Chinese gaming company sets up shop in S'pore

SeaSky NetJoy is the first Chinese online gaming company to move into the island state which aims to develop into a digital media hub.

SINGAPORE--The island-state has scooped another success in attracting online gaming companies to establish operations here, this time with China's SeaSky NetJoy.

Following the footsteps of other gaming companies, such as Japan's Koei Entertainment which set up its first development studio outside of Japan in Singapore earlier this year, SeaSky NetJoy is the first Chinese online gaming company to base its operations in Singapore.

Speaking at the company's official opening this week, SeaSky NetJoy Chairman Loy Chee Hiang said: "SeaSky has selected Singapore as an international operations base to expand globally, and we will be building up a network of distributors in Southeast Asia to address the China, U.S and Europe markets."

Loy was also in Singapore to launch Dream-i, the company's first cross-platform multi-player suite of games which can be played on both PCs and mobile phones.

Mobile entertainment, especially gaming, in the Asia-Pacific region is becoming a lucrative business. Research firm IDC estimates that the region, excluding Japan, had racked up US$1.04 billion of revenues in subscriptions of online gaming in 2004. The regional market is also expected to double its existing market size by 2009, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 19.7 percent from 2005 to 2009.

Under the Infocomm Development Authority's (IDA) Digital Exchange initiative, online gaming has been identified as a "strategic thrust" for the island-state, said Thomas Lim, IDA's director of cluster development, games and entertainment.

Referring to SeaSky and Koei's decisions to establish operations in Singapore, as well as that of Lucasfilm setting up its animation studio here, Alwyn Tan, EDB's deputy director for Asia-Pacific, noted that "all these are early evidence of the government's efforts to develop a vibrant digital media industry".

"There are millions of gamers outside of China, Japan and Korea in a fragmented market, and it’s a potential that we can tap into," Lim said in his speech at the official opening. "We aim to attract game companies such as SeaSky to use Singapore as their base to deploy their game titles to key Southeast Asian countries."

Even companies not normally associated with sword-fighting and car racing are jumping at every opportunity to establish partnerships with gaming companies.

Sun Microsystems, for instance, has partnered with Internet service provider Pacific Internet to launch the Games Market Access Program (Games MAP) which provides the infrastructure for companies to roll out ready-to-deploy digital content for Asian-based gamers.

Under this program, SeaSky will be able to leverage on a technology platform based on Sun Microsystems’ Sun Fire servers, and PacNet's regional content distribution network, hosting and billing capabilities. In addition, PacNet will assist SeaSky in marketing their games to PacNet's gaming community.

"Interactivity is the key to gaming, especially mobile gaming," said Wong Heng Chew, managing director of Sun Microsystems' Singapore. "We definitely see the potential in mobile gambling and are working with telcos and handset makers to embed Java-based games into mobile phones."

According to Sanke Zhang, SeaSky's vice president of business development, the company is confident that there is a ready market of gamers in the region and plans to roll out at least one new game every two months in 2006.

More than 700 computer gamers from 67 countries are in Singapore this week to compete in the World Cyber Games finals on Sunday.