An in-depth look at some of the most exciting companies in Singapore today
Formed in 1998 by the Prime Minister’s Office (Singapore), Contact Singapore came under the Ministry of Manpower during its April 2008 crossover with the Economic Development Board.
Today, Contact Singapore employs 65 dedicated staff focused on drawing people from around the world to work, invest and live in Singapore, with the ultimate aim of boosting national economic development.
The organisation has offices across the Asia-Pacific, Europe and North America. It partners Singapore-based employers to organise career fairs and networking sessions in cities across the globe, and provide updates on opportunities and various industry developments to individuals.
Contact Singapore also facilitates business development and relocation to Singapore by helping investors arrange for entry to Singapore via business visas and permanent residency programmes.
“We are a one-stop centre for those who wish to pursue a rewarding career in Singapore, as well as individuals and entrepreneurs who are keen to invest in or initiate new business activities here,” explains deputy executive director Kee Ee Wah.
“We actively link Singapore-based employers with global talent and provide updates on career opportunities and industry developments in Singapore.”
Wah is also proud of the video games development talent that has been enticed by the promises of business in Singapore from both home and abroad.
“Singapore aims to foster a vibrant, creative environment in which game developing talent can meet and exchange ideas, and even generate more creativity,” she says.
“Today, we have major international and home-grown game developers such as LucasArts, Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, Tecmo Koei, IGG, Rainbow S.p.A, Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Labs, Softworld, Mikoishi, Matchmove Games and Ratloop Asia.”
The work that Contact Singapore puts in is also backed up by considerable financial heft on behalf of the Singapore Government proper, as Wah describes.
“As a leading financial centre, Singapore offers valuable funding avenues. The government is a significant source, having seeded around S$190m (£91m) worth of co-production deals from 2003 to 2007 via the Media Development Authority.
“There is also currently over S$1bn (£478m) worth of funds available for media projects and companies, stemming from private capital injected by banks, financial institutions and strategic investors.”
A significant monetary enticement is also provided to ensure the region makes strides in the R&D sector of the development industry.
“To ensure Singapore remains a tred-setter, the IDM Programme Office was set up to spearhead efforts to boost R&D in the IDM industry, backed by a S$500m (£239m) budget from the National Research Foundation.”
A Microsoft BizSpark startup incorporated in 2008, Protégé Production an indie studio best known for its well-received XBLA title Armor Valley. Following the success of its debut game, the studio is now hard at work to following up on the reputation it quickly forged for itself.
“We are working on a launch title for Windows Phone 7, an Armor Valley port,” explains creative and technical director Robin Tan.
“The original Armor Valley was completed late last year, and won the IGF China 2009 Award for best audio and was a top 20 finalist for Dream Build Play 2010. All of this was made possible by MDA start-up funding.”
And it doesn’t end there. Protégé, as seems to be the standard with Singaporean businesses, has its eyes firmly set on the future.
“We are planning on developing the sequel to Armor Valley, and to keep getting bigger and better from there,” Tan says.
“The quality of content from Singapore is constantly improving, and people are taking notice. Certainly I hope to see the appreciation of what we get up to here growing.”
PLAYWARE STUDIOS ASIA
Playware is a double-edged studio that creates titles for both the casual and educational markets. Under the guidance of creative director Siddharth Jain, the firm has developed titles as varied as the Facebook strategy title M.A.T, the in-development city-building game Simplicity and the teacher-training package Petals.
“We are currently working on two upcoming Facebook games. Singapore is very active on Facebook as a nation with nearly 2.5m out of the population of 5m on the network,” Jain enthuses.
“Both the games we are currently working on have a strong local flavour and a lot of local cultural nuances. We are heavily invested in games for learning and work closely with local schools and universities to develop commercial, entertainment games that have a strong learning ethic.”
Playware has crafted a niche that it seems to be making great use of, and clearly will not be letting up its efforts any time soon.
“Games for learning is a key area for growth locally with a spate of interesting projects in the education and corporate sectors,” Jain confirms.
“We have been growing quite steadily in this market and see the continuation of this positive trend.”
Ratloop Asia, the sister-studio to the Ratloop based in Austin, Texas and incorporated with development staff in 2007, released its debut title Rocketbirds Revolution! last year.
There is no resting on laurels at Ratloop Asia, however.
“The game has recently been released via Direct2Drive and we’re also exploring other distribution channels as well. From the positive reception that the game has received so far we’ve also been able to secure dev kits and recently started production on the next Rocketbirds game as a download for one of the major consoles,” says studio head Sian Yue.
“We are also looking into expanding into the Chinese market, and meeting with a large online games provider there. We probably wouldn’t have even considered the Chinese market had we been located in the west. Here in Singapore we are given a unique opportunity to test new waters.”
The little studio has achieved a lot in a very short time, and Sian Yue is keen to point out that, as far as Ratloop Asia is concerned, this is just the beginning.
“We still have a long way to go, but I think we are on the right track!”
Formed in 2005 by industry veterans Christopher Natsuume and Allan Simonsen, Boomzap Entertainment has released ten games to date, mostly based in the downloadable casual titles market.
This changed in May with the North-American release of the studio’s first console title Pirates Plund-Arrr for the Wii.
“Singapore’s one of the best places in the world to run a company. It’s incredibly light on paperwork, almost everything is online, the corporate tax rate is 17 per cent and there is no capital gains tax or tax on dividends,” explains technical director and co-founder Allan Simonsen.
“There’s also a lot of support from the government, in terms of tax incentives, influence on the schools and the regulatory environment, and direct development support. The industry here is viewed as a flower to be groomed and grown, rather than left to benevolent neglect like elsewhere in the world.”
The company is a truly international one, employing 24 developers working out of places as far-flung as Japan, Russia, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines and centrailising the entire operation in Singapore.