In this special GameSpot Asia feature, we look at the game companies that call Singapore home, as well as find out what the future has in store for development in the nation.
For an island that only measures 274.2 square miles with an estimated population of 5 million people, one might assume that video game development is almost nonexistent in Singapore. Far from it: Companies like LucasArts and Ubisoft have set up local development operations, while the Singapore government body, Media Development Authority (MDA), is continually pushing out initiatives to promote gaming culture and the industry throughout the country. In this GameSpot Asia feature, we look at just how vibrant the Singaporean development scene is, speak to some of the key players, and find out what the future holds for the industry.
The Big Guys
Is it all sunshine and roses to work in a country smack-dab on the equator? With about 1 million gamers and about 40 game companies, LucasArts Singapore's executive producer Gio Corsi certainly thinks so.
"It's exciting times being a game developer in Singapore," Corsi says. "While the rest of the industry around the world is just starting to shake off the effects of the economic downturn, all pistons are firing here in Singapore. There are companies setting up shop all around the city, and we continue to grow and take on bigger and more challenging projects."
Established in 2007 under the wing of the Lucasfilm Animation branch in Singapore, LucasArts Singapore has recently completed Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2 for the Nintendo DS and Monkey Island 2: Special Edition for the PC. LucasArts Singapore also had a hand in developing a level and downloadable content for The Force Unleashed 2 on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, as well as Jedi Alliance for the DS and Republic Heroes on the DS. Currently, there are 76 people working in the office.
Another big company that seems to bask in working in Singapore is Ubisoft's Singapore branch. The branch opened up in 2008 and is currently housing about 180 local and international staff. Wayne Wong, communications advisor for the branch, says that Singapore "has an interesting gaming scene with numerous small players in the market coupled with a few big names like ourselves. Singapore may be young in that regard, but it has a strong infrastructure that makes it highly adaptable to the needs of the industry. Furthermore, the key players here have been contributing significantly to the rapid growth of this industry."
Ubisoft Singapore's past contributions include Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time Re-shelled, which was fully produced within Singapore in 2009. It also chipped in for big titles like Assassin's Creed 2 and Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood (specifically the Da Vinci Disappearance DLC), as well as Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands. Currently, the studio is working on Ghost Recon Online for the PC and the Wii U, a team-based online shooter based on the famous Tom Clancy franchise.
But it's not all just big players in Singapore. Boomzap Studios cofounder Allan Simonsen thinks that while the game environment is dominated by big studios like LucasArts and Ubisoft, plenty of smaller companies are also making their mark. "In the undergrowth," he says, "there are a lot of spunky startups usually focusing on flash, social, and iOS/Android development. The community's still growing rapidly, and there's a lot of positive buzz. The big advantage to working in Singapore is the convenience. For anyone coming in from the outside, it's probably the easiest country in the world to adapt to; taxes are low and the food is amazing."
NexGen Studios, a local studio known for its online collectible card game Tactics Anthem Online: Chronicles, is also in the same boat as Boomzap Studios. Founder Alvin Yap thinks that the creative environment is strong in the nation.
"The awareness of both East and West cultures do allow designers to create interesting ideas. The government is generally helpful to developers here, too." However, he feels that manpower continues to be a challenge as it takes time for the young industry to produce local talent.
Aroon Tan, managing director of Magma Studios, seems optimistic about Singapore's future. While challenging, his company is proud of the work it has done, specifically its recent browser-based massively multiplayer online game World of Temasek.
"One of our major challenges is scaling up a team in a short time. Finding the right balance of talent with a relevant track record is extremely demanding. When teams come together, and their skill sets complement each other, real magic is created. Our next hurdle is finding ongoing projects to keep the team together. Projects and funding are not easy to come by."
Despite this setback, Magma Studios managed to craft the MagmaFLOW module tailor-made to write quests for World of Temasek, thanks to the support of the multi-agency Interactive Digital Media Research and Development Programme Office established by the MDA.
Raymond Teo, the sole developer of Secret Base Games, wouldn't have the courage to start a game development company himself if the MDA were not around to be involved.
"The industry is blooming here, so there seems to be a good range of locally based big-name companies to indie studios," Teo says. "Depending on what you want to do, there's a place for everyone." Teo hopes to see more of an exchange of opinions between developers, as well as see more game-related courses teach those interested about game design fundamentals.
well actually Indonesia already have Ubisoft's "step" brother which is Gameloft located in Yogyakarta
If they open game companies in Singapore, they had better open a distribution center in Indonesia (for Australian customers)
you fart in singapore and everone knows it in a minute (I mean everyone) ! that picture with the plane looks like a yuppie fly in fishing trip w/o any fish !
If i can ever succeed in gettin a gamed dev job, Singapore has to be it. Also coz its the closest place to home for me with a decent game dev scope :)