Deep Dive in the Sea of Blockchain Gaming
Most of the time life is not smooth sailing, and only those who can overcome these adversities can be winners in life.
In the first issue of the series “Adversity Reversal. Rebirth of Entrepreneurship”, we will be interviewing a young entrepreneur who had started his own business after being unemployed twice. In the next two issues, we will be featuring a single mother who founded her own beauty business, and a serial entrepreneur who had persisted despite many failures. They will share with us their life experiences on how they overcome adversities, and finding their new life direction.
When we say “Life is a Game”, it is usually used as a metaphor, but for 39 years old Chris Ng, it is an exact description of his life.
He was laid off just when his first child was born, and he started from scratch, building up a million-dollar gaming company. Even though he had decided to sell off his company due to limited development opportunities, but he had took up online blockchain courses during the Covid-19 Pandemic period, and started a blockchain gaming company with his friends. Not long after the company was set up, they had managed to raise 6.6million USD (9.05million SGD) worth of funding.
Chris has been an entrepreneur for 8 years and is a father of 3. His eldest and youngest son are aged 8 years old and 3 years old respectively, while his daughter is 6 years old. No matter it is through sheer luck or determination, overcoming the various trials and challenges is never easy, but Chris had successfully done it. SkyArk Studio co-founder Chris Ng shares his entrepreneurial story that is full of twists and turns in this exclusive interview with Lianhe Zaobao.
He did not start facing challenges in life only after he was laid off. Chris has a Degree in Multimedia, but he started off his career as a business analyst in a gaming company while not having any business-related knowledge. Even though he had a tough time learning on the job, he had overcome these challenges and achieved successive promotion, and was given the chance to manage the company’s operations in the Asia and Europe region.
When his career looks bright, and life is smooth sailing with the birth of his first child, his company has decided to shift their operation focus and withdraw from the local market. This had changed the trajectory of his life totally. The retrenchment exercise in 2014 had brought the career which he had worked so hard for in the past 8 years to a halt, but it is also this retrenchment that kickstarted his entrepreneurship.
Chris thought about it and realized that he had not changed career for the past 8 years, and he can only find a job in the same field, but the problem is that he did not have any working experience in game development. He realized that finding a job is tough, and at the same time there are a lot of people who would like to join a gaming studio but has no prior job experience. As such, he had decided to open up his own gaming company. Together with his childhood friend who had years of experience in the gaming field, he had co-founded a mobile gaming studio called XII Braves. At the start, the company has only 12 staff.
In the next phase of fundraising, Chris had met with many challenges, which include rejection and doubts. Some of the “Traditional” investors that he met up with finds that gaming is just a hobby and is not something that is profitable. Chris persisted on to find new investors, but he met with further rejections. Some even commented that “I would rather invest in land, which is at least something physical”. Despite the rejections, Chris’s belief in mobile gaming and the new smartphone era never wavered.
At the end, his hard work finally bore fruits of success. He had not only secured investment of approximately 1 million dollars, but he had also successfully launched the studio’s first mobile game “Valiant Force”. The company strength had slowly grown to 50 staff too.
“Valiant Force” had subsequently become the first AAA grade game title which is developed by a South East Asian company. The game had also became the top 10 most popular game in both Apple App Store and Google Play Store, which allowed a local produced game to be showcased on the same international stage as the games developed by other big scale gaming studios such as Supercell.
Startup company hitting a bottleneck. Selling off the company reluctantly to secure the livelihood of the staff.
The bright performance of the company had caught the attention of a global game company, Century Games. At the same time, the company’s development had met a bottleneck. Although success was achieved for the first game, but the company is hesitant as to whether to launch the second game. Based on the scale of the company, if the manpower and resources were allocated to the development of the 2nd game, the performance of the 1st game will definitely be affected, but at the same time if the 2nd game isn’t launched, the company’s future development will be limited too. Taking into consideration the livelihood of the staff, Chris had decided to sell his company to Century Games. This M&A was completed in May 2020, and he had stayed with the company as part of his contractual obligation. After the M&A, the company had grown to a scale of 100 staff.
2020 was the year where blockchain gaming started to take off, and Chris was curious about how it works although he has his doubts about it too. After the start of the Covid-19 Pandemic, Chris used his free time to take up an online blockchain course conducted by Oxford university. Among all the courses that he had taken before, this is the course that takes up most of his time, but this course had also given him a certain degree of knowledge on blockchain. By the course of fate, Chris met a friend that he had knew years back during his company’s fund-raising stage. He had raised the idea of starting a blockchain gaming company to his friend, and his friend was open to that idea too.
This friend of his had setup the blockchain gaming company SkyArk Studio first, with Chris joining them after his contract at XII Braves had ended in April this year, becoming the co-founder of this company. SkyArk Studio’s objective is to create a cryptogaming ecosystem in Singapore, by facilitating the conversion of traditional game titles to blockchain game titles. Currently the company had gotten the support of Binance.
Chris aims to promote blockchain gaming (i.e. Web3.0), and in the process giving players more “ownership” of the game. According to him, for traditional games, the players’ effort will be put to waste once the game developer had decided to shut down the server, and there is nothing that the players can do about it. Blockchain gaming is different in this aspect. Blockchain gaming works on a decentralised model where the game server belongs to the “Cloud” and “Community”, and not the game developer. “This means that if the players are still passionate about this game title 10 years down the road, the game server will still have to be open. It does not belong to the game studio. In this aspect, we are gifting the player community the rights to the game, as they are the owners of the game.” As a blockchain gaming company, Chris’s ideology is to convert all players from traditional games to blockchain games.
When he had joined SkyArk Studio in May, coincidentally he had met with a cryptocurrency market crash, but instead of panicking, Chris remained calm and collected. “Without the hype of Cryptocurrency, this means that we do not need to launch the product into the market hurriedly even when it is not yet ready.”
Learning from past lessons. Plans already in place for three game titles to be rolled out in months to come.
The company had recently successfully raised funds of $6.6 million USD, and this amount is enough to support the company’s operation for the next 3 to 4 years.
He had learnt his lessons from his experience at the previous company and had made plans to produce 3 game titles from the start, ensuring that the same mistakes will not be made again. The 1st game title will be entering the closed beta testing phase in December this year and expected to be launched in Q1 next year. The 2nd game title is expected to be ready for closed beta testing in Q2 of next year.