Looking back at 2009

The year 2009 comes to an end, so it’s time for my annual post looking back at the past 12 months. 2009 was once again a roller coaster, with ups and downs and moments of sadness but also of joy. A lot of those moments were captured in one of the 168 blog posts that I wrote here this year.

The highlight of this year was the birth of our daughter Elaine on May 21. After the birth of Scott on December 27, 2007 we knew what to expect and we were not as nervous a before (at least I wasn’t), but giving birth is still a major experience. Having two kids is really nice and I enjoy every day with them. Elaine is now 7 months old and although she has grown a lot over these months she is still a little baby. But she already started talking a bit (baba was her first word!) and she also learned how to scream loudly to get attention. Because of Elaine we now have 2 nannies at home, one each for our kids, so luckily we have a big enough house.

The lowlights were that my two grandmothers both passed away this year, so I attended two funerals in Holland. Also the father of a good friend of mine passed away after trying to fight cancer, a very sad thing, especially for the family that he left behind. The older I get the more I see people around me getting sick and even dying. I am still young but it shows me that it’s important to enjoy life as much as you can, while you can. I still try to live my life as much as possible to my motto that “you should live every day as if it were your last”. Of course that is not always possible, but at least I try not to postpone things too much and I try to enjoy everything I do, both in private and business life. Next to that I realize how important it is to live a healthy life, with lots of sports and not too much stress (not always easy).

We just had a few short holidays this year, because with small kids it’s difficult to travel. Likely 2010 will see even less holidays, but being at home with the kids is also very enjoyable. During the Chinese New Year holiday we spent a few days in Beijing and right after that flew to a resort in Malaysia for a few days of rest & relaxation. The other trip we made was to Holland, where we spent almost 2 weeks in late August / early September. I took a few weekend trip however, among others to Phuket (for Marcel Ekkel’s wedding) and to Hong Kong (a weekend with my wife without the kids). I had planned to go a week to San Francisco during summer, but because of work issues I had to cancel it at the last moment. Similarly for a trip to New Zealand that I had planned to take next week, I decided to cancel that as well because of business.

That brings me to work, because work wise 2009 was certainly not an easy year. First of all the online casual game market changed a lot over the past year, from single player casual games a lot of people switched to play social games (games where you play online with your real friends in a social setting). Not only in China actually, because worldwide a lot more people are probably playing games now than a year ago (look at Farmville, which now has over 72 million active users on Facebook). But in China things seem to go more quickly, and as a company we had to adapt very quickly to the changing market circumstances. Not always easy, but I learned a lot!

Next to that some key people left Spil Games Asia, among others the manager of our game studio and our COO. That caused me literally a big headache, especially the past half year was not easy. Without having replacements available right away I was completely overloaded with work issues and it was difficult not to lose track of all the details. But the fact that key people left turned out to be a blessing in disguise. It forced me to hire some good new people, and they are doing a much better job than their predecessors. Looking back I am actually quite happy that these people left (especially after finding some skeletons in the closet after their departure): even though it gave me a difficult time I managed to keep the company together and we have a much stronger management team now. I think 2010 will be a much better year for us than 2009, and I am looking forward to it. Looking at our plans for the coming months it promises to be a very interesting year.

But 2009 was more than only about work of course. I started to read a lot more during the past year, I probably read about 50 books, and also started to put some book reviews on my blog. I did a lot of sports, but due to several injuries I only ran about 570 km this year (thanks to that records all my runs). Normally I try to do one big sports event every year, but this year the only thing that came close was the Shanghai Half Marathon in November. Gary and I had planned to climb Mt. Fuji in November, but that turned out to be an extremely dangerous time to climb so we postponed the trip to next year.

Some other memorable events this year included a business trip to San Francisco in March for GDC’09. The vibe that I felt in Silicon Valley was just amazing, and don’t be surprised if one day I would set up a business there. A great place to work and a great place to live. Furthermore the fact that I was asked to give the keynote speech at the opening of the Academic Year at my alma mater Maastricht University was something I won’t easily forget. I really enjoyed doing it, and I am very honored that I was asked for this. Of course the fact that Spil Games became the world’s largest casual game portal network in March was also am important milestone. Spil Games kept on growing since then and the gap with the competition has only widened.

Other enjoyable moments were the day that Scott first went to school, it’s kind of strange that he suddenly is not home all the time anymore. The solar eclipse in July was also a remarkable event, even though I had seen one before in Stuttgart several years before. And of course it was great to see that Tudou kept on doing well this year. Both in terms of traffic and revenue the company is doing very well, and it was therefore again included in the Silicon Alley Insider top 60 most valuable start-ups.

2009 is now almost over and 2010 just a couple of hours away. I look forward to the new year and to the opportunities it will give. I wish all my readers a happy last day of 2009 and a successful and healthy 2010!

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  1. Hi Marc,

    Thank you for this 2009 review and for the joyful photos of you and your family.

    While it’s been just a few months of following your blog, I’ve learned *so much* for your regular entries, not to mention grabbing a couple of fabulous book titles as a reward for the loyalty (e.g. Futuretainment made for excellent on-board reading). We’ve rolled with the ups and downs of your running injuries (ouch!) and sympathized during some of the family setbacks, but the best thing about reading your stuff is not what you experience, but in how you show how to get back up, dust yourself off, and do the online equivalent of shouting “bring it on!” — sorry, but the Seal track is playing in the background which makes this such an a propos comment).

    My best to you and the family. I look forward to meeting you again in the New Year as I make more frequent forays to CN. Ramping up for 2010.

    Hand on the heart,