Retrenchment led him to gaming, now runs Binance-backed firm

SkyArk Singapore Team

Retrenchment is a fear many of us have: it means the loss of a job, and with it, the income and ability to support oneself. For those of us with dependents such as a spouse, children, or elderly parents to take care of, the damage can be far worse. 

However, retrenchment does not have to be fatal. It can be a stepping stone, and a forced leap of faith that many of us need to take, but never had the courage to take by ourselves.

This was the story for Chris Ng, who was retrenched from his job as a business analyst after eight years of working at a software development firm.

As the sole breadwinner and father of a newborn son, this was a heavy blow for him. Gone were the days of earning a comfortable salary at a stable job, and tough times were ahead.

Yet today, against all odds, Chris has successfully exited from one startup that he founded, and is now building a new company.

Gamers never die; they just respawn

As Chris was leaving his old workplace, his boss asked him what his next move was. It was clear to him what he wanted to do next: start his own gaming company.

I had always wanted to go into mobile gaming as it was on the uptrend after [conducting] my own research, plus I had always been interested in it. I have loved gaming since the age of six when I started watching my two older brothers play console games.

It has been a part of my life for more than 30 years, and I have always wanted to be a part of the industry. [Furthermore], there weren’t many gaming companies in Singapore at the time.

– Chris Ng, founder of XII Braves and SkyArk Studio

But knowing where you want to go and actually getting there, are two very different things. From the get-go, Chris realised that he would face immense challenges in building his own gaming company.

For one, Chris knew that it would take a significant amount of capital to get started. By his own estimates, he would need about US$1 million in investment for the new venture to succeed — this is not a small amount to raise for someone without any prior entrepreneurial experience.

I had no experience starting a company or fundraising, so it was definitely difficult to raise the US$1 million I needed to start the business. Even my friends and ex-colleagues had doubts about my valuation, and told me it would be impossible to raise that much money.

– Chris Ng, founder of XII Braves and SkyArk Studio

On top of this, investors criticised his idea, viewing gaming as a frivolous hobby instead of a lucrative pursuit. Chris refused to let this weigh him down, and instead roped in a childhood friend who was working in an established gaming company as a co-founder.

After some recruitment efforts, he managed to bring his company’s headcount up to 12. This eventually led to the birth of Chris’ first company in 2014 — it was named XII Braves for the initial 12 members of his team that dared to walk through fire with him.

XII Braves secured investment from Funplus
XII Braves secured investment from FunPlus / Image Credit: XII Braves

Within weeks, he had managed to convince investors that XII Braves was worth investing in, and the company received the requisite investment as starting capital.

“I met an investor who thought of investing with us because his son was interested in doing something gaming-related. With some luck, the company was eventually able to obtain US$1 million to start,” said Chris.

In 2016, XII Braves also secured a “multi-million dollar” investment from Beijing-headquartered mobile social gaming company FunPlus.

Building a new world with a new company

With investments coming into the company and a clear goal in mind, Chris and his team set out to fulfil their promise and build their own game. 

But with so many good games on the market, and new games being released every day, how could XII Braves build something that would be a hit? After all, different games appeal to different people, and what one group likes may not always be welcomed by other groups.

“We need to know our gamers’ preferences very well and provide them the experience they desire, which will retain them in the game. Like other good gaming products out there, we need to ensure that the game features are comparable to other products in the market, in terms of visual quality and storyline,” said Chris.

He decided to take a page from old games that had inspired him, and look at games and media that he enjoyed in his younger days.

I was heavily influenced by Japanese anime from a young age, reading manga such as Dragon Ball, Slam Dunk, YuYu Hakusho and playing Nintendo games like Final Fantasy 1, 2, 3, Tactics Ogre and Final Fantasy Tactics.

I believed that if we wished to do something worthwhile and only the 12 of us would play, it must be something we must personally enjoy and be familiar with enough to develop, which is the Anime RPG genre. If we were to do something we like, even if everything fails, we would at least still be happy on this journey together.

– Chris Ng, founder of XII Braves and SkyArk Studio

The difficulty to start up a did not end there. Since the XII Braves team was small, this meant that that team members were putting in 14-hour workdays, and they were unable to hire foreigners due to quota issues.

Valiant Force, XII Braves' first game
Valiant Force / Image Credit: XII Braves

The company eventually released its first game, Valiant Force, in 2016. It was a high-quality Japanese RPG and within the first week of its release, the game was ranked among the top three grossing in both Apple App and Google Play Stores.

For Chris, this was the culmination of two years of struggle — of living off his savings, working long hours, and endless criticisms to make his dream come true. 

The company continued to grow, and when XII Braves was finally acquired by Century Games in 2020, the company had grown to 100 employees and published a second game, Shining Beyond.

Levelling up with crypto gaming

Following a successful exit that would be the achievement of a lifetime for many, Chris was already preparing for his next move: blockchain gaming.

While crypto gaming has received somewhat of a bad reputation, especially with the myriad of pump and dump schemes in the market, Chris still believes that there is hope for the industry, and that crypto gaming offers value for consumers.

As such, Chris’ new company, SkyArk Studio, aims to help the industry shed this reputation by working with reputable brands and partners that investors are familiar with. His idea has even earned SkyArk an investment from one of the largest cryptocurrency exchanges in the world, Binance.

SkyArk Studio's game, SkyArk Chronicles
SkyArk Studio’s game, SkyArk Chronicles / Image Credit: SkyArk Studio

By working with IPs and injecting them into our SkyArk Multiverse, SkyArk aims to build its own IP and shape the next SocialFi metaverse that can rival global players like The SandBox and Decentraland. SkyArk is here to build a community and establish blockchain gaming ecosystems. The focus is to build a legacy project and be vigilant to avoid the pitfalls that have befell most crypto GameFi projects.

Existing projects tend to look at making quick profits instead of building a sustainable model. Through a combination of economic monitoring, careful and diligent design, plus continual live service development, these economies can be better calibrated, and also create a more rewarding experience to achieve a player-driven economy.

– Chris Ng, founder of XII Braves and SkyArk Studio

The company rejected the old ‘play-and-earn’ model, in favour of the new ‘play-and-own’.

This means that the company’s games are not focused on simply pushing out new games and tokens with the intention of earning money as an incentive to play. Instead, the company wants users to have fun while gaming, and provide them ownership of the time and effort that they have poured into the game. 

NFTs and crypto gaming thus provide this opportunity for gamers: NFTs allow gamers to actually own their efforts, and grow their assets while having fun. In Chris’ own words, “Gamers deserve to grow with the NFTs and even be able to pass them on as a legacy.”

In Singapore, we are often told that passion doesn’t pay and encouraged instead to find stable jobs with guaranteed salaries — the coveted “iron rice bowl”.

Yet, Chris’ story shows what one can achieve outside of this paradigm. For many entrepreneurs, building a hugely successful company can already be said to be the achievement of a lifetime, yet, Chris is moving on to his second venture as an entrepreneur. 

As Winston Churchill pointed out, success is not final, and failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts. Chris embodies that spirit, with the grit to keep going despite the challenges, to pursue success after success.

Featured Image Credit: SkyArk Studio

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