The State of Play: The Games Industry in Singapore in 2021 and Beyond

 

On the afternoon of 2 February 2021, the SGTech Game Committee hosted their first online webinar titled "The State of Play: Singapore". One of the newest committees in SGTech, the Game Committee represents the videogames industry on a local, regional, and global scale to drive awareness, education, and investment.

 

Mr James Miner opened the session

 


Panelists: Top row, L-R: Mr Simon Davis, Mr Mike McCabe; Bottom row, L-R: Ms Phylicia Koh, Mr Joachim Ng

Mr James Miner, co-chairperson of the SGTech Game Committee, opened the session to introduce SGTech and the speakers of the day. Simon Davis, also co-chairperson of the committee, kicked off the discussion with an overview of Singapore’s Game industry.

Next, panelists from different sectors of the Games industry participated in the panel discussion and Q&A session with the audience. We welcomed the following panellists:

Mr Mike McCabe: Managing Director of International Publishing for Epic Games
Ms Phylicia Koh: Investor for Play Ventures
Mr Joachim Ng: Director at IMDA
Mr Simon Davis: SGTech Game Committee Co-chairperson (Moderator)

 

A Second Gaming Wave in Singapore

The panel shared that Singapore is currently seeing a resurgence in established game companies shifting to the country as the tech ecosystem has matured from a decade before and provides stable access to talents and supporting infrastructure (such as mobile networks, education system). 

They also cited Garena and Razer as helping to spotlight Singapore as a competitive hub for the gaming industry. Singapore's appeal is partly thanks to its proximity to regional markets, and access to important partners such as Apple, Google, and more. 

Over time, these strengths and developments will also draw more companies from adjacent industries to games as well, further bolstering the games industry in Singapore. 

That said, having more robust professional service options could improve the ecosystem.  One example is in the area of legal counsel options for venture capital – startup deals. 

In addition, while government agencies have done excellent work to ensure startups in Singapore have access to capital – Singapore-based venture capital funds had $11B under management in 2019 – meeting the talent challenges in the industry remains the most critical challenge to further growth of the industry.

 

Singapore’s Talent Challenge 

To mitigate the talent shortage, Singapore has invested heavily in the education systems for more than a decade. However, the general feedback from game studios is that many graduates still require significant training from employers before being able to contribute at an entry-level position. 

The panel agrees that value-adding education curriculums should be created from the ground up in collaboration with industry operators. Industry involvement from the beginning is critical as it helps to anchor the education system with the needs of a fast-evolving industry and employers. 

As the game industry moves at a blistering pace and industry professionals must always be learning and adapting in order to stay competitive, students too need to learn “how to learn” in order to have longevity and success in the gaming industry.

The panel also agrees that in order for young talents to become “rockstars”, they need to gain global exposure. 


A Successful Business Takes Time To Build, Needs to Solve A Real Problem 

The panel commented that building quality industry and businesses needs time; game development studios and publishers cannot expect satisfactory returns by rapidly pushing out contents without developing their competitive edge. 

To help them have the best chance of success, Singapore’s studios should collaborate with other game studios, and be less guarded about sharing ideas, knowledge, and learnings with others.

The panel also commented that the market adoption of some new technology is dependent on infrastructure (e.g. 5G). They also cautioned that often these trends might be great technology trying to solve problems that do not exist, and are not necessarily strong business cases.  


Advice on How To Get Started in the Games Industry 

During the Q&A session, the panel advised individuals looking to start in the game industry to build up their network in the industry, and shore up their knowledge base. The internet has made it easier for students and young professionals to access information and to better understand the industry. 

Simon, our moderator, also advised that those new to the industry should  be humble and understand that no roles are beneath you; he had worked as a QA (Quality Assurance) tester at the start of his professional journey, which ended up contributing critically to his expertise and skills in his career.


Is It Too Late for Singapore To Be a Games Industry Powerhouse? 

The panellists had divided opinions about this. From the content-distribution perspective, infrastructure and connectivity are essential. Singapore has an advantage in this thanks to its excellent telecommunications infrastructure, ease-of-access to regional partners, and strong IP laws and regulations.

While some felt that, Singapore’s small talent pool and local market were disadvantages, most panellists felt that population size should not limit talent. They cited Finland and Israel as great examples of countries with small population sizes whose games companies excel globally. The panellists also noted that creating successful games no longer requires large amounts of capital – the creation of successful free-to-play games today is significantly more capital efficient compared to creating AAA games or other industries such as biotech. 

Panellists also felt that with the ease of access to capital in Singapore (relative to other cities or countries), and the right support to cultivate Singapore’s young talents, Singapore can absolutely be the right city to build a gaming powerhouse in. 

In gaming, a hit can come from anywhere. There is no reason why Singapore can’t do it. 
 

 

SGTech thanks the speakers and the audience in making the webinar an engaging and informative session. For more information on creating such webinars and joining the Game Committee, please write to membership@sgtech.org.sg.

 

---

Published Feb 2021