic qualities seen in office chairs (Noblechairs, for example) onto the DXRacer blueprint.
The result were gaming chairs like Secretlab OMEGA and TITAN that have ergonomics incorporated in the design of the backrest itself. There is suddenly no need to add the neck and lumbar pillows.
Of course, a gaming chair designed by two former competitive gamers is beloved among other PRO gamers. Secretlab has capitalized on the appeal of their chairs to professional gamers and went ahead sponsoring gaming teams and tournaments.
As of 2020, they have sponsored League of Legends events (LOL World Championship), Dota 2 tournaments (The International in 2019, MDL Disneyland Paris Major, and so on), CS: Global Offensive and numerous others.
They have also partnered with well-known teams such as Team Liquid, OG, G2 Esports, Cloud9, Astralis, T1, and Newbee to name just a few.
Their chairs remain one of the best gaming chairs currently on the market.
Vertagear Creates A Chair With Perfect Balance Between Comfortability And Ergonomics (2015)
Vertagear is another in the series of US gaming chair designers. In fact, the US-based DXRacer and AKRacing were the first companies to start the gaming chair revolution. But they were car seat manufacturers at first. Vertagear is a Californian-based start-up company; those either struck gold or file for Chapter 11.
Vertagear was one of those that struck gold by finding the most optimum harmony between comfortability and ergonomics of a gaming chair. That is quite significant; every chair designer wants to create a chair that is both comfortable and ergonomic.
The problem is usually that comfortable chairs are not particularly ergonomic and ergonomic chairs are not particularly comfortable. In short, you can’t get both; you have to compromise.
When Vertagear launched their now-classic Vertagear SL2000 chair, they achieved the best compromise. Up to 2015, the thinking was that DXRacer chairs are too rigid (and colorful), Homall is cheap(ish) and Maxnomic chairs are too ergonomic for an average gamer.
Vertagear managed to create a chair that is a bit pricy but it added that subtle technological difference that makes gaming chair even more enjoyable. You can check how SL4000 and SL5000 chairs evolved from SL2000 here.
AutoFull And Nokaxus Create Niche Chairs For Female Gamers And Comfort-Lovers (2015, 2016)
AutoFull and Nokaxus are two top Chinese companies that started to look at what the gaming world was missing. Two specific things were found:
- Lack of gaming chairs for girls. Every gaming chair up till 2015 was made for guys.
- Lack of truly comfortable gaming chairs.
AutoFull looked at how a female-oriented gaming chair would look like. Women are, on average, shorter, and have broader pelvis area. Guys at AutoFull also had this idea that women will prefer pink-colored chairs.
They have designed a pink AutoFull gaming chair that is usually quoted as not only the most appropriate gaming chair for women but also the cutest one. You see, AutoFull put a cherry on top of their pink chair; they’ve included bunny ears and bunny tail.
What is more, they have decided to empower female gamers by promoting female Twitch streamers:
In AutoFull, we can see a company that doesn’t go ahead and creates a whole series of gaming chairs. They focus on 3 chairs and put all their resources in those. This is the same model Apple uses for iPhone design; it’s better to invest all the resources to create the best phone instead of creating numerous phone models that may not be as successful as iPhone.
Nokaxus is another such company that focused primarily on comfortability. They designed a never-before-seen gaming chair with 5-inch seat thickness. The use of high-density foam padding combined with such thickness is a testament that new gaming chair producers are learning from the experiences of furniture gaming chair designers from the 2012-2014 era.
Gaming Chairs Of The Future
We have seen gaming chair go through 3 distinct periods, based on the primary direction of the company designing the chairs:
- Car seat companies (2006-2012).
- Furniture companies (2012-2014).
- Dedicated gaming chair companies (2014-2020).
Of course, we cannot know what new designs the future holds. However, we know that the gaming chair industry has risen from $0 in sales in 2016 to more than $1 billion in sales in 2019.
According to Mordor Intelligence (gotta love that name, it’s like Sauron HQ), the gaming chair market is poised to grow at 5% per year between 2019 and 2024.
Which such enormous funding and interest, we’re bound to see gaming chairs further evolve to help gamers be better at their game and help out with their posture as well.