Recently，Arthur Zhang，also known as CEO of AYANEO, received an exclusive interview with professional gaming media OVERKILL.WTF. During the interview, he elaborated on AYANEO's brand and product philosophy, allowing everyone to have a deeper understanding of AYANEO's products and goals.
OverKILL.WTF is a professional media focused on the gaming software and hardware industry, covering fields such as handheld devices, Xboxes, and cloud games. It is an authoritative gaming media with high visibility worldwide.
The following is the entire interview process.
Q：You probably have some prototypes laying around, that we don’t know about yet, so you might not be able to fully answer the question, but what AYANEO handheld do you personally play the most on?
A：We do have new product prototypes in development, so everyone can look forward to that. Lately, I haven't had much free time to go out and play; it's mainly just work and home. That's why I've been frequently using the KUN. The 8.4-inch KUN can be considered the most powerful Windows handheld device currently available. It boasts top-notch features, including the AMD 7840U performance, a large 8.4" display, innovative dual touchpads, four back buttons, a robust cooling system, and long battery life. It's truly a remarkable Windows handheld device that surpasses expectations, another masterpiece from AYANEO in pushing the boundaries of handheld gaming.
Of course, if I do have time to go out and play, I'd prefer to bring the lighter and more compact AIR 1S. After all, it doesn't add much extra burden for travel, and its performance is still top-notch with the flagship 7840U processor. It would definitely be sufficient for any gaming needs while on the go
Q：What sort of games do you find yourself playing the most on handheld?
A：Actually, I don't have much free time and energy to play AAA games nowadays. So, I mostly play retro games and indie games instead. These types of games are more suitable for me to relax during fragmented periods of time.
Q：When designing a new handheld, what are the different steps a device has to go through from idea to finished product?
A：First, I propose the concept, followed by project approval, product definition, and the commencement of industrial design. Then comes structural verification, 3D model printing, or the creation of more refined prototypes. Planning, evaluation, and finalization of the mainboard and series accessories, performance testing, and ultimately the formation of the final prototype.
Throughout this process, there are repeated validations and refinements. If everything goes smoothly, we proceed with final adjustments after trial production. However, if things don't go well, we may have to start from scratch. This process can be quite torturous, but at the same time, I also relish the journey of transforming an idea into a tangible reality. I hope that players can experience the highest level of completeness once they get their hands on it.
Q：How many handheld ideas have you axed in the past because the technology wasn't ready yet?
A：As a handheld gaming enthusiast, I indeed have many imaginative ideas. However, as the CEO and product manager of AYANEO, I approach things with a more rational mindset, so I rarely entertain overly idealistic notions and prioritize technological feasibility.
If I had to mention one thing, it would be the 'Purple Transparent' for the GEEK 1st generation. We prepared a very unique 'Purple Transparent' color scheme for the GEEK 1st generation, envisioning it to achieve a similar transparent shell effect as some classic handheld consoles while maintaining the same material strength as other colored shells.
Unfortunately, despite trying various techniques, we couldn't achieve the perfect balance between the visual effect and material strength, falling short of our desired outcome. Our standards for appearance and quality are relatively high within the industry, and ultimately, due to this reason, we had to reluctantly cancel this color version. With the subsequent upgraded version, the GEEK 1S, we introduced a standard purple color as compensation for those who had eagerly awaited the 'Purple Transparent' edition.
However, we haven't completely given up; we are still researching and experimenting with techniques, hoping to fully make up for this regret in the future.
Q：How long does it typically take for an AYANEO device to go from conception to final product? Any details you can share about your process would be insightful.
A：Generally, the planning for a brand-new AYANEO handheld console starts about a year in advance. By the time the current generation product is launched and available for sale, its iterative successor has already been in the works. Our product line and roadmap are designed to be forward-thinking. As mentioned earlier, creating a product is not an easy task and involves multiple rounds of validation. We undertake a lot of preliminary work, and our planning is filled with foresight.
Let's take AYANEO 2 as an example. Its initial design wasn't actually borderless. The project was initiated around March 2021, and the first version of the design was completed around May. Initially, I hadn't considered the concept of a borderless design. After completing the first version, we made several proper optimizations to the details and form. Soon, I created a high-fidelity CNC appearance prototype.
When I received the first prototype, I spent a considerable amount of time experiencing and feeling it. Many nights, I even fell asleep holding the model. Through the process of ID design/optimization and form/structure refinement, AYANEO 2 achieved its unique appearance and outstanding ergonomic grip, known as the "Baby Sleeping Pose".
During this process, although its appearance was already at the peak in the industry, I always pursue perfection. The presence of black borders on the sides of the screen was an imperfection, and I wanted to bring a pleasant surprise to users by eliminating them completely.
So we started to figure out how to solve this issue. The final solution was to replace the front with a single piece of glass and design separate plastic modules for the critical left joystick and D-pad, as well as the right joystick and ABXY buttons, completely separating them from the glass. This resolved both the appearance design and the structural strength of the glass.
Later, I even tried designing more styles to see if there were better ideas. After multiple attempts, it turned out that the initial approach was the best one. The process of transforming from a bordered to a borderless design took several months of exploration.
In conclusion, creating a product is a challenging yet joyful process, and I have always found joy in it.
Q：If technology would not be a limit, what would, according to you, be the perfect handheld?
A：The answer to this question is actually quite obvious. The most perfect handheld console should have a slim and portable body, without sacrificing a large borderless full-screen display. It should possess the strongest performance and cooling capabilities while also having a large battery to ensure long battery life. The software should be smooth and user-friendly, ensuring an immersive gaming experience.
However, we all know that achieving such a perfect handheld console with current technology is not entirely possible. Creating a product always involves the art of trade-offs, which is why we offer multiple product series to meet the diverse needs of players who have different requirements for handheld consoles.
Q：The Steam Deck is the first handheld device by one of the major company, and it brought a lot of eyeballs to the space. How did you see the Steam Deck initial announcement, and how is the impact for you now?
A：As you said, the release of the Steam Deck has garnered more attention to this field. Although strictly speaking, it is not categorized as a Windows handheld console, many PC gamers are familiar with Steam. The Steam Deck has introduced many PC gamers to the idea that they can play Steam games on a handheld device, which may have inadvertently led them to discover the existence of Windows handheld consoles. So, objectively, it has been a positive development.
Of course, its introduction also means increased competition. However, from my personal perspective, the Steam Deck is not exactly a Windows handheld console. Its product strategy is more similar to Nintendo's, with relatively infrequent updates. Our product philosophy and strategy, on the other hand, are different. We aim to meet players' needs continuously through the use of constantly updated new technologies. Therefore, its presence does bring some competitive pressure, but it has a more positive impact overall. It not only affects our own product development but also influences the entire Windows industry. In response, we will continue to release more competitive products to offer players a richer and more immersive handheld gaming experience.
Q：What is your personal opinion of the Steam Deck?
A：I believe the Steam Deck is a very well-balanced product. Firstly, its price-performance ratio is indeed decent, assuming one can purchase it at the original price. Additionally, while its custom processor may seem a bit outdated today, its performance is still sufficient. Steam OS is also capable of fully utilizing the hardware's potential, with excellent software and hardware optimization. Games that are well-adapted to the system can provide a smooth and stable gaming experience. The touchpad and back buttons also offer more gameplay possibilities, making it an excellent handheld console overall.
However, its drawbacks are also evident. As a 7-inch handheld console, it is quite bulky and holding it for an extended period can be a challenge. The screen quality is also far behind the standards of this era. Despite its large body size, it hasn't resulted in a substantial improvement in battery life, as it only has a 40Wh battery capacity. Although Steam OS has good optimization, some games are not adapted, meaning they may not be playable at all. In this regard, the system's compatibility with more versatile Windows can be considered a draw.
Overall, like all products, the Steam Deck has its strengths and weaknesses. It boasts a unique advantage in software resources, given its association with the globally popular gaming platform. On the other hand, AYANEO handheld consoles have the advantage of having the latest hardware, superior design, higher-quality screens, and more advanced control experiences. These aspects make AYANEO well-equipped to confidently compete with other handheld console manufacturers.
Q：One of the critiques people online sometimes share is that there are currently too many devices available from AYANEO. Is that a sentiment you understand, or is this wide range of products from you purposeful? I'd love to understand your product strategy around this.
A：I have explained this point quite a few times before. We are different from Steam. Steam has a powerful traffic platform and can launch single standard SKU to acquire customers through traffic advantages. In such cases, it is necessary to reduce the user's decision-making cost and not offer too many SKUs.
On the other hand, Windows handheld consoles cater to a niche market, where consumers have diverse demands. Some prefer small sizes, while others like larger sizes. Some prefer a flat design, while others prefer one with a keyboard.
Therefore, Windows handheld console brands should meet players' specific needs with various defined products. If there's only a single product form, it might not fully satisfy users' experience and even fail to stimulate new demands in the handheld console market. AYANEO's innovation and research capabilities allow us to introduce multiple innovative products with different definitions. This will significantly enrich our player community and enable players to promptly own a handheld console that suits specific gaming scenarios and needs. This creates a positive cycle, inspiring and pioneering the handheld console market with significant implications.
Q：Is AYANEO ever going into other form factors, say consoles, smartphones or laptops? What do you think AYANEO could bring to this space?
A：Currently, we are still a startup company, so we are more focused on the handheld console field, concentrating on building our brand and products in the handheld console market.
However, we are indeed exploring some areas related to Windows handheld consoles, and we will soon introduce relevant products.
Just like when we entered the Windows handheld console industry, if we enter other fields in the future, we will bring unique and exquisite designs to that field. At the same time, our products will be comprehensive in functionality, aiming to meet users' needs exceptionally well. This unwavering pursuit of providing ultimate products is AYANEO's everlasting commitment.
Q：Shenzhen is known to be the technology hub of China. What unique advantages does that give you being based there?
A：First and foremost, there will be greater advantages in the most crucial aspect of the supply chain. Whether it's negotiating partnerships, collaborating on new technology research, or managing the production line, everything will be more streamlined. On the other hand, Shenzhen is a city abundant with talented individuals, which also benefits us in forming a highly competitive team.
Q：Are there other companies you work with that help you get an advantage over your competitors?
A：We have many partners, and our success today would not have been possible without their strong support. For instance, AMD – together, we created the world's first mass-produced AMD Windows handheld console. Since then, we have established a deep and profound friendship, and we have continuously been using AMD's latest processors to build the best handheld consoles.
Furthermore, we have our long-time friends at GuliKit. With their support, AYANEO handheld consoles have been exclusively equipped with industry-leading Hall-effect joysticks, including the Master All-in-One controller with eight essential functions. Our advantage over competitors has always been in the realm of controls.
Of course, there are many other partners as well. It is because of them that our handheld console dream has blossomed, allowing us to continuously create better handheld consoles for players.
Q：Can you tell us a little about yourself？Your background, experience, etc.
A：I am Arthur Zhang, the CEO of AYANEO. I am a digital enthusiast and have founded two companies, "Digital Tail" and "New Mobility," in 2010 and 2015, respectively. These companies have created leading digital lifestyle communities and new energy vehicle communities in the industry.
In fact, during my childhood, I developed an inseparable bond with handheld consoles and games, and "video games" and "handheld consoles" have become indispensable keywords in my life. In 2021, I became the CEO of AYANEO and took charge of brand and product operations, returning to the familiar world of handheld consoles. From there, I began to create a completely different and pure Windows handheld console for gamers worldwide.
Q：How did you get into technology industry, and how did you first get into gaming?
A：My gaming experience is probably similar to many people born in the 1980s. It all started with a GBA, and from then on, I couldn't stop myself from getting deeply immersed in its gaming world. Later on, I began to study various game-related knowledge and became a special correspondent and column editor for "Electronic Game Software" and "Handheld Console Enthusiast" during my student days.
In my university years, I founded the YYJoy community and YYJoy translation team, providing Chinese players with well-known NDS translated games such as "Pocket Monsters," "Ren Tian Gou," "Castlevania," "Room 215," and more. Additionally, I served as an agent for Shen You Company, offering many electronic gaming products and e-commerce services to numerous players.
Due to my early involvement in e-commerce for electronic gaming and my familiarity with the supply chain, I got to know many prominent figures in the industry. It was through my passion for gaming and handheld consoles that I met the other two co-founders of AYANEO, Zard and Lighten. With our shared enthusiasm for the handheld console industry, we quickly agreed to use the AYANEO brand to create the world's best handheld consoles.
Q：What is the story of you creating AYANEO?
A：AYANEO has a brand philosophy called "Real Gamers, Know Gamers," which means that the AYANEO team consists of genuine gamers. We understand the needs of players and empathize with them. We strive to create the handheld console that players have been dreaming of.
Over the past few decades, I have purchased numerous handheld consoles, finding endless joy in them and accumulating various reflections on products. In the era of Windows handheld consoles, before the birth of the genuine AMD Windows handheld console AYANEO, I also bought many products available in the market, experiencing the charm of Windows handheld consoles and discovering various pain points. For example, I noticed a series of issues with the design language of previous Windows handheld consoles, such as conventional approaches, holding experience, operation functions, and the interaction experience between software and hardware.
With these reflections on Windows handheld console products, I entered the Windows handheld console industry under the AYANEO brand. I aim to address those pain points I discovered, providing players with a revolutionary and pure Windows handheld console gaming experience.
Q：What is your goal with AYANEO?
A：Our goal is actually quite simple: to create the purest Windows handheld console in the world and, within our capabilities, meet the needs of as many users as possible. Because the essence of handheld consoles is to be fun, we hope that AYANEO users can experience the purest joy while using our handheld consoles.
Q：What do you think it needs for AYANEO to become a world wide company?
A：First and foremost, it is essential to create a strong product from the perspective of players. This requires continuous innovation in product concepts and robust support from the supply chain. Secondly, a mature sales system is crucial.
Whether through our official channels or third-party partnerships, we aim to cover all channels worldwide, making it convenient for players everywhere to purchase our products. Lastly, a high-quality after-sales system is vital to ensure players can enjoy their gaming experience with peace of mind. Additionally, an active player community and brand culture development are equally important, and AYANEO has always had unique strategies and plans in this regard.
I have great confidence in our product strength, and we are currently working hard to improve our sales and after-sales systems, hoping to one day achieve the goal you mentioned.
Q：What other non-AYANEO devices to you play on?
A：I have almost all the popular and niche gaming devices available on the market, such as the Nintendo Switch and various retro handheld consoles. Whenever I have time, I like to pick them up and experience them.
However, most of the time, I find myself playing our own AYANEO handheld console. I have become accustomed to the control and feel of AYANEO handhelds, as they embody the hard work and inspiration of the AYANEO team.
Q：What are you currently playing?
A：In my free time, I play some indie games and also indulge in classic retro games, reminiscing about past gaming experiences. Of course, I also try out popular AAA games to experience unexpected surprises.
Q：What's your favourite game of all time?
A：I particularly enjoy playing some of the retro games I used to play, like "Super Mario," "Fire Emblem," and "Outrun." Personally, I value gameplay, seeking simple yet endlessly enjoyable experiences, even though I may not excel at them.
Through this media interview, players can learn about some interesting experiences of AYANEO CEO Arthur Zhang, as well as his philosophy and goals as the brand leader of AYANEO. In the future, AYANEO will continue to work hard, always adhering to the concept of "Real players,Know players", adhering to innovation driven product progress, creating more high-quality products, and bringing extraordinary experiences to global players.