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Building an Import Video Games Company from zero to 40,000 customers...

In 2003, when the internet was brand new!

In 2003 I built an import video games company from zero to 40,000 customers when the internet was brand new…

I was studying for a BSc in Business Information Systems.

I loved the course, it was going really well and I was on a pathway to secure a 1st class honors degree.

I remember one day I was in a software development lecture when I noticed a package on a friend’s desk that had Japanese writing on it.

I asked him what it was and he told me it was a video game that he had imported from Japan.

I didn’t know that much about video games at the time, but he told me that this particular game had just been released in Japan, but it would be a year before it arrived in the USA and probably more like 18 months before it finally hit the UK (and Europe).

I was curious and asked him how much it cost him and how much it would cost to purchase the game from an import video games store.

He told me it cost him £25 and from a store in my home city of Norwich the same game was available for £100!

I had been contemplating the idea of setting up an e-commerce store - in 2003 this was a very new idea - and so I suggested to my friend that we could build a website, I could code the entire thing myself including creating the shopping cart (back then you couldn’t get an off the shelf shopping cart) and we could use forums as a mechanism to get traffic to our website.

We’d find wholesale suppliers in both Japan and the US to allow us the opportunity to maximize the sales.

We’d sell our imported video games for not a lot more than the UK / European price point.

We’d sell imported consoles themselves and create our own market of people unable to play UK / European games.

We’d utilize forums as a mechanism to get traffic by creating discussions about our new import video game company.

We’d use this brand new platform called eBay that would allow us to get additional sales and once we had them as a customer, we could sell directly.

My friend was excited about the idea and so we decided to go for it.

Things moved very quickly and before we knew it we had both quit our degrees and were spending our days shipping out video games!

We randomly called the company Goblin Games (later Goblin Direct) - I’ve included a link from the wayback machine in the comments that shows the basic website I built from scratch that got us going.

Within a few months we had a warehouse and were having GameCubes and Xbox machines sent to us by the pallet load from both Japan and the US.

We did a lot of innovative things back then and even had what was like our own version of Amazon prime where people could get pay a fee and get a discount on everything they purchased from us, as well as preferred shipping.

I learned a huge amount from this whole experience, however, after a couple of years of crazy growth going from zero to having 40,000 customers across the UK and Europe, generating $2million in the process, problems started to present themselves.

The video game creators were starting to reduce the time between releases in each territory and what would become the global release day was well and truly on the horizon.

Then, out of the blue, we received a letter from a lawyer on behalf of Nintendo demanding us to immediately stop selling their Japanese and US GameCubes and video games, because we were taking business away from their European division.

This was a hammer blow, our only option was to consider setting up companies in Japan and the US in order to be able to ship directly to consumers in Europe, but with the global release date looking likely, this was too risky.

We decided to call it a day and that was the end of that little adventure.

At the time, I remember I had some people question my choice to quit my degree in favor of following my business instincts to try something new.

Especially since I had just three modules left to get my BSc.

Thankfully, I’ve been able to create my own opportunities and I’ve never needed to apply for a job before that might have required me to have it.

The wisdom I gained from setting up Goblin Direct was priceless and taught me business lessons that I still apply today.

This business was just an idea inspired from a chance sighting of a package with Japanese writing on it.

It’s proof that when we are inspired, we can create things that solve problems and in turn, create demand from those in need of a solution.

-The Baker

It's High Time for change | #thetimetodoisnow


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