The gaming chair industry enjoyed spectacular success in 2020. As a result, many new products and brands are emerging. This article summarizes some interesting brands, chairs, and concepts to look out for in 2021.
Our 2020 gaming chair industry report summed up the most successful year in industry history. There were four key drivers of growth:
- Global switch to working from home: this drove interest in ergonomic seating to a higher level.
- Office chair B2B model struggles: the multi-billion-dollar office chair industry thrives on a B2B sales model. As schools and offices closed, demand for bulk furniture orders declined (learn more).
- Buyer-friendly market: most gaming chairs are made in China. By working with established factories, new brands (and products) can enter the market quickly. As the demand for gaming chairs has increased, so has the range of options. Today, consumers enjoy a huge range of price, feature, and design variations.
- Effective B2C sales model: many gaming chair brands cut out the middleman and sell directly to consumers. Top-performing brands like Secretlab, AKRacing, and GTRacing have led by example, and others have followed. Today, most successful brands sell chairs using similar templates: user-friendly online stores, easy checkout, crisp personalized service, and direct delivery.
In summary, consumer demand for gaming chairs is high. The centralized factories in China that dominate production can mass-produce custom designs quickly. Top brands have slick B2C blueprints that startups can emulate. For new entrants, these market conditions are appealing. That explains why many new brands are entering the gaming chair business.
Emerging 2021 chair brand picks
Earlier this year, IKEA was one of several companies announcing entry into the gaming furniture market. In a press release, the company proclaimed gaming as a healthy pursuit in the lockdown era, with four key factors:
- Gaming is one of the most truly cross-demographic activities in the world.
- Gaming supports mental health and general well-being.
- Through gaming, people develop problem-solving, communication, and teamwork skills.
- Gaming provides the means to connect with others in the lockdown era.
The continued growth of gaming combined with a global lockdown leads to a clear conclusion:
An ergonomic home computing workstation is essential for today’s power users.
At the heart of every good workstation is an ergonomic chair. Below, we summarize emerging chair brands poised to make a splash in 2021.
In Sept. 2020, IKEA announced a partnership with the ASUS ROG (Republic of Gamers). ROG is a line of gaming-specific hardware peripherals made by ASUS (a Taiwanese multinational). The collaboration is developing a new line of affordable gaming chairs. IKEA promises that the new models will include ergonomic features to increase gaming performance. Like all IKEA products, they will also feature designs that “blend in beautifully to homes.”
The IKEA press release touts that the new products will “bring the gaming experience at home to a new level”. The product line will launch in China in February 2021. In Shanghai, IKEA and ROG designers are developing ideas in workshops while consulting with pro gamers and gaming fans. In October 2021, the line will launch in other IKEA markets.
Major industry impact
IKEA is the world’s largest furniture retailer. The company runs outlets in 41 countries that sell furniture, accessories, and kitchen products. Its largest market is Germany with 53 retail stores. The United States is second with 51 stores. China ranks third with 35 stores.
IKEA entered China in 1999, opening a retail store in Shanghai. It set up as a joint venture with a local partner, the only option for foreign businesses operating on the mainland. Business has been good for the most part. The retailer cooperates with around 300 suppliers in China. In 2018, China supplied around 28% of IKEA’s total global purchases.
From 2011 to 2017, IKEA China stores enjoyed 10% annual sales growth. In 2018, growth dipped for the first time, down to 9.3%. The slowdown was attributed to a growing demand for products with more than fancy design. Local sentiment deemed IKEA products as stylish but not durable.
IKEA’s current line of gaming chairs also reveals an emphasis on style over function. IKEA gaming chairs don’t have many features to support long periods of gaming.
All have fixed backrests — you can’t tilt and lock at angles. Armrests aren’t height-adjustable. You can only rock these chairs, adjust the lumbar support, or adjust seat height and depth. These features don’t meet even the most basic ergonomic sitting standards.
Current IKEA gaming chairs cost between $199 and $329. Most come with a 10-year warranty.
Earlier this year, we came across Boulies gaming chairs. The company has websites serving the United States, Canada, and the UK. However, none of the sites have any information about the company itself.
The USA site’s about us page only hypes the chairs. Who is Boulies? What country is the company based in? How long has the company been selling gaming chairs? We’ve reached out to Boulies for details.
Mysterious background aside, Boulies chairs look impressive. There are three models: the Ninja Pro, Master Series, and Elite Series. All come with 4D armrests, a multifunction tilt-lock, and a specialty dual-fabric upholstery.
Along the seat and backrest contact points is breathable microfiber suede. Along the chair’s edges is a special perforated PU leather blend (with color-accent stitching).
The most striking Boulies chair is the Master Series. Like other Boulies models, it has pro esports ergonomic features and a dual-type upholstery.
It also comes with a depth-adjustable lumbar support system. Instead of a lumbar pillow, turn a dial on the side of the chair to increase or decrease the depth of lower back support.
After we hear back from the Boulies team, we’ll add more info to this section. For now, check out the Boulies website to learn more about their gaming chairs:
According to its USA website, Karnox has been making gaming chairs since 2014. Looking through the Karnox Facebook page, there is plenty of activity in North America over the years.
One reason Karnox chairs may have flown under the radar was that they were only available on Amazon. That has changed. Recently, the company took its direct sales operation to a higher level. Now, Karnox operates online stores for customers in America, Canadian, and the UK.
The company offers an impressive range of chairs ranging from cheap to high-end. All models come with a 2-year warranty:
- Hero ($175): 1D armrests; 155° recline; 250 pound weight capacity; standard tilt.
- Legend ($269.99): 4D armrests; 155° recline; 300 pound weight capacity; standard tilt.
- Gladiator ($319.99): 4D armrests; 155° recline; 400 pound capacity; multifunction tilt lock.
- Defender: ($399.99): 4D armrests; 155° recline; 400 pound capacity; multifunction tilt lock. This model also comes with fabric upholstery.
- Commander ($499.99): 4D armrests; 180° recline; 400 pound capacity; multifunction tilt lock.
Once done a detailed investigation, we’ll produce a detailed Karnox brand review. Until then, check out the Karnox website to learn more:
When we started ChairsFX back in 2018, X Rocker was one of the most visible gaming chair brands. The company specializes in console gaming rockers. These sit low to the ground. They come with fancy gaming features like vibrating bass and Bluetooth speakers.
Unfortunately, floor rockers are bad for your back. Healthy sitting standards are well defined. An essential part of health sitting is a pronounced curve in the lower back.
X Rocker 2021 rebound
The X Rocker name is still well-known in the gaming chair industry. With new (ergonomically-viable) gaming chairs, the company looks to be in a stronger position to make an impact.
The new line of X Rocker gaming chairs satisfies modern ergonomic seating standards. Those stipulate that an ergonomic chair needs an adjustable lumbar, adjustable armrests, and a reclining backrest.
The flagship Delta Audio eSports chair offers decent value for money. For $359, you get 4D armrests and built-in Bluetooth speakers. On the downside, X-Rocker chairs only come with a 90-day warranty.
Singapore is a tiny city-state in Southeast Asia. It’s an advanced, multicultural melting pot of high-tech ideas and ingenuity. Secretlab (the world’s most popular gaming chair brand) is headquartered in Singapore.
Earlier this year, ChairsFX reviewed APOL (“A piece of lifestyle”). That is a Singapore chair startup serving the Singapore market only. Since writing an APOL chair review, several readers have bought Apol chairs using ChairsFX links. Based on sales and the continued development of the APOL website, that brand seems to be doing well.
Recently, we came across another interesting Singapore chair startup. Like APOL, Martiangear only sells chairs in Singapore (for now). The company conceives its chair designs in Singapore. Parts are made in China, then assembled and delivered from Singapore. All gaming chair models include 4D armrests, a multifunction tilt-lock, and a 3/12 warranty (three years on parts, 12 years on the frame).
Martiangear is now in a pre-launch phase, with seven chairs in its collection. Prices range from SGD $748 to $448 and include free shipping (during pre-launch).
If you live in Singapore, this keep your eye on this brand, or visit their Eunos Avenue showroom:
Emerging trends for 2021
ChairsFX tracks all aspects of the ergonomic seating industry on a regular basis. Moving into 2021, we have two basic predictions. First, the demand for high-quality ergonomic computing furniture will continue to rise.
Second, next-level hardware evolution from AMD, Nvidia, Xbox, PlayStation, and others will continue. Those evolutions will alter user behavior. As that happens, ergonomic workstations will need to keep pace. As a result, we predict new brands entering the field and some potential innovations. Here is a summary:
Work-from-home is here to stay
When the coronavirus struck, millions switched to working from home. Since June, the number working from home has declined.
According to a recent Bloomberg report, most still working from home are high-income, white-collar professionals. At the same time, food service and retail workers are returning to work. That explains why WFH numbers are declining, but still significant.
Recently, the BBC reported on a survey of 1,000 firms by the Institute of Directors (IoD). It found that 74% of firms plan on maintaining the WFH trend. More than half planned on reducing their in-house workplaces.
Concurrently, those locked down at home are playing more video games. For instance, a March 2020 survey found that American gamers spent 45% more time playing video games when locked down.
These trends help to explain why ergonomic furniture is in such high demand. To support long periods of sitting, both white-collar professionals and hard-core gamers need quality equipment. Our WFH Blueprint suggests these components:
Prediction: work-from-home for executives plus rising gaming popularity drives new innovations in hardware, software, and remote working techniques. As that happens, the demand for ergonomic office/ gaming furniture will continue to rise.
For tips on building your own work-from-home battle station, check out this feature:
Improved mobile and console gaming support
Today, around 40% of the global population plays video games. 48% play on gaming PCs. As a result, the classic desk + PC + gaming chair setup is ideal for the work-from-home crowd and PC gamers. However, not all gamers need a desk and PC setup.
8% play on gaming consoles like the Xbox and PlayStation. The rest play games on mobile devices. In fact, mobile gaming is the fastest-growing sector in video games. In 2019, mobile gaming accounted for 45% of all industry revenue.
A key reason for mobile gaming growth is because of advancements in cellular technology. Those have made makes game-ready smartphones cheaper to produce. That broadens gaming exposure in emerging markets. As a result, mobile esports popularity has surged in places like Southeast Asia, India, and Brazil.
Underdeveloped mobile seating support
At present, we know of only one gaming chair designed to support mobile gamers. The Autofull Mechanical Master is the world’s first mobile gaming chair. Its standout feature is a pair of multi-directional armrests. You can adjust them up or down, and swing them in our out. They also swivel 360° and have hidden storage units under each armrest cap.
The main benefit of the armrests is to prevent the neck and upper back from hunching over. This is similar to the concept of a Couchmaster:
With the elbows supported, both mobile and console gamers can enjoy healthy gaming from the couch.
In the coming years, two expect two factors to continue driving mobile gaming growth. First, growing prize pools in games like PUBG Mobile and Arena of Valor generates hype. Second, mobile devices allow entry for those who can’t afford high-end PCs.
While PC gamers need a desk, mobile gamers (and console gamers using controllers) need effective elbow support. For console gamers who play using a keyboard and mouse, a Couchmaster can serve as a desk substitute.
At present, the most ambitious desk-free setup we know of comes from Imperator. For instance, the Imperatorworks Scorpion Computer Cockpit costs $2199. It serves as a workstation chair and desk with several unique features:
- Power recline: range from 128 to 170 degrees.
- Powered height and depth-adjustable monitor arms.
- Included accessories: keyboard and mouse tray; cup holders; controllable RGB lighting.
- Stats: the unit weighs 310 pounds; it supports a maximum weight capacity of 270 pounds.
- Warranty: two years.
Scorpion chairs never caught on. We assume that’s because they are too expensive and impractical. At the lowest end of the AIO workstation scale are cheap imitations. For example, the MagicHold Keyboard Tray can support PC, console, and mobile gamers without need for a desk.
In 2021, there appears to be room for a refinement. We’re thinking of a cross between the Mechanical Master, Imperator Scorpion, and Couchmaster. It would eliminate the need for a desk, while supporting the healthy sitting needs of both console and mobile gamers.
Prediction: look for new innovations in all-in-one workstations, plus cheaper options geared towards emerging markets. As mobile esports prize money grows, we also predict new chairs (like the Mechanical Master) specialized to support mobile gaming pros.
To learn more, check out our Xbox and PlayStation accessories guide. It summarizes the current crop of gear designed to support both console and mobile players:
Fabric upholstered gaming chairs
Over the long term, fabric gaming chairs are better than PU leather gaming chairs. In the short term, PU leather gaming chairs stand out with superb aesthetics and comfort. Under hot conditions, cheaper blends can get sticky.
In contrast, fabric gaming chairs have enhanced breathability. That means the chair always stays cool, no matter the ambient temperature. Fabric is also around 5x more durable than PU leather. As well, fabric gaming chairs are softer to the touch, and more comfortable to sit in.
There are two downsides to fabric gaming chairs. First, they tend to be around $50 to $100 more expensive than PU leather variants. Second, they aren’t as (immediately) flashy as leather chairs. Over time however, fabric chairs blends nicely into most environments.
Prediction: fabric gaming chairs will continue to increase in popularity. One way that many emerging brands can stand out is by offering fabric chair variations. As a result, we can expect a wider range of fabric gaming chairs to choose from in 2021.
Check out our summary of the best fabric gaming chair options currently on the market:
Depth-adjustable lumbar support
Another way for emerging brands to stand out (beyond fabric editions) is to add a depth-adjustable lumbar support system. In the current landscape, this is the “Rolls Royce” of gaming chair features. Instead of a height-adjustable lumbar pillow, these models come with a depth-adjustable system. The point of the support is to fill the lumbar curve of the user.
Height-adjustment is handy if the chair is too small or large for your size. In a chair with a proper fit, depth-adjustment is a lot more useful. If you often sit upright, you can lower the depoth and let the backrest handle the support. If you prefer leaning back, increase the depth to ensure that your lumbar curve remains intact.
The most popular chair with an internal lumbar support system is the Secretlab Titan ($459 and $489). It’s a top-of-the-line pro esports chair with 4D armrests, a multifunction tilt-lock, and a 5-year warranty.
Here is how the internal system works on the Autofull T1 Hero:
Turning the dial bends a flexible steel plate outwards. That increases the depth of support. Over the plate sits a thick layer of resilient foam padding and cover material. The result is a comfortalbe adjustment that can fill your lumbar curve whenever you feel the need for more support.
The end result is more precise and consistent. Once adjusted to your desired position, you can set, forget, and enjoy lower back support customized for your needs.
Prediction: adding an internal lumbar is a great way for a new brand to put a premium stamp on its products. Expect a handful of new chairs sporting internal lumbar devices over the next 12 months.
From our perspective, there isn’t much room left for ergonomic innovation in the gaming chair industry. The best pro esports chairs already boast an effective feature set:
- 4D armrests
- High-quality upholstery (breathable leather plus cold foam padding)
- Multifunction tilt-lock
- Extended warranty protection
- Consistent performance with superb durability
We only see room for one potential new feature: a downward-sloping seat. During intense gameplay, many players lean forward. That is why so many pro gamers don’t use gaming chair neck pillows during tournament play.
To support forward-leaning gamers, both Secretlab and Maxnomic chairs let you tilt the backrest forward to 85° (5-degree forward tilt). Other chairs offer an interesting feature that some gaming chairs could adopt.
The Herman Miller Aeron, Sayle, and Sidiz T80 all come with a downward-sloping seat feature. When leaning forward, a downward slope enables a healthy 105-degree angle between the torso and thighs. That angle helps the user to sit straight, while encouraging them to rest their feet flat on the floor.
Beyond forward gaming support, there are other benefits to be gained from a downward-sloping seat. First, for a quick energy boost, set a downward slope. Doing so will instantly increase lower leg muscle activity. As a result, blood flow return from the lower legs increases. That means less pooling of blood in the lower legs, and a reduced risk of varicose veins.
Second, having a downward-sloping seat allows for a greater range of movement while sitting. That makes it easier to sit dynamically in varied positions through a workday.
Prediction: gaming chairs have pretty good features as is. A downward-sloping seat isn’t necessary, but very useful for hardcore gamers and gaming and power users. We’re hoping that some savvy brand adds this feature as a means of standing out from the crowd.
This article lists under-the-radar brands and concepts that have the potential to break through. We’ll keep an eye on the lot as 2021 progresses.
To see what brands and concepts performed the best in 2020, check out our annual industry report: