Breaking (dohoho) News

European mahjong associations cancel cooperation with MahjongTime

From MahjongNews, the world’s #1 source of any news whatsoever that turns up when you google ‘mahjong’. Seriously guys, there’s not much to be said about mahjong itself, right? It’s just a game of matching tiles, after all. That’s why you have writers. That are supposed to write stuff. Or at least make some kind of sad effort.

So to recap the events of this week, according to MahjongNews:

(Some days ago…)

MahjongTime cancels 2009 German Open Online Championship two days before the event, citing technical difficulties. 48 players had registered. For me this would mean rainbows and kittens, because cancellations mean compensation, with a high chance of awesome bonuses for all involved. Well, I know, it’s Mahjongtime, but it’s still possible, right? I mean, surely they’d want to keep 48 paying players happy, right?

Some dude decides to organize a replacement event, which around 20 people sign up for. I had brief ideas of emailing him and signing up myself, but had a nightmare that night where he denounced me in MahjongTime lobby chat for not even being German, to gasps from the assembled audience.

6th Nov

MahjongTime does a lot more than just making money

MahjongNews publishes editorial on how MahjongTime does more than suck money out of foolish players. Yeah. Apparently it also gives some of that money away. Not too surprising. With any decent volume at all on a ~20% rake, you’d be haemorrhaging money out all your orifices. Twenty fucking percent. You’d have to win ~45% of the games you play to fucking break even. Unfuckingbelievable. Anyway, it generously sponsors various European mahjong events, and is an Official Sponsor of the EMA, to lure more warm bodies into their bottomless money pit. Solid business knowledge. Except your site is shit. And you’re not giving away enough money. In 5 minutes of googling you can find sites that will give you ipods and cash for signing up on various already-popular poker sites, on top of their at least ~100% bonuses. I don’t even have to try hard to win money, and would be happy to bleed away a sizable chunk of whatever I deposit while listening to my bangin’ tunes. I could probably shove any flush draw and make a profit on this deal.

The twist is that despite raking more than four times the percentage of any poker site, and spending a fraction of that on any relevant marketing, they are going broke. This unbiased editorial from the Independent Internet Mahjong Newspaper goes on the defensive right from the start, hoping to pre-silence critics with a pathetic pre-derailment, and takes you back to some of the good times you may have had brought to you by MahjongTime aka your own money.

7th November

0200: Despite being almost 24 hours late, I am writing this in this realtime blog format to make it seem more exciting and urgent.

Yeah, the timestamp on MahjongNews says 0600 am. I can just see the late-night phone calls and endless cups of coffee. The EMA council members are huddled around one of the guys’ kitchen table. His wife comes in wearing a dressing gown bearing another pot of steaming coffee to tide them over these trying times.

Meanwhile, in San Diego…

A MahjongTime executive is disturbed by an iphone-bearing aide barging into a dodgy Asian massage parlour.

“But Mr ______, they’ll cut us off ! We just have to tell them something, anything, and then -”

“Fuck em,” the balding mid-40s man replies, adjusting his towel and signalling the end of the conversation.

Somewhere in Europe…

It is around 4am now, and the mood is only getting worse. A second bottle of vodka is opened and they have almost finished the pastries raided from the only store open at this hour.

“Make the call, then.”

“You do it.”

And so ends the partnership that shaped the European Mahjong scene as you see it today.

As far as I’m concerned, and this is assuming I care about whatever is happening in Europe, the whole thing is neither as interesting or romantic as my imagination can make out. The EMA needs money, pure and simple, just like all nonprofit (?) organizations. You could have Charlie’s Car Wash sponsor their events and they’d be even happier, since they won’t have to deal with trying to push MahjongTime as anything humanly playable.

What seems funny to me is that this seems to be stemming from the cancellation of a small online event. Surely we can all appreciate the dilemma caused by technical difficulties, and I’m sure MahjongTime would be only too happy to stage the event and take your money, if they could, by any means possible. They even announced it two days ahead of time, which is a lot of time where technical difficulties are concerned. You don’t even have to take a day off work, or stay up late, or put off a visit to the dentist, because you were given fair notice. That’s what I call being considerate. Sometimes bad things happen, and everyone is inconvenienced. What’s important is recovering from it and looking ahead. Better not regret it when you’re out of money in 2010 and there’s tournaments to run.

I mean, break off ties with it because the software, interface and website are pure shit, because it makes online mahjong prohibitively expensive, because there are virtually zero customer relations, because anything. It’s just the opinion of a guy over the internet, but to do it over a minor issue like this just makes the EMA seem a little childish. If you cared more about the players, you would be scrambling to get an alternate plan into action and announce it, instead of being all huffy and cross. Instead, it took a random Dutch player to set up an alternative tournament, with a heartening turnout on such short notice, especially as it’s totally unofficial.

Also, this just in, a cascade of national mahjong associations are severing ties with MahjongTime as well, presumably to show support for the EMA, making the European mahjong scene seem like playground politics.

Srsly guys, get your act together. This may surprise you, but there are many new mahjong players in Europe who are considering entering various events. They’re just waiting for you to do something right. We look forward to seeing how you handle future tournaments and events and wish you nothing but the best.

6 thoughts on “Breaking (dohoho) News

  1. I’m actually sorry to see that MJT is in trouble. I’ve never really liked their site very much but they do sponsor a significant amount of events and their online network does bring Mahjong players together. I really wonder if there is indeed a way of operating an online mahjong site that makes its income off of rake. A 20% rake is much higher than poker sites, but considering how few mahjong players there are in comparison, they might not actually have any choice. I guess I’m lucky to live in a place where I can just walk to the nearby parlor and pay $3 a game.

    Just curious, what would you propose as a business model for these sites?

  2. Anyone who is interested in this business would know you need to build up a respectable steady volume of players before even thinking of making any money, or even breaking even. Either way it is a daunting task because you have to grow the userbase single-handedly, but you get 100% of the players you develop, for now anyway. Even for the next, say, 3-5 years, I do not think building up a critical mass is possible without japanese/chinese support.

    I have not thought this out much, and it’s off the top of my head, but there are several alternatives, which may or may not be successful

    1. Not setting the rake retardedly high. When people realize they can play AND win money, they will play more. Also, it’s MJTs own fault the number of online mahjong players on their site is so horrible. The rake percentage obviously shows a desire to cash in for the short-term
    2. Subscription for cash games, with rakeless/very low rake games?

    Either way if you are a serious business with your sights on the long term, you would want to get as many people logging in as much as possible, and solicit reams of feedback.

  3. You can count me among the people not overly upset by this news. I can’t say I’m surprised either. You can look at it as stemming from a minor problem, but the reality is that if a business is going to prove unreliable on scant notice and fail to respond to queries, it’s better to end that relationship sooner than later.

    I wonder where they plan to have the replacement tournament?

  4. I want to Pung, I want to Pung!
    Is it the reason I play the Mahjong?
    I want to Pung.

    I want to Pung, I want to Pung!
    I do not want to speak my tongue.
    I just want to Pung.

    I know I have a bad client.
    I now I’m not very competent.
    But I want to Pung!
    And I have composed that Kong!

    I know the mathematics,
    America is a big market.
    If there are more addicts,
    there is more money in my pocket.

    I want to Pung, I want to Pung!
    I am the Judas of the EMA.
    I just want to Pung.

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