Ch 9: Our China adventure - The Positive Gaming Story

11 - 01 - 2013

Ch 9: Our China adventure - The Positive Gaming Story

This chapter might not be among the most crucial chapters in PG's history, but I decided to write it mainly because it shows a bit how we were trying to find our way in unknown territories at times...and it was a fun trip for sure :)

In early March 2005, Thomas and myself flew off into the sunset, and landed in Hong Kong the next day. We arrived on a Sunday morning, and since our meeting with the dance mat manufacturer was in Shenzhen the next day, we thought to explore Hong Kong a bit. After visiting an arcade to see how things were done in Hong Kong, which was pretty different from what we were used to in Europe since all machines were meant for one person to sit and play it, while in Europe one usually stands up and have the option of two players going against each other, we had lunch at our hotel. I wanted to test my brilliant Chinese language skills and said “I ping pijo”, which was supposed to mean “one beer”. When that wasn’t understood, I ended up getting a Tsing Tao anyway, so it all worked out.

Later on we wanted to find some place where we could have a beer and see how the locals would hang out, and started walking around looking for a pub. 2 hours, 10 karaoke places with only private rooms and otherwise only finding massage places that offered beer later, we decided to go back to the hotel. Maybe the locals didn’t meet up anywhere? We were anyway tired of the trip, and decided to go early to bed. At midnight we heard and felt a loud “thump, thump, thump” sound, and realized there had to be some kind of dance place inside or just next to our hotel. Too late for that anyway, we had a business meeting in Shenzhen the next morning.

It took us only 2 hours to get from Hong Kong and into Shenzhen by train, and the visa to enter China was just a quick formality. Vincent, the man Thomas had communicated with and who was out contact person, was waiting for us, and he brought us first to eat lunch. He wanted to make sure we had a nice meal and first impression, so he took us to a big and fancy hotel for eating. We were first guided into a room full of different courses, so we could just point at what we wanted, and they would prepare it for us. That sounded good, but ended up pretty weird. I am vegetarian, and that wasn’t such a known concept among the staff, nor did Vincent get it at first what that meant. I ended up choosing some small cakes, it was the only thing I could possibly eat. Thomas decided to choose the same, and Vincent obviously felt like he had to do the same. So our first meeting was along with a meal in a fancy restaurant, where the three of us ate a few cakes. 

After this Vincent brought us to 3 different facilities. In the first one he showed us our dance mats, and we realized that they were not actually manufacturing them, but buying them from a manufacturer with any design Vincent asked for. The place he showed us was just there to pack the mats into boxes. We were not super happy with the quality of the mats either, but at least they looked ok and had the design we had asked for. Vincent then pulled out an attempted copy of a Cobalt Flux mat, he must have thought we wanted him to copy them since he would be able to produce them cheaper than what they were in the US. As much as we were in the middle of talks with Ladd from Cobalt Flux about what to do with the future, we definitely didn’t want to just copy his mat, so this gesture from Vincent’s side was a bit disturbing. It came as a relief to see that Vincent had no idea how to actually produce it, and he had obviously only seen pictures of it, since the mat was totally different. We didn’t follow up on that idea from his side…

The next place we went to was Vincent’s factory. There they had a few production lines for smaller technical equipment, the main focus on copying Playstation 2 controllers for the Arabic market, a fact Vincent seemed very proud to tell us about. The controllers were made by an assembly line of about 15 people sitting around a long table on 2 benches, in a room with concrete floor, walls and absolutely nothing else in the big room. The people were sitting there saying absolutely nothing to each other, just staring into whatever part each of them were focusing on, most of them wearing dust masks. All in all, not a too blissful gang, nor the most inspiring circumstances for work.

Then Vincent brought us to meet with his business partner, at their offices. The business partner didn’t speak any English, but he was very clear on what he had in mind as the primary focus for our business relationship. We were of course going to sell their pink dvd players to the European market! It took some effort to get off that topic, but in the end we managed to convince them that we really didn’t need to discuss more about products. They proceeded to bring us to a restaurant for dinner, and there we were served big plates with leaves of spinach with nothing else. A vegetarian is more or less the same as a rabbit, I guess. Either way, they were definitely friendly, and we parted on good terms. After what we had seen we realized that they may not be a long term business partner, but the visit was interesting nonetheless.

We went back to Hong Kong, and since we were not leaving until the next evening, we decided that we didn’t want to be kept awake all night by techno music while lying in bed, so we went to the techno place instead, which turned out to share the main wall with our hotel. It was probably the biggest dance place in Hong Kong, and very modern. There must have been several thousand people there, seemingly hip people from Hong Kong. There was a young guy dressed up like Michael Jackson dancing on the bar, people used the private karaoke rooms, and we bought a few Heineken beers for only EUR 11,50. We had seen the same beer cans for EUR 0,60 in the 7/11 down the street, but who’s counting. We danced around for several hours and had a lot of fun. We were a bit taller than the average person there, and as the only white people we did stand out a little. In the end we went back to the hotel, and the next day we flew back to Norway.

When we got back to our office, we were sucked right back into the excitement of our upcoming big event, and Ladd from Cobalt Flux told us that something unexpected had occurred at the IHRSA trade show in San Francisco, and he would update us when we would meet him only a bit more than a week later.

What happened at the European Championships 2005 and the aftermath will be covered in chapters 10 and 11 of the PG story :).

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