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7 Predictions in keyboards for 2024

Milktooth's Kevin compiled a list of seven key predictions for the mechanical keyboard market in 2024.

milktooth
Published December 16, 2023
This post is part of the KBD.NEWS Advent Calendar 2023. The previous article was: ZMK: A History by Pete Johanson. Stay tuned and check back for more articles tomorrow!

As we stand at the threshold of another exciting year in the mechanical keyboard industry, it's always intriguing to forecast the future. Predictions, after all, are more than just educated guesses; they reflect our understanding of current trends and an anticipation of how they might evolve. With that in mind, I've compiled a list of seven key predictions for the mechanical keyboard market in 2024.

1. The Growing Hobby: A Steady Pace

2024 marks an interesting year for mechanical keyboard enthusiasts. Despite concerns about slower growth rates, the hobby continues to thrive. It's essential to recognize the ebb and flow of business cycles, particularly in consumption-based hobbies like mechanical keyboards. This natural fluctuation is not a sign of decline but a stabilization of the market.

2. The Rise of Premium Builds

A distinct shift in the mechanical keyboard industry is evident, with a move towards higher-quality, premium designs. The increasing use of aluminum over plastic heralds a departure from the traditional 'gamer' aesthetic, embracing a more refined and sophisticated style. This shift aligns with the preferences of a growing consumer base that prioritizes quality and longevity over ornate or flashy designs.

Additionally, the boundaries between budget and premium categories are becoming increasingly indistinct. Products like the Neo70 are exemplary of this trend, blending affordability with premium features, as I've detailed in my review. Nevertheless, it's important to note that luxury keyboards maintain their unique status, distinct and separate from these evolving categories, which I will discuss further in the following section.

3. Premium vs. Luxury: A Market of Distinction

While the market sees an increasing number of budget and premium keyboards, the luxury segment maintains its exclusivity and steep price tags. The distinction between premium and luxury keyboards is subtle yet significant, warranting a detailed exploration. Luxury keyboards will continue to appeal to a niche audience of discerning collectors. The rising popularity of budget and premium boards is likely to inspire luxury board designers to further differentiate their products. We can anticipate a greater focus on both tangible aspects such as unique designs and rare materials, and intangible elements like branding, storytelling, and strategic market positioning. However, the volume and turnover of these luxury keyboards will remain relatively low, preserving their exclusive status.

Pic:

Pic:

(source)

4. Stability in the Market: No More Shop Closures

The mechanical keyboard industry has evolved into a more mature and stable market. Much like a tide washing the shore clean, the downturn in the industry has filtered out those who were in it for quick gains, leading to a healthier market.

In addition to this natural cleansing, the community itself has become more vigilant and proactive. Borrowing a page from the financial world, there are now vendor ratings similar to how Moody's rates bonds. These ratings provide an additional layer of scrutiny and transparency, helping buyers make informed decisions and holding vendors accountable. The best case scenario is that this development will contribute to a significant decrease in shop closures due to failed group buys, further indicating a positive turn in the industry's overall health.

5. The Focus on Buying Experience

With an abundance of products in the market, the challenge now lies in navigation and selection. The buying experience is becoming a focal point, with an emphasis not just on the products but on how consumers discover and purchase them.

This is a persistent issue in the keyboard scene but shops like Milktooth (I might be biased…) are beginning to tackle it.

6. The Potential of Hall Effect/Magnetic Switches

In discussing the future of mechanical keyboards, it's crucial to address the evolving landscape of keyboard switches. A notable advancement is the burgeoning potential for mainstream adoption of Hall effect/magnetic switches. These switches mark a paradigm shift, being governed more by software than the hardware mechanisms typical in traditional mechanical keyboard switches.

This software-centric approach offers a new realm of possibilities in customization and responsiveness–-particularly in the gaming context. But it's not without its challenges. Compatibility issues might initially hinder their widespread adoption. Nonetheless, the industry is witnessing a significant surge of interest in this area.

Companies like Wooting, which have established themselves as frontrunners in this space, are likely to encounter increased competition. As the market for these innovative switches grows and becomes more commodified, we can expect a diversification of offerings and a likely decrease in profit margins. This influx of competition could lead to more choices for consumers and potentially drive further innovation in switch technology.

7. Competitive Dynamics: Expansion and Market Share

The high profit margins in this niche are attracting new competitors. Some aim to capture a larger market share, while others seek to expand the market itself. This dual approach – targeting a bigger slice of the existing pie and attempting to enlarge the pie – reflects the dynamic nature of the mechanical keyboard market in 2024.

In Conclusion

Despite the various challenges and fluctuations the mechanical keyboard industry has experienced, particularly in the wake of the pandemic 'sugar rush' and the repercussions of failed group buys, my outlook remains reasonably optimistic. It's essential to view these as short-term hurdles rather than indicators of a declining hobby.

Looking at the broader picture, two long-term trends bolster my confidence in the sustained vibrancy of the keyboard scene. First, there's a growing desire for individualization - people increasingly seek products that reflect their unique styles and preferences. Mechanical keyboards, with their customizable nature, fit perfectly into this cultural shift. Second, the reality of our digital era is that we spend a considerable amount of time at our computers, making the tools we use, like keyboards, integral to our daily lives.

These enduring trends suggest that, despite the occasional setbacks and market fluctuations, the mechanical keyboard community will continue to thrive. The hobby isn't just about the keyboards; it's about the people, creativity, and personal expression (all things that kbd.news documents quite well!) behind each build. As long as these elements remain, the mechanical keyboard scene is poised to remain active and engaging for enthusiasts and newcomers alike.

Typed on a wilba Thermal with Gazzew U4s and MT3 Serika keycaps.

Pic:

Kevin

HandleMilktooth
LocationBay Area, CA, US
Nicheswitches
Linksmilktooth.nu
Do you like this post? Share, donate, subscribe, tip me off!

Published on Sat 16th Dec 2023. Featured in KBD #2023.


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