Image: Kotaku / Alex Walker
Gaming mice aren't typically the kind of product you'd think of as a consumable, something that gets replaced with the same regularity as, say, your mousepad. But according to the managing director of one major peripheral distributor, the top teams cycle out their gear every six months.
Martin Moelle is the managing director for BenQ in Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Korea. That means while he oversees some of BenQ's less fancier products, like digital whiteboards and projectors for classrooms, he also oversees the company's Zowie gaming brand.
Having started back in 2008 with the assistance of former Counter-Strike professionals SpawN and HeatoN, Zowie is now one of the more familiar brands among esports. Their mice are pretty known for being hassle-free, with no third party software, minimalist styling and generally as few frills as possible.
But while it's easier to focus on build quality when you're not dealing with driver and software updates, that doesn't mean pros hold onto your mice any longer. According to Moelle, the teams that Zowie works with internationally - which includes "the top 20 or so in the world" in Counter-Strike, Overwatch and other games - tend to replace their mice every six months.
"We find out that in especially FPS games, like CS:GO, you have these long sweeping actions. And the long sweeping action obviously creates wear and tear, and the two places of most wear and tear are on the mousepad itself and the mouse feet," Moelle explained.
The mouse feet internally are referred to as "skates", a reference to the original Hyperglide teflon mouse feet that became popular among esports circles in the early '00s. Image: Kotaku / Alex Walker
"Once they get familiar with a mouse, it's something that they like to stick to then. If it's the mousepad or the mouse itself, once the skates wear down then - I can't - but they can feel this difference between the height."
That could be a minute change to how the mouse sits, or the smoothness of how the mouse glides across a surface. But even though all Zowie mice ship with a spare set of mouse feet - or multiple sets, as in the case of the newer EC1-B and EC2-B mice, pros don't tend to use them: they just replace the mouse entirely.
"For them, at their level, once the mousepad or the skates themselves wear down or change in consistency, then it affects their performance," Moelle said.
"So it is possible the skates, and some people do do that, but at that professional level it's just simpler, better, more consistent to get a brand new mouse or brand new mousepad to get to the origin or the starting point for them when they start to use the product. And that's the reason, or background, for them wanting to change it on a consistent level."
I asked whether Moelle thought rival brands - think Razer, Logitech, ROCCAT and so on - would see the same behaviour amongst their sponsored players. And while he can't speak on behalf of other companies, he said it would be surprising if other manufacturers didn't have a similar amount of mice turnover.
"If they're dealing with serious esports teams and players, it has to be consistent. Once you get to that level ... you get this, these players come into a zone and slight changes in anything, they really feel it straight away. And they know when something has been affected. And it's gotta be consistent across everybody, no matter what country, what team it is."