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 Post subject: Re: European Go Cultural Centre is closing its doors
Post #21 Posted: Mon Jun 10, 2019 11:08 pm 
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Javaness2 wrote:
HermanHiddema wrote:
This is a discussion I have been having with more people recently. It is so hard to find volunteers these days, that it really feels like a cultural shift.

Isn't it just a natural consequence of modern life and the acceleration of the inequalities inevitable in capitalism? On average we have less free time and less money to spend.

When I compare the go community now to how it was when I started (1988), I get the feeling that we have less free time now, but more money to spend.

Back then, many go players were students or unemployed. Nowadays, many of those found a job in IT and have a fairly good income (in my country at least, The Netherlands). Also, the go community in my country is getting older (average age 50+ in my country), and people's income tends to rise when they get older (in my country at least, especially for more educated people).

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Post #22 Posted: Mon Jun 10, 2019 11:20 pm 
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sorin wrote:
Charging higher fees seems like the wiser thing to do in the end, since it's a sustainable practice, even if not everybody likes that or can afford it.


The phrase tends to be thrown around with some weird abandon, but there's a certain truth to "there's no such thing as a free lunch". IMO, minority hobbies have to be acutely aware of it, and its implications beyond the snappy retort.

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Post #23 Posted: Mon Jun 10, 2019 11:25 pm 
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Strlov wrote:
Javaness2 wrote:
The EGF could help co-ordinate activities, but expecting something beyond that is misplaced.


I do not want EGF to do anything "beyond". I just think EGF strategy is misplaced (it is not doing what it should right now).
We say it is for competitive go and that's ok. But... How competitive go in Europe is benefiting the community? I see this as very targeted help on getting particular career for few. And national organizations are doing almost the same, but on lower level.

I love to teach beginners in our local club. Giving some commentaries online - sure. Help in organizing tournaments - yeah.
But, if you would ask me, would I seek for any assistance in national org or EGF to make more o better? The answer is - no. As a player I do not see any value added for myself and other players in area. I see, that there is something going on, but it is so far from every day players, that it's almost irrelevant for community.

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I've been saying this for many, many years and, to my utter bafflement, don't think I've ever found anyone else to agree with me - so welcome, confrère!

There must be others! :study:


If we want to make the go community flourish in the future, we should focus on getting lots of young people to play. I think the focus should be especially on creating kids clubs in schools. Kids love playing each other in real life, much more than playing on the internet.

I also think that the initiative for such things should come from local go communities, enthousiasts from (what's left of) local go clubs, supported by national go federations. The EGF is just too far away and understaffed to do much in this respect.

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Post #24 Posted: Mon Jun 10, 2019 11:44 pm 
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sorin wrote:
This news about the EGCC closing, and the explanation about why this may have happened (organizers not being very concerned with positive cash flow) puts into a different light for me the online debate last year about how expensive the entry fees are at the US Go Congress vs the very accessible ones at the European Go Congresses.

Charging higher fees seems like the wiser thing to do in the end, since it's a sustainable practice, even if not everybody likes that or can afford it.


Sorin, I wouldn't assume higher fees automatically means it is more sustainable. If the fees are low and do not cover costs and you rely on subsidy from a limited pot of external money then sure that is not sustainable. But if fees are low because costs are low as you hire cheap venues (e.g. university campus) in cheap locations (outskirts, not centre of major cities, or cheap countries) so accommodation for the small handful of pros you invite are cheaper then that's just as healthy as high fees because costs are high because you have expensive venues (fancy hotels in prime locations) with expensive accommodation for the large group of pros you invite. I don't know how accurate this is as a characterisation of EGCs vs USGCs but I think there's some basis on reality. An advantage high fees and higher costs have is if you stick on a 10% margin to create some profit for building reserves then that 10% is more in absolute terms (but still subsidises the same amount of expensive future congresses). A way higher fees could be sustainable is if they include some wages for paid organisers who would keep going when volunteers dry up.

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Post #25 Posted: Tue Jun 11, 2019 2:22 am 
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jlt wrote:
Sorry if I ask dumb questions, but: what was the purpose of the EGCC? What kind of events did they organize, and were they different from international events elsewhere in Europe?

Some years ago I did online teaching (for individuals and group lectures) as part of the British Go Association's 'Shodan Challenge' and got given the (vacant) role of 'National Trainer'. Apparently part of the duties of this role were liaising with the EGCC about creating teaching materials/programmes but I never reached out to them (I just carried on doing my online teaching) nor heard from anyone there.

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Post #26 Posted: Tue Jun 11, 2019 3:16 am 
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Uberdude wrote:
Apparently part of the duties of this role were liaising with the EGCC about creating teaching materials/programmes but I never reached out to them (I just carried on doing my online teaching) nor heard from anyone there.


Before the Internet came about, there was a purpose for scaling up from the local to the international level via national and continental bodies. With the Internet being today the major environment for playing and studying Go, we need to review the raison d'être of such bodies.

In Belgium for example, not long after my presidency, the main language changed from mutual French-Dutch to English, following the decreasing mastery of the other national language. That to me was an alarm signal for the reason of the body's existence, if its cultural carrier already coincided with the world's lingua franca.

In our neighbouring countries, the Netherlands and France, the national magazines and websites at least are still maintained in the national language. Which makes me think this is one logical level up: language. As far as I'm concerned, the Belgian Federation should disband and regroup at either side of the language barrier. And that goes for Belgium as a whole, but that's more complicated.

What could unity of language be useful for? I see one major reason and one minor reason. The minor one is to develop a conceptual language using the subtleties the language has to offer. For example, the Dutch use "voorhand" (for-hand) and "nahand" (after-hand) for sente and gote, while the Flemish stick with the Japanese terms. The major one is developing teaching material for children, who don't have the command of English adult go players have.

The next level is Europe. And again, the questions we can raise about the EGF are applicable to the political entity - which doesn't find itself short of questioning today. What's the sense of the EGF? A cultural unit? Comparable economies? If we only look at Go, we can see this is not true. Go is taken seriously in Eastern Europe, where the bulk of the home grown and Asia grown professionals reside. These players could probably economize by restricting their real life tournaments to Eastern Europe.

I don't know much about the EGF today. I remember from my tenure as BGF-FBG president almost twenty years ago it was mostly politics - with that awful situation in Italy where I was asked for support from Belgium.

With the little knowledge I have, I don't see the point. Professional Go is already in decline in Asia, so why breed our own? Let aspiring players go to Asia, like they have always done, to become professionals. There is no professional economy in Europe, apart from it being subsidized by the average player's money.

Regroup at the language/cultural level for educational purposes. Scale up to the European level to have a common gateway to Asia. Maybe keep the Congress, but think about making it a professional organization and holding it in a central place, always.

Just thinking out loud.

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 Post subject: Re: European Go Cultural Centre is closing its doors
Post #27 Posted: Tue Jun 11, 2019 3:48 am 
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http://www.go-centre.nl/Pages/Page.php?P=7 wrote:
For a healthy financial exploitation of the EGCC it was necessary to rent halls out for other purposes. Currently many mind sport clubs (such as chess, checkers and bridge) meet at the Go centre. Moreover, in order to emphasise the cultural aspect of the center we host several Japanese cultural activities, like painting and flower arrangement.


Uberdude wrote:
Apparently part of the duties of this role were liaising with the EGCC about creating teaching materials/programmes but I never reached out to them (I just carried on doing my online teaching) nor heard from anyone there.


So the EGCC never had enough go-related activities to justify its existence. This doesn't surprise me.

Knotwilg wrote:
What's the sense of the EGF?


  • Organize the go congress
  • Organize European championships (pro qualification, EGC, EYGC, EWGC, pairgo...)
  • Select European representatives in international competitions
  • Develop partnership with other go organizations (like the agreement between EGF and CEGO)

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With the little knowledge I have, I don't see the point. Professional Go is already in decline in Asia, so why breed our own? Let aspiring players go to Asia, like they have always done, to become professionals. There is no professional economy in Europe, apart from it being subsidized by the average player's money.


Current European pros are of the level of low-rated asian professionals. A few high dan amateurs already make a living with teaching go. So why deny them the possibility to get pro status?

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Post #28 Posted: Tue Jun 11, 2019 7:53 am 
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jlt wrote:
Knotwilg wrote:
What's the sense of the EGF?


  • Organize the go congress
  • Organize European championships (pro qualification, EGC, EYGC, EWGC, pairgo...)
  • Select European representatives in international competitions
  • Develop partnership with other go organizations (like the agreement between EGF and CEGO)


Of course, once it exists, it has a purpose. What I mean is, what's the advantage of scaling up to the European level and why exactly that level (and not, for example, the European Union, or Western/Eastern Europe, or conversely the whole "western" world).

jlt wrote:
Quote:
With the little knowledge I have, I don't see the point. Professional Go is already in decline in Asia, so why breed our own? Let aspiring players go to Asia, like they have always done, to become professionals. There is no professional economy in Europe, apart from it being subsidized by the average player's money.


Current European pros are of the level of low-rated asian professionals. A few high dan amateurs already make a living with teaching go. So why deny them the possibility to get pro status?


I don't deny anyone the status of being a pro teacher. I can't: it's a factual matter. And if people make a living playing go, which is feasible in Asia, I can't deny them either. What I question is that we select a few high level players in Europe to get professional status and give them a fee, which is subsidized by membership fees. It might be a good idea, but it's not backed up by a real economy, so it's a kind of investment. Where there's investment, there is risk. In this case the risk is that the flow of money from the members to the subsidized pros would eventually dry up and this may be hastened by that very flow.

What are these subsidized pros giving back to the community that sponsors them? It's a genuine question, I'm not very involved these days. And if there's a subliminal blame in this message, it doesn't go to those pros, whom I don't blame for their ambitions and grabbing any opportunity to make Go their livelihood, rather to the EGF, whose existence and functioning I do question.

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Post #29 Posted: Tue Jun 11, 2019 8:17 am 
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Knotwilg wrote:

With the little knowledge I have, I don't see the point. Professional Go is already in decline in Asia, so why breed our own? Let aspiring players go to Asia, like they have always done, to become professionals. There is no professional economy in Europe, apart from it being subsidized by the average player's money.


The Go pro economy in Asia is also based on amateur players paying for them, directly or indirectly.
The fact that certified pros exist is supposed to boost the Go popularity, not to hurt it.

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Post #30 Posted: Tue Jun 11, 2019 10:51 am 
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sorin wrote:
The Go pro economy in Asia is also based on amateur players paying for them, directly or indirectly.
The fact that certified pros exist is supposed to boost the Go popularity, not to hurt it.

But that's the question, isn't it? Is it helping or hurting?

That's the question that Knotwilg is asking (and myself as well). We are using (at least some of the) money from our membership fees on these pros, and what benefit are we seeing from it?

As a recently renewed AGA member, I've been thinking about this a little more. What am I getting out of it? I read the E-Journal some times, I have some "nationalistic" pride that we have US pros (well... pride is debatable currently, but I don't want to get into that here), but what else? I'm part of a now defunct/failed AGA Chapter/Club, I don't get to the Go Congress (too expensive - time/vacation, flying, entrance fees, etc.), and I'm geographically separated from other clubs and AGA activities.

So could those fees be going to better use? Better support of clubs? Better support of kicking off youth clubs in schools? Or is that just more places for less money to be sent? And are these pros doing a good job of supporting and bringing up popularity? I don't know the answer.

Either way, it's sad to see something like the EGCC shut down as it's just another reminder of the declining numbers we're seeing across the board. We need a new Hikaru No Go to kick off another round of youth players! I'll admit watching that during college was what got me into this whole mess in the first place.

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 Post subject: Re: European Go Cultural Centre is closing its doors
Post #31 Posted: Tue Jun 11, 2019 2:20 pm 
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Knotwilg wrote:
Of course, once it exists, it has a purpose. What I mean is, what's the advantage of scaling up to the European level and why exactly that level (and not, for example, the European Union, or Western/Eastern Europe, or conversely the whole "western" world).


That choice is indeed arbitrary, the only necessary condition is that the organization should be large enough. Europe seems to be the most natural choice, since it's a continent. The European Union is an entity that is large enough, but what about other countries? Would they be part of EMEUGF (Europe Minus European Union Go Federation)? Western/Eastern Europe would be fine but I don't like being reminded of the cold war. The whole "western" world is too widespread geographically.



Quote:
What I question is that we select a few high level players in Europe to get professional status and give them a fee, which is subsidized by membership fees.


I wonder how much EGF money goes to pros, but I couldn't find this information on the EGF page. In fact I didn't see any information about the EGF budget, so if someone has some info, please share it.


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 Post subject: Re: European Go Cultural Centre is closing its doors
Post #32 Posted: Tue Jun 11, 2019 4:03 pm 
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Knotwilg wrote:
I think large bodies of amateurs will soon be something of the past. Voluntarism in the Western world / Europe / Belgium, is not what it used to be. Young adults are expecting to either have lots of fun themselves or be paid. The kind of voluntary effort "for the greater good" we used to spend has gone out of fashion - and I actually can't blame them for it, for the times I was not having fun while serving others for free (e.g. running the Brussels Go tournament) are the times I regret the most.

This will result in a shortage of very cheap events of organized pastime. If there will be an economy for slightly more expensive organized leisure, run by a few professionals, time will tell.


This is not my feeling.
But here in Lyon, France, we are struggling with a different problem : the insanely high price for any room or place where players could meet.
We used to be able to organize tournaments in places that were reserved for associations, but this time is now over. In the central urban zone of 500,000 people, there is no place anymore, even for once a year, to hold a 70-player tournament. If the old and very big chess club of the town was not lending us a room of their building from time to time, we would have been forced to cancel this annual event.

The will to gather people and play go is here. But the places where it is possible to do so are disappearing.

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Post #33 Posted: Wed Jun 12, 2019 1:03 am 
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Pio2001 wrote:
But here in Lyon, France, we are struggling with a different problem : the insanely high price for any room or place where players could meet.
We used to be able to organize tournaments in places that were reserved for associations, but this time is now over. In the central urban zone of 500,000 people, there is no place anymore, even for once a year, to hold a 70-player tournament. If the old and very big chess club of the town was not lending us a room of their building from time to time, we would have been forced to cancel this annual event.

The will to gather people and play go is here. But the places where it is possible to do so are disappearing.


This is going to be a major problem for the Amsterdam Tournament, go forward. For over 25 years we've had access to a cheap venue run by people who played go themselves and housing a large amount of high quality equipment. Now we're going to have to find a venue in a major city that is also a major tourist destination. Which will probably mean a major price hike to entry fees.

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Post #34 Posted: Wed Jun 12, 2019 2:04 am 
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Yes, this is always a terrible problem. In many cities now, the cost of venue hire for a suitable location is basically prohibitive for a tournament. If you are connected, or a good negotiator, it is possible to obtain a much better price. For instance, hotels can perhaps have their arms twisted to allow a discount if they are booked in flat period. For a tourist destination, that's not especially helpful though. In Ireland we have somebody who's job is a conference organiser, they were good at obtaining a nice venue for the national championship.

I wonder where the EGF will store its equipment now.

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Post #35 Posted: Wed Jun 12, 2019 2:26 am 
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The London Open last year moved out of its usual location (International Students House in central London) because of rising prices and moved to the new London Go Centre (which is in a bridge club further out). Entrants had to be turned away due to lack of space.


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Post #36 Posted: Thu Jun 13, 2019 7:52 am 
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Re: Sensei’s Library

Knotwilg wrote:
I have probably been one of the most - and I fear sometimes the most - prolific admin/editor on SL. In its heighdays I spent hours keeping the place tidy while trying to product quality content. I'm not sure this has been the best spent portion of my lifetime.

I for one am grateful to everybody who built, maintains, and expands SL … I’ve only edited a few tiny parts of it but have spent much time reading there in the past ten years, and I share SL links every other day.

Sensei’s Library is still indispensable, it is The Ultimate Go Wiki.

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Post #37 Posted: Sat Jun 15, 2019 3:45 am 
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Bonobo wrote:
Re: Sensei’s Library
Sensei’s Library is still indispensable, it is The Ultimate Go Wiki.


Couldn't agree more.

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Post #38 Posted: Sun Jun 16, 2019 2:53 am 
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Knotwilg wrote:
Before the Internet came about, there was a purpose for scaling up from the local to the international level via national and continental bodies. With the Internet being today the major environment for playing and studying Go, we need to review the raison d'être of such bodies.


The internet is both solving and creating problems ... On the one hand, it is helping people that already play the game to have more interactions with other players and have more games with a variety of opponents. On the other hand, it deprives from the new players the unique experience of playing face to face on a real board ... that is ultimately costing Go a lot of young players because, let us face it, the internet and the computers have a lot of things vying for a kid's attention (computer games being top on the list) ...

In that regard having national bodies and physical places to play is still very important, if we want to attract new players that will stay and play in the long term ...

Quote:
What could unity of language be useful for?


Indeed, that was my main issue when I tried to make a book that could be translated to the multitute of the european languages ... Europe is sometimes like the tower of Babel because not everyone is fluent or confident enough in reading or studying in English and that was costing Go even more new players (especially children who can read their native language at a small age, but are taught a second language at a much later stage in their lives) ...

And here comes the lack of volunteers that people already mentioned ... I had a very romantic view of the Go community and I thought that people would be glad of the opportunity to have a book in their own language and that they would jump on the opportunity to help in the translation. Even though a lot of players seemed to initially offer to help in that volunteer work, the first excitement soon fizzled out and the people that actually translated anything was comparably small while the people still translating is now down to just one who is fortunately sharing the same fervent passion about making this thing work and spread the game to people who cannot read English.

Unfortunately, the existence of large bodies of organazation led to some complancency, as well ... it created the feeling that "some other people from higher up should tend to most matters" while in fact the promotion of the game is very much still in our (the players') hands ...

gennan wrote:
If we want to make the go community flourish in the future, we should focus on getting lots of young people to play. I think the focus should be especially on creating kids clubs in schools. Kids love playing each other in real life, much more than playing on the internet.

I also think that the initiative for such things should come from local go communities, enthousiasts from (what's left of) local go clubs, supported by national go federations. The EGF is just too far away and understaffed to do much in this respect.


Exactly! Having a "pro scene" is all nice and dandy, but let us not fall into the same pitfall that computer games have fallen into (e.g. League of Legends), which is caring more about their pros and the marketing and leaving the casual player who supports the game to fend for himself.

In that regard, increasing the costs for venues, the congress and all that just puts western Go into a "circling the drain" process ... the more expensive it becomes, the more exclusive it gets and the more exclusive it gets, the more expensive it becomes ... and slowly down the drain the numbers will decline.

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Post #39 Posted: Sun Jun 16, 2019 5:29 am 
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I have witnessed the fall of the only club in my region, there were 2 reasons of this happening
:w1: life - kids, work, moving, divorces etc.
:b2: Lack of any kind of promotion - we were meeting in a public place - nobody cared, we were just a weird group

I find the Go community to be "from go players for go players". Go is not known among the general public and we are still looking inside.

More importantly we have not changed with the times, we are still used to that people will find us on their own, unfortunately people no longer look as far as they used to. The little promoting there is looks very outdated and is not interesting or there is nothing at all.

Regarding the money issue, there is some truth to that. I see very cheap tournament fees in my country even though the numbers of players are bad. I just hope that organizers won't fall into the same pitfall EGCC had. In an interview regarding SEYGO Catalin Taranu said "First of all Go has to become an expensive hobby. Cheap is shunned and distrusted. Still, the older generation that learned Go 30-40 years ago believes deeply that Go has to be a free game..." and I think that he's got a point.

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Post #40 Posted: Sun Jun 16, 2019 9:27 am 
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Sakeus wrote:
In an interview regarding SEYGO Catalin Taranu said "First of all Go has to become an expensive hobby. Cheap is shunned and distrusted. Still, the older generation that learned Go 30-40 years ago believes deeply that Go has to be a free game..." and I think that he's got a point.


But that is also a move which can have drawbacks ... on a wall for the 2004 Olympics in my country this was written : "When billions of cash are floating around you, it is stupid to be a volunteer" (it rhymes in Greek) and I think that the young people that wrote it had a point. If everyone around you is getting paid to do something for the achievement of a goal, why would anyone declare himself as a volunteer and work for free? Once that happens it makes no sense for some to volunteer.

Even in this topic people asked a very reasonable question: "What am I getting for my money?"

When the structure which you are giving your money is loosely defined and most people are amateurs/hobbists and are contributing their time for free, you usually let the monetary part slide. You say to yourself "look, other people came and put in some serious work so that we could all have fun. I didn't have the time to put workhours, but I contributed with some money" and you are content with that.
But, once things turn serious and everyone around you is a professional in his trade and you have to pay for a professional venue, organised by professional organisers, set in conference centers and so forth, your mentality changes. Suddenly you are not just giving money to some folk that share your hobby and passion. You are paying for a service. Once that sets in, you are going to have some "demands" about getting your money's worth out of the services that are going to be provided and that is not easy to achieve, considering the vast differences between the economies of the European countries (e.g. a ticket venue that costs 400 euro might be something that someone from Germany or France can afford once a year, but it is a very steep price for someone from Greece). If you are going to market the game into a higher tier of expenses, that means that you are going to drop a significant amount of its current playerbase to the ground.

So, I am not saying that Taranu is wrong, but the question is: can Go manage to leave the cradle of the "it is our hobby" and survive the transition to turning into an actual enterprise ?

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