Ch 3: DDR Norway - The Positive Gaming Story

07 - 11 - 2012

Ch 3: DDR Norway - The Positive Gaming Story

Chapter 3 of the PG Story explains how we got started with dance games, how the Norwegian dance game community developed as well as how PG's practical business started. 

During the spring of 2002, I often went to play Photo Play at the arcade we almost purchased (as explained in chapter 2). I had seen the Euromix 1 dance machine there many times, and had been annoyed by the noise…but after the ATEI show in London, I started to realize that it was a better game than I first had thought. Once when I came to the arcade, there was a crowd of people standing behind the machine, watching a couple playing on it. They were extremely good, or so I thought at the time. When they were finished, everyone clapped and cheered. I had never seen anything like that with a computer game before, and decided that this was something to look more into…both on a personal level and on behalf of PG. So I started playing it more, and slowly moved myself up to level 5 and 6 (which is comparable to level 10-12 on iDANCE, although the difficulty levels were less consistent on DDR). There were others who were about as good who came there to play also, some a bit better too. I kept playing it through the summer, and got to know some of the other players. There was not yet any community then, but it started up around that time.

The first person who took initiative to gather the community together was a boy called Kim, I met him in the arcade during that summer. He invited all the players he knew, as did I, to meet up to play one day, and it was lots of fun for everyone…and we all got better when we met up like that and could match ourselves against others. I asked the manager of the arcade who they bought the machine from, and it turned out to be from a company called Vendcomatic, one of the biggest arcade machine importers in Norway. I decided to go straight to Konami and ask about purchasing machines from them, told them about us buying more than 400 Photo Play machines from NLD and that we wanted to include their machines in our offering. They were so interested that they travelled to Norway to meet with Thomas and myself, and the 2 European sales managers for Konami’s arcade division travelled from England to visit us in Oslo at the end of the summer. Thomas and I had offices at a Regus facility at that time, and we met with them there. Then we showed them a bit around Oslo, and brought them to the arcade, where we had gathered about 20 players with the help of Kim. The Konami guys were very impressed, and said that a new version of Euromix, Euromix 2, would be released and available only a few months later. We told them we wanted to purchase 2 machines first and put them in a showcase facility, then purchase more to place in bowling centers around Norway. A relationship with the supplier of a great product was started!

We first tried to convince the arcade to take a machine from us, because we already had a relationship with them on the basis of 6 Photo Play machines we had taken over which were standing there. The same day I suggested this, I got a call from Vidar at Vendcomatic, the company that owned the Euromix 1 machine that was standing there. He was not happy that we were trying to take his customer away, nor that we had contacted Konami directly about buying machines from them. He said he expected a bit more respect from a new party in the industry. I told him I was sorry to have stepped on his toes, but also that it really was up to the arcade who they wanted to take machines from, as well as Konami when it came to deciding who their customers were. In the end Vendcomatic purchased one Euromix 2 machine and placed it in the arcade, and we had to find another showcase facility. That was the last time we “lost” against Vendcomatic, and later on we became friends and did some business together too. There was no doubt that we were the ones who took the dance machine market in Norway, we worked in ways that no one had done before in our country.

We decided to rent a basement of a cd store on a temporary basis, and placed the machines there when they arrived, along with about 10 Photo Play machines. We used that place for community people to come and play a few times per week and had weekly tournaments on Euromix 2 there. Daniel had started to work with us at that time, and by the way, Daniel was 20 at that time, not 17 as he would have been if my info from the other chapters would have been accurate. My memory isn’t perfect, apologies to Daniel ;) Daniel was the first person in Norway to clear Max 300 on expert, a level 10 song that seemed impossible at first! Later on, even I managed to clear that song :).

By that time we had taken over the Photo Play machines and had started to put them into pubs, bowling centers, video stores etc, mainly in the South East part of Norway. We had several people working with us on a commission base who worked to get machines placed out. We also took over a lot of deals with locations from NLD, where there were already Photo Play machines. We started organizing some local Photo Play tournaments, though not as much as we had planned. The machines we took over were generally in poor shape, and Daniel and the others had to fix a lot of them. It was much work, and we needed more people, and everything cost more money than we expected. We kind of entered the business more because we wanted to do it rather than because we knew how to make it profitable, and we met and dealt with more challenges than we thought possible over the coming years. To get licenses to put out Photo Play machines turned out much more difficult than we thought, because the people handling the applications didn’t understand the paper the licensing authorities had given us. Thomas did a great job with them, and gradually we managed to get about 150 Photo Play machines placed out. Daniel did most of the installs, repairs and emptying of cash from the machines.

We rented offices with a showroom and an area for repairing machines, as well as a warehouse. The rest of 2002 and in the beginning of 2003, we worked to try to get properly established. At the end of 2002 we decided to quit the basement facilities, and moved out of there in January 2003. The arcade we used to go to closed down at the end of 2002, which meant that Vendcomatic had to find a new location for their machines. Around that time we found the first bowling center in Oslo interested in having a Dance machine and a Photo Play machine on a profit sharing basis, and decided to use that as our main place for players etc. That was where things really got started for us with dance games during the spring.

ATEI London 2013

In January 2003 we went to the ATEI trade show in London again, this time as a Photo Play and Euromix 2 importer. We met with the people from Funworld as well the the guys from Compu-Game regarding Photo Play, as well as with the guys from Konami UK and their new European mainland distributor Avranches Automatic from France. From that time onwards we purchased all Euromix 2 machines from Avranches, but stayed in contact with James Anderson from Konami UK. We also met up with Harry Ruikes, who at that time worked with Photo Play’s partner for Benelux called JVH. I got in contact with Harry a bit earlier in connection with my Polish partner for Citrosept (see chapter 1), when that Polish partner was interested in becoming a Photo Play distributor from Poland. I tried to help out with the negotiations in that case, but nothing ever came of it…however, Harry told me he wanted to stay in contact with me, because he liked the way I communicated and negotiated. I was happy to have found a friend in the industry on a top level.

Ingolv from Compu-Game, mentioned in chapter 2, wanted us to purchase new Photo Play machines from him, and we saw the need for some new machines and upgrades. He put us in contact with a leasing company that was willing to give us good credit, which made us able to purchase 30 new Photo Play machines and 10 Euromix 2 machines. This was later increased to a total of 50 Euromix 2 machines, which made us Konami’s 2nd biggest customer in Europe after England (there were more machines in Italy, but most of them second hand imports from Japan). Not bad from a small company that just entered the arcade machine business!

Because we had met up so regularly and had weekly tournaments for the community, the dance game craze started to take shape, and in the Easter of 2003 we organized the first Norwegian Championships at “The Gathering”, the world’s biggest annual LAN party. The Gathering has space for about 5200 computers, it’s organized every Easter in “The Vikingship”, the Olympic Ice Skating Hall in Hamar. We had 2 machines standing there for the 4 days of the event, and they were used a lot! The people who were there were sitting behind computers all the time, and many of them really liked our game…while many did not, as well, since they made some noise…people are very creative at that event, and one person made an animation showing a dance game player jumping on the machine to Cotton Eyed Joe, and then a guy came and blew up the player and the machine. He shared that with everyone at the event, and a lot of people laughed. Someone stuck a paper saying “I’m gay” on a player when dancing, and there was tension…I spoke with the people making the nonsense, and told them to speak with the organizers of the event if they had problems, we were there and had the right to do so as much as anyone else. Gradually they left us alone. The championships were great fun, even if I did very poorly :). A boy called Joachim aka Thorny won. The youngest participant was 12 at that time, his name is Jens aka Snute and he had great talent but was still too small to make it to the top. Daniel was one of the best.

Around this time the ddrnorway.no web site was launched, it had a very active forum for the next years, and was a way for us to communicate with the players. After the success of the National Championships, we decided to start up 8 national tournaments per year, and continued with that until the end of 2005, if I recall correctly. We called those tournaments Challenge Cup, and they all counted in the overall league.

We managed to get a dance machine into the Big Brother house in Norway that winter for one week, and the people in the Big Brother house were shown playing on it. We also managed to convince Funworld to let us create a Big Brother quiz and put it on Photo Play for a limited time period, this was possible via their Photo Play Net function. We made questions every week about what had happened in the Big Brother house, and had people compete in a tournament via Photo Play Net.

Shortly after The Gathering, a previous winner of a reality show in Norway, who was then a show host for a youth TV program for the biggest Norwegian TV station, invited us to put up a Euromix 2 machine outside the TV station’s facilities in the main walking street in Oslo, and we had several minutes live coverage with Daniel and Joachim playing “Can’t stop falling in love – speed mix”. The media coverage of Positive Gaming in Norway had begun!

In the next chapter I will tell more about our tournaments and how machine dance became the first computer game in the world to become an official sport, as well as about more media coverage, our first attempt at cooperation with Konami on a European level, our first international tournament etc :). Stay tuned!


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