It's game on for S'pore

Government kick-starts new program to help local talent make their mark in global mobile games development.
Written by Lynn Tan @ Redhat, Contributor on

SINGAPORE--Mobile game development received a boost last week when the government announced its plan to help its local talent.

Dubbed INVIGORATE, the new scheme will provide aspiring mobile game developers in the country with funding of up to S$25,000 (US$16,250) for each project. The money will be allocated based on each team's production budget, as well as mentorship with locally- or globally-based game studios and publishers in a "master-class environment", according to Singapore's Media Development Authority (MDA) in a statement.

The master-class will cover elements such as core business, design and production management aspects of mobile game development, and also provide a workshop environment for mentors to assist the developers in enhancing their concept designs towards global deployment standards, MDA said.

"We believe there are talented teams based in Singapore who may not be able to produce their concepts due to the lack of funding avenues or proper mentorship," Seto Lok Yin, MDA's director of industry development told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail. "Through INVIGORATE, we hope to encourage these teams to enter the arena of mobile game development and showcase their creative and production talents and, in turn, expand the talent pool of our game development industry."

According to Seto, MDA is looking for breakthrough concepts with the potential for commercialization in the global marketplace and hopes to uncover new industry talents from independent teams.

The initiative is targeted at locally-based start-up mobile game development studios, console and PC game development studios that may want to move into mobile game development, as well as animation studios with intellectual property that can be transferred to mobile games, Seto said.

Alex Goatcher, chief creative officer and co-founder of Mikoishi, a local game studio participating in the scheme as a mentor, told ZDNet Asia that "the interactive entertainment industry can be daunting and at times complex. By sharing experiences and providing insights, [mentors] can help emerging studios channel their efforts and avoid the pitfalls".

According to Seto, MDA will fund up to 10 teams based on the merit of their concepts, and those interested in taking part in the initiative are invited to send in their applications by post to MDA by Feb. 9, 2007.

Submission details and selection criteria for INVIGORATE may be found on MDA's Web site.

What will the judges be looking for?
"From a game design perspective, we [would] like to see original and intuitive game-play," Seto noted, adding that "participating teams should consider the interactivity of the mobile device interface in their applications and incorporate that level of usability into their concepts".

"This is based on what we have learnt from some of the top-selling games in the market which have been focusing on the simple usability factor," he explained.

Seto said applicants should show how their game fits in the current mobile games market, and when developing the games, they should consider questions such as:

  • Is the game unique?
  • Does it fill a niche?
  • Will a large enough target audience play it?
  • Will the game be attractive enough for brand owners to potentially license it?

He noted that these are questions that "globally successful mobile [game] developers ask themselves when designing a product" and local teams should "go through the same planning process, or at least consider the process in some detail".

Singapore's game
Leslie Wou, chief executive officer of Activate Interactive--another local game developer and publisher roped in as a mentor for INVIGORATE, told ZDNet Asia in a phone interview that although Singapore is not a cheap place to develop games, it is well-suited to develop "games that are sophisticated and more technically intensive" because of its high-tech edge.

Wou said locally-based developers should, therefore, focus on games that are "higher quality" and more content intensive--games that lengthen the play-time of the gamer. Examples include community-based games, multi-player games and games that are connected over the Internet.

He noted that the republic is also a good place for development processes such as test-bedding and prototyping.

However, as the "Singapore market is very small, [local developers] have to look toward the whole Asia region. Build a good industry in [Singapore] and then market it as a whole--the whole Asia region", Wou noted.

"Asia is just one step. After that, we should go to the U.S. and Europe," he added.

According to accounting and consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, Wou said, the global mobile entertainment and games industry is projected to be worth US$73 billion by 2009.

Editorial standards