Enough marketing bullshit is enough

, by
Patrick Schmalzried

Traditional gaming mouse marketing is all about «moar CPI is better». For a while however it seemed that the CPI craze was cooling down and actually important gaming mouse attributes like low weight and low input lag would be replacing it. But then, in October of 2019, Razer announced a 20,000 CPI sensor and in September of 2020 Logitech upped the ante and announced a 25,600 CPI sensor. Enough already?

On the off chance you do not know what CPI is, here is a quick definition: CPI stands for counts per inch. DPI means the same thing as CPI, but it is a misnomer. The higher the CPI of your mouse, the more pixels your mouse cursor will move when you physically move your mouse. Traditional gaming mouse companies like touting that more CPI will make you more precise. In reality, once you are above a certain amount of CPI, more CPI will do nothing for you.

The kick-off for the CPI craze was over twenty years ago, all the way back in 1999. Back then the default CPI of PC mice was 400, until Logitech as well as Razer released the worlds two first gaming mice: the Logitech Wingman Gaming Mouse boasted 800 CPI, and the Razer Boomslang boasted 2,000 CPI. Over the years many other mouse companies joined the CPI craze. Fast-forward to today and Razer and Logitech are still at it.

When I saw the news about Logitechs 25,600 CPI on r/MouseReview I read through all of the 327 comments to find out if there actually was a single mouse enthusiast who cared for 25,600 CPI. The only enthusiastic comment I could find was by HashtonKutcher who, due to severe monetary constraints, only could afford a very, very small mousepad (about 40 millimeters in width). When your mousepad is just 40 millimeters wide 25,600 CPI indeed come in handy, as you only have to move your mouse a few millimeters and you still will have moved your mouse cursor all the way from the left side to the right side of your monitor. Thus, even with such a small mouse pad you will never run out of mouse pad when using 25,600 CPI.

Besides HashtonKutcher however no one seemed to care for 25,600 CPI. This begs the question: why is Logitech investing resources in 25,600 CPI when gaming mouse enthusiasts do not care for it? The answer is that those 25,600 CPI are not there to impress the enthusiasts over on r/MouseReview. They are there to impress PC gamers that do not yet know a lot about gaming mice and thus are easy to bait with something like «moar CPI is better and no one has moar CPI than we do».

The way marketing works for traditional gaming mouse companies is the following: in their marketing material traditional gaming mouse companies tout that high CPI equals more accuracy. Next, they do market research and ask gamers whether high CPI in a gaming mouse is important to them. Due to previously bombarding these gamers with their high CPI marketing bullshit a lot of these gamers answer the question with «Yes.» Thus, the marketing department concludes that high CPI is an important feature and that for the next version of their gaming mouse they better increase it. And so on.

In economics this is called a self-fulfilling prophecy.

«So what?», you might be thinking. «Mouse enthusiasts know better and will not fall for the «moar CPI» trap. And those that fall for it are newbs anyway, so where is the harm?»

The danger is that instead of spending their time and money on actually making better gaming mice, like fixing accidental double clicks for example, too many gaming mouse companies spend their time and money on improving metrics like CPI that do not result in better gaming mice. When the majority of PC gamers think that more CPI is better, there is a strong monetary incentive for every gaming mouse company out there to focus on more CPI. When your competitor is praising high CPI, can you afford to not praise it?

The end result: worse gaming mice for everyone on average. There are lots of historic examples for such developments: the watt craze for vacuum cleaners or the megapixel craze for digital cameras for example.

There is a different way of doing marketing. British car maker Rolls-Royce famously did not tout the amount of horsepower its cars had. Rolls-Royce simply described the engine output as adequate.

However describing the CPI of the PixArt 3360 in the Zaunkoenig M1K with «adequate» would be dishonest. Describing something with «adequate» implies that the quantity needed is successfully reached but not exceeded by a lot. Also «adequate» makes a statement about the quality of something. To summarize: something that is adequate is just a little too much, and of good quality. Compared to previous gaming mouse sensors the 3360 is an alright sensor, however it could have been better had the focus not been more CPI but instead less input lag (smoothing, anyone?). In short: The 3360 has way too much CPI and the quality could have been better.

Hence «adequate» is not the right word to describe the 12,000 CPI of the 3360. «I have had an adequate amount of your bullshit.» would be a weird sentence. When you want to say that you have had it you would go with the following: «I have had enough of your bullshit.» And I for sure have had enough CPI marketing bullshit. Hence, when people ask me how much CPI the M1K has I always reply with «Enough.»