With a total population of only 4.2M (3M citizens plus 1.2M immigrant workers), Singapore isn't a large market, but it is a very diverse market, a unique mix of cultures, both East and West. And while Chinese is the main language, English, Tamil (a language from southern India), and Malay also hold official language status. People in Singapore watch many of the same movies, listen to much of the same music, and play a lot of the same games as people in the USA. Of course, they also have access to movies, music, and games from China, Japan, Korea, and India.
All of this makes Singapore a sort of "Intro to Asia" that developers can leverage, possibly turning Singapore into an Asian test market. This was talked about some already, in relation to the Games Bazaar, but this may prove to be the most important aspect of Singapore, at least to US and European game developers and publishers.
Further, as Singapore's involvement in game development grows, this cultural diversity will undoubtedly prove useful, not only in helping non-Asian game developers enter Asia, but also in creating original made-in-Singapore games that have "crossover" appeal between Asian and Western players. Look at how Hong Kong was able to create movies that appealed to audiences on both sides of the Pacific, and how those movies, and their actors and directors, have been able to influence Hollywood. That shows it's not impossible for an island to take on a media juggernaut--even if it might take a few years.
Looking for a Place in the Sun
I was fortunate enough to spend the 3rd week of June 2004 as a guest of Singapore, representing GameDev.net and the United States game development press at the combined conferences for CommunicAsia, BroadcastAsia, and EnterpriseIT. Sometimes it was a challenge to figure out the game development angle on the proceedings, but over the week one thing became more clear: Singapore is serious about games.
I was shown the impressive capabilities of Singapore's businesses (multi-national corporations and local) and government in bringing technology within easy reach of the population. For example, you have to see the Jurong Regional Library to believe it. When the government of Singapore decides that it wants to support something, it puts money where its initiatives are and gets to work. And now Singapore has its sites on video games.
More than that, I also had the chance to talk to many people who have a real passion for games and game development. Just like in the US and Europe, people in Singapore love to play video games. And that love of games translates into a desire, almost a compulsion, to make games.
While the government of Singapore currently tends to focus more on the infrastructure and being a gateway to the Asian market, the people I talked to were more interested in creating their own games, developing their own IP. After all, that's where the future is.
My next article will profile several successful Singapore developers who are making new and unique games for PC's and mobile devices, and get their views on the growth of the game development industry in their country.
Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore
The Game Bazaar
About the Author
Two months ago, David Michael didn't even have a passport. Now he has attended and covered conferences in both Australia and Singapore in addition to his normal coverage of the Game Developer Conference for GameDev.net. David is the author of "The Indie Game Development Survival Guide" (Charles River Media; ISBN: 1584502142) and is co-owner of Samu Games (http://www.samugames.com).