Exclusive Interview with NetShop ISP’s CEO ahead of the Upcoming Betting on Sports Europe – Digital Exhibition – European Gaming Industry News

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Let’s begin with your own story. What is the story of Balance Gaming? How was the company founded?

The company was founded when Munly Leong (CEO) and Goodrich Johnson were approached by an esports organization that had floundered for several years and despite their history and money raises and hadn’t so much as put on one event or even had a casual community. This led Munly to look into the current state of esports which he had never been interested in and saw the waste and poor execution that had a common root cause i.e. the people that had access to or ability to raise funding for esports often had nothing to do with gaming and were clueless about it. Super League Gaming was a particularly egregious example where the only reason that raise even happened was that CEO had worked on Sand Hill Rd prior and game from an Oil & Gas background, what the hell is she doing in esports? They recently lost $14m on $1m revenue. We founded Balance at least to take a stab at an organization that would be led and run with gamers at the core with Munly being in a unique position of both having relationships with and an understanding of external capital unlike the average gamer or even game developer. The name Balance comes from us struggling to come up with a name for the niche we had chosen which was to cater for the other 90% of the market and gaming revenue in reality that ISN’T esports from not having enough time for it and Munly referenced an one man indie developer’s name Imba Games (common Russian/CIS region term relating to game imbalance) that he had briefly known at one point, lamenting that it was a great name wasted on something that didn’t have the potential for it and Godric suggested “What about Balance?” with the potential to allude to LAN’s as well if we ever started doing those and there really hasn’t been a name that fit since.

How does it work?

Essentially a bit unique, we started off validating the concept and bringing in early revenue via just a discord and preselling the concept along with an early partnership with Skyworth (largest TV manufacturer in China) who were also launching a VR headset at to both prove we could build and grow a grassroots gaming community first and also monetize it and validate charging for the concept. Most of this happened even by month two. We’ve now taken what was a small community fighting game event intended “for teh lulz” and are building it up with sponsors, streaming support with an invitational that is intended to potentially be small scale, interactive version of EVO that was recently cancelled. More on this later ?

We’re working backwards actually. We’re game developers at heart and are really NOT an esports company. This is being done as a fundraiser primarily as a backup plan / substitute for angel investment post Covid. Essentially our business is to start backwards compared to a typical game developer being community first, community is really at the core. From there we start with merch sales, selling events and sponsorships and are about to offer our own game / bundle deals in the near term along with a new category we still plan on pioneering called Gamer Travel (Covid was great timing huh ? that initially focuses on geooarbitrage to maximise gaming time while lowering cost per hour if someone wanted to game and nothing else. The savings can be significant i.e. $1000-3000/month rent in first world countries vs as little as $100-150 in a place like Thailand that still has the 4th fastest landline internet in the world. We can’t wait to start that going again when travel eases up. From the baseline of what larger game publishers would call “ancillary revenue” we would then use that cashflow to fund our own original IP development and geoarbitraging the costs of that too ?

Our readers would like to know more about Balance Gaming. Could you elaborate the concept since it is quite unique?

Yeah. It is quite unique where even for gamers. Essentially the concept starts from both a base and the specific type of gamer we are targeting. Specifically gamers who have been able to grow up and are now struggling from a time management standpoint of not having enough time to play, or not getting enough out of their playtime when they do have it rather than spending too much time to play from the standpoint of gaming addiction which is a common assumption with us. We start from a base that gaming is geneeerrraaaaaaally ? a hobby that requires at least above average intelligence (the smiles when I say this is the most fun part) to get the most out of and therefore the gamers that manage to grow up and out of mom’s basement as well have the means to make above average lives for themselves and the value in this has been completely overlooked.

Many look down even on themselves as gamers because of long time history and stigma of the activity when we were kids or younger. Even people with great businesses or solid tech backgrounds themselves often cannot make the immediate mental jump that there may be others who fit the bill and if we just reframe our thinking and rid ourselves of these starting assumptions, we may find that the peer groups we have around gaming are more valuable than many of us are assuming

Recently we’ve launched a public alpha of our members site and even some of our more interesting / useful members have only gone so far as to fill out just gamer profiles while not sharing their skills, businesses etc yet and it’s not all a privacy concern either but many either underrate themselves or don’t currently live a life where being known for particular things brings in opportunities for them. I’ll list some examples here where it has happened, but these are folks that are already active in terms of networking ,professional groups and are already pre-disposed to it. I’ll share some examples below and the last being myself.

What are the ways an individual gamer will benefit from joining your platform?

Aside from the networking opportunities once we scale further (or even now), we’ll have things like courses, partnerships and hell even gigs down the line in addition to more typical gaming giveaways, discounts and bundles. Instead of only selling this stuff, we’ll tie it to gaming and perhaps networking activity too with the overall theme that the gaming people would do naturally anyway would pay off in real life in ways other than money. At the very base level, we hope that this will be the most “productive” place for anyone to spend their gaming time as getting to know many of us may also open doors outside of gaming for you or at least give you a resource to tap in a lot of things outside of gaming, an analogy to things like country clubs, cigar clubs where you’re more like to meet either independently wealthy or at least time free and lifestyle designer types that one can meet through aviation we hope we end up being a similar space like that but on a broader larger scale too. It’ll be the only place in the world maybe where you can play video games where we also encourage you to ask for intros or open them yourself ?

For “Pros vs Joes” we’re currently offering FREE ENTRY for Members, Financial Services industry (e.g. fintech, crypto, real estate, traders, brokers) , startup founders and game developers and the same/similar benefits package that players get are also available for event viewers that meet this criteria. Startup founders and game developers are just love for us ? However there are also a lot of similarities specific to competitive fighting games with trading which I’ll be elaborating on in a future article relating to a trading tips from millionaire futures traders ebook that’s part of our benefits package coming together as a combo. Why financial services? read on ?

We also have something that both your better/casino audience as well as crypto guys would want to look at. One of our partners / sponsors is Gold Rush Token / Clean Mining. We’ll be offering a chance to buy CLEAN gold (more on this later) at a double digit discount exclusive to Balance, direct from some of the oldest and historically proven mines in Western Australia. That’s nothing terribly new and there are other tokens that have done it. Those coming from a financial services background will be familiar with the concept of due diligence, things like KYC (Know your Customer) and be a bit better equipped to both perform it for an opportunity like this and ultimately potentially buy-in as well.

However, another layer that we’ll offer FREEBIES at a later date on is a world-first tokenization of actual gold ORE. Essentially this will be gold prospecting in a separate video game/digital form and can dramatically lower the cost of entry into the gold market. For those who don’t know, gold actually comes from gold ore which has to be processed and refined which ultimately means that only a fraction of gold can come from overall gold ore. The percent amount can between 10 to 95% before processing and so yes, someone could get very lucky but understandably many others outside of your readership here may not like to gamble. Gamblers or not however, we can offer some of these ore tokens essentially for free as both participants and viewers of our upcoming “Pros vs Joes” fighting game event that was recently postponed until both we and our partners got things more ready. We can now say that we’ll start things off officially by Sep 12th at the latest with official entry deadline by Sep 5th at the latest with trial runs starting as early as this week of the 26th. Depending on how things go and speed of re-registration we may go even earlier but this is so we don’t have to postpone again.

I should mention that not only is the ore special but the gold as well. Those that take advantage of the gold discount will also be pioneers in helping to establish a new category of gold in the global market that isn’t processed/purified via the traditional method of cyanide and mercury leaving no environmental impact that may take decades if not longer to biodegrade, hence CLEAN gold. While the mines themselves old and proven with deeper reserves still left to unlock, the process itself is new and was created by the Australian CSIRO, something like a more generally academic version of NASA that among other things, helped invent Wi-Fi. Regardless of whether anyone in our community pays anything more than an entry fee or not, through gaming, our players will have a chance in both playing a small role in the transformation of gold mining from something that is expensive and hazardous into something that is sustainable and environmentally friendly.

More info on CSIRO and Clean Mining

How has been the customer response so far? Could you offer some year on year statistics?

What’s really interesting is that when we started out within the first month or two we had more paid members than free ones on concept alone. 46% conversion rate. By paid members meaning we asked people to pay $10 as a one off to validate that this is something we would pay for once we both had a system to offer digital codes in an automated or at least reliable fashion and enough value lined up where we felt we were ready to start charging monthly. Since when we’ve realized that we needed to make this tier optional as a network only has as much value as it’s members and we are still far from having an interesting enough critical mass yet. We’re not even one year old yet but in the last 2-3 months our Discord community has grown from 100 to 150 ish members now that we have someone who can spend time on it, Oliver/Sundeath who was formerly director level at Razer Europe. A big downside that hampers our growth is that we’re not something that people normally think to search for so doing media, offers and other things that can help get us exposure but we haven’t figured out or own organic traffic yet so growth only happens when we can work on it.

Has the recent lock down had any effect on Balance Gaming’s growth? Could your offer details?

Yeah actually our first major growth drive that I headed up brought in many of our first 100 users, lol. That happened a month into the pandemic around Epic’s free release of WWZ. Unfortunately it was both a pretty short game content wise and people really focused on doing nothing but gaming that initial month of lockdowns. No one wanted to hear about “Balancing” and once they were done, many moved on. We did have an interesting story even ahead of time back then where when I was able to play, I encouraged two regulars at the time to talk about their lives and our mutual ASEAN region and those two ended up both doing client projects together and playing other free games together as well. One was a graphic designer and another was a music producer/student. At the time we didn’t have enough of us engaging people so eventually they left since they were largely only playing with each other by that point. Lesson learned not just for Balance and in life for me that I just need to ride waves while they are around instead of what I actually during that period which was working on some contract gamedev work at the time or building the Balance business while everyone else was gaming and would have preferred if I’d either led things or at least joined them for it.

What are the more popular games and tournaments on your platform? Could you describe the games a bit?

Our most popular is Rainbow 6 Siege and that’s a game that should be well known to you guys since it’s gone from underdog cult game to having one of t he better prize pools in eSports with strong Ubisoft support in recent years. Rainbow 6 is a series that is based on terrorist/counterterrorism originally that prided itself on realism being the first “one shot and you get killed usually” game on the market. I can still remember the LAN party where I played the original game in the series for the first time, it was quite refreshing and hilarious compared to the run and gun shooters like Doom and Quake of the day. These days the game is more similar to LoL or DOTA that is based around Heroes having different powers and abilities, some of which are deliberately designed to be counterpicks. They are perpetually “training”/fighting each other given the multiplayer only PVP context and there are generic terrorists only as AI NPC’s to beat on in generic It used to be World War Z as I mentioned which is a co-op class based zombie killing gaming that’s spiritual sequel to Left 4 Dead 2 that I actually like a lot more than it’s original inspiration and in addition to that we have some fighting game players i.e. Street Fighter, Tekken etc but that’s almost a niche within itself in gaming these days that doesnt play other stuff or interact with the broader gaming community. We’re a bit sad about this and even within fighting games themselves, the competitive level has gotten to the point where people not only just focus on one game, but even just on training one particular character and mastering all the various matchups instead. This means that they dont even play the rest of the genre or even necessarily the rest of the characters in the game! This overcompetitiveness isnt necessarily good for the fighting game industry if they focus purely on tournament type players. Happy Medicine (our resident fighting game pro, former CPT/Capcom cup, world class Bison main) and I talk about this separately in this video here – g66FBCzv_mg . We’re still done with World War Z btw, despite how the whole game can be beat in less than 4-5 hours currently and a bit more if you are doing horde mode as well, if you’re deliberately going to slow-play it and make it last, please come and join us! We’re the place for that lol.

Tell us more about the platform and gaming partners of Balance?

For our “platform”, we have a few key pillars. The first is the always free Discord community where people can only just join as regular gamer and that’s fine. The next level is the membership site which is intended for people to try and look up / surface people that should try to get to know on Discord for either gaming or things outside of gaming. Maybe find out that someone you’ve been gaming with all along can also be a collaborator of some kind in real life too. We also haev an ecom store for all kinds of stuff i.e. offering our own game codes and digital goodies for sale , physical products like geek toys including “gamereats” where we’ll start with snacks and more. Lastly we want to offer “gamer travel” again as soon as we can, starting out with introducing the concept of geo-arbitrage to gamers that’s already well known to location independent and digital nomad types but is probably brand new to gamers. Essentially this means save money on gaming time (plus get more time) in a cheap locale but we can expand this to travel to places that are significant to gaming history as well given a lot of us have deep knowledge and connections with the industry. This is all going somewhere and your next question will naturally segue into that ?
One of our gaming partners BRK / Gen2 Technologies where you picked this up from ? is currently working on a world-first interactive streaming platform which we’ll be designing our invitational event around. They definitely have something that will have “pandemic market fit” and we cant wait to get started on it. The event will be physical with social distancing concerns and a limited amount of people but it’ll be super interactive when it’s streamed unlike other events. Just like how we were behind on things, they’re pretty behind too and it looks like we’re going to have to push further back past August. Additionally they’ve just entered an exciting trial period of just their broadcast quality wireless camera tech with PGA Tour Golf.

Finally, how do you see the future developing? Are there going to be any immediate developments in Balance Gaming in the near future?

Yeah we have some angel money hopefully finally coming in within the month and from that we can actually offer some more benefits that hopefully help pull in more users as well and pay for the help in community building ? I think we’ll be the first company to actually pay gamers to build guilds and coommunities under us and also give you a rewards budget to spent on your users as well as kick some nice things to all the hard work your officers do. Anyone who’s ever built or run guilds knows that its pretty much an unpaid second job and guild applications look moore and more like job applications these days. At least we want to take out the unpaid part and compensate some for this especially if they want to build a more casual / mature / non competitive guild that fits the demographic we’re aiming for anyway.

Ultimately in the LONG TERM future, despite how all this is already quite the going concern business-wise, the whole goal is to use this cashflow to then fund game development. Both internal and external third party to us. Game development is the unique DNA that I bring to Balance personally and I’m sure you guys know especially looking at companies like Tencent how valuable things can be when you have your own IP to sell and we’ve already learned the hard way that frankly its much easier to build up communities around having your own game vs using others’ games in this new Discord age.