Ch 6: PG's first appearance in the fitness industry - The Positive Gaming Story

13 - 12 - 2012

Ch 6: PG's first appearance in the fitness industry - The Positive Gaming Story

This chapter focuses on our first steps to expand our concept beyond Norway, tells a bit about the development of machine dance clubs in Norway, and not the least ends up with some words which changed Positive Gaming's direction for ever :).

One thing we had observed through our buildup of Euromix 2 dance machines, was that sales of consumer dance games and dance mats became a big success in Norway. We were in the media in Norway more than 50 times from 2003 until 2007, and over all covered by all the leading media. This led to big consumer interest, which increased the sale of the home equipment, mainly for Playstation 2 games from Konami. Around 100.000 consumer game units were sold during the first 3 years of our existence, but without our involvement.

This was not something we had expected, we didn’t think people wanted to play this game at home, when it was so much fun to play it in the bowling halls where you could meet people as well as show off your skills. We didn’t have any part of that market, and realized we were making someone else make a lot of success and money via our efforts, while we struggled to get by financially. We also realized that both the home and arcade markets boosted each other, because if you had practiced at home it was more fun to play at arcade, since you knew the game already.

This led to us spending the summer of 2004 trying to find out how we could increase our market, and also how our “recipe” in Norway could be applied to other countries, with the combination of arcade machines and home equipment. We also started to think about how we could enter other areas of the market like the fitness industry and schools, plus potentially get a part of the dance mat and consumer game market.

Avranches Automatic from France were still Konami’s European representative for arcade machines, so in August of 2004 I sent a 15 page email to Murielle from Avranches, outlining a strategy for building up the Konami machines along with consumer games all over Europe, with us as the leading force in sourcing, guiding and training the distributors. Konami really only had success with these products in the UK and Norway, the rest of Europe was almost untouched. My other company which I described in chapter 1 was still going well at this time with me in charge of it, and I already had some past experience in building up European distributor networks. Since the way we did our business with Positive Gaming was so unique, we felt like the right people to be in charge of expanding what we did Europe wide.

Murielle was very positive to my email and liked the idea a lot, I believe she realized this could create great potential for her company as well, since they were struggling with finding innovative and dedicated representatives around Europe. However, as always, any bigger ideas had to be authorized by Konami. James from Konami UK, who had visited us in Oslo in 2002, was also positive to the idea, but his influence was limited on such matters, this was up to the Japanese.

Konami is a big corporation in Japan, selling for several billion US dollars every year on their home market alone. For them Europe is a small market, and it’s not something they put much emphasis on, apart from offering the products they create via representatives they choose (as long as those are interested, of course). Murielle had a meeting with Yaz Kawasaki, who was in charge of all of Konami’s business outside of Japan, later that month. After words she contacted me and told me Konami would “think about it”.

We never heard back from them on it after words (although Mr Kawazaki told me personally that he had received my email when I met him in 2005), although Murielle and James had obviously noted that we could have potential far beyond Norway. It would not take long before this would lead to another opportunity than anything we had imagined. Before I move on with explaining that, I just wish to bring up a few paragraphs about a few of the things that happened in Norway that summer and autumn.

DDR Oslo

During the spring of 2004, we started up DDR Oslo and got machine dance registered as the first computer based sport in the world, as described in chapter 4. When we announced this on our web forums and at our tournaments that year, and we told those who were active and serious that both Positive Gaming and the Norwegian Dance Organization were eager to help new machine dance clubs getting started, several new ones were established. Thomas and myself joined a meeting to start up DDR Hardcore in the Follo district outside of Oslo, where many of the most active players came from. I then followed up at incorporation meetings for several more clubs, including DDR Tønsberg, Lillehammer, Trondheim and Fredrikstad/Østfold. I believe there were 6 clubs at the end of that summer.

In the early autumn we invited all the clubs and those not yet organized in clubs to join the first official Norwegian championships in machine dance, in association with the Norwegian Dance Ogranization. At this event, we separated the male and female players for the first time, as is normal to do in all sports. I don’t recall all the details from this event, but Snute aka Jens won the male championships (and I believe that Duff aka Fredrik was number 2 and Haggar aka Kent was number 3, but I’m not sure) and Tina aka Kristin won the female, with Olyzia aka Kristine and Ylini aka Hanna on the following places. This was a surprise, as Olyzia had always been the best placed female in all our tournaments until that time.

Stine from the Norwegian Dance Organization was there to hand out the official prizes etc, and it was our biggest and most well organized Norwegian tournament until that date, with nice media coverage as well. DDR Lillehammer was a crew that not many of us knew, and they showed up with their own tshirts, fans and everything. There were also players showing up from Porsgrunn where Daniel is from for the first time, one of them later became my girlfriend for 3 years.

Body and Mind

At the end of August, Murielle from Avranches sent me an email and told me a guy from the fitness industry in Holland had contacted her, and showed interest in Euromix 2. He had seen a machine in an arcade at a fitness trade show in Rimini in Italy, and was interested in introducing it to the fitness industry. She told me she had advised him to call me, and I told her I would see what I could do to inspire him. He called me that same day, introduced himself as Toon Vollering, sounded pretty eager as well as convincing, and he wanted to come to Norway to meet with me as soon as possible. I told him we would have a few events that weekend, and if he wanted to he could come and see how we did things, as well as explain his ideas to us. He booked his ticket within the hour.

2 days later he arrived together with his girlfriend, just as we had an outdoor event at a public square in Oslo, with many of the active players present, showing our machines to new people, and ensuring the players would be able to play for free, have fun etc.

We went to a restaurant near the square and had a talk. He explained that he owned a company called Body and Mind, they were a fitness magazine in Holland that was connected with all the fitness studios in the country, and were connected with many of the bigger companies in Holland in general, since many of them advertised in his magazine etc. He said he was confident that he could introduce the DDR machines to the fitness industry in Holland and maybe do more with the concept as well. He joined us the next day to a National tournament we organized at a small place south east of Oslo, where they were just in the process of starting up a new club. The next day he went back to Holland, after we had agreed that we would send him a machine that could be shown at his booth at Holland’s biggest fitness trade show in Holland, which would take place a few weeks later. We agreed that I would come there to help present the product and basically play the game to show it, and also that we would bring in players from the Dutch dance game community to help demonstrate it at the trade show.

We shipped the machine there, had it set up at the booth together with their marketing for their magazine, and the show started. I played 6-7 hours each day, it was lots of fun. The Dutch community leaders showed up, and a few other players came there too. There were more or less constantly spectators by the booth, which didn’t come as a surprise to me since I knew what a crowd magnet it was, but Toon was very enthusiastic. He hoped to make some sales right there at the show as well, but somehow people showed interest but no firm dedication.

On the last day an old acquaintance of Toon called Guus van der Meer showed up at the booth, and looked at the crowd and the machine. He was the founder and CEO of Power Plate, a big fitness company supplying the product called Power Plate, one of the most successful fitness products in the world the last decade. He also owned two high profile fitness studios in Holland, and knew all about fitness products, running a fitness center etc. Toon brought me over to join the conversation, and Guus said some words that would change my life forever:

“I really like the idea, but this machine doesn’t really fit in to fitness studios. Isn’t there a way you can make a product where people can join it for group lessons?”.

Toon looked at me and asked: “You think you can do that?”.

I said: “I don’t know. Let’s try”.

The next chapter will show what happened next :).

 



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