Ubisoft Singapore picks up momentum for game development

By AMRITA VALECHA | 2 October, 2009 - 17:02

    SINGAPORE: Within the short span of one year since Ubisoft established an internal development studio in Singapore in July 2008, Ubisoft released its first made-in-Singapore title, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles In Time Re-shelled. The game was a hit on Xbox Live Arcade and was just released on the Playstation Network.

    Come October this year, Ubisoft, the world's leading games publisher, will be training future game developers at its first Ubisoft campus in Asia, in Singapore. Called the DigiPen-Ubisoft Campus, the campus is a collaboration between DigiPen Singapore (a branch of the pioneering U.S.-based interactive digital media education institute), Ubisoft Singapore and the Singapore Workforce Development Agency. Future game developers will take courses in Game Programming, Game Art or Game Design conducted by DigiPen while Ubisoft Singapore will be involved in guiding students in the game production process.

    "Additionally, to build the talent pool, we are working closely with local institutions and universities to discuss how they can tailor their curriculums to better prepare their graduates to join the video game industry," a spokesperson for Ubisoft revealed.

    The recent moves signal Ubisoft's long-term investment and confidence in the growing Interactive and Digital Media (IDM) industry in Singapore. Ubisoft Singapore is the company's first studio in Southeast Asia and is currently the only studio in the region focused on developing AAA console games. The majority of its 100-strong multinational staff are in production and the company is still recruiting talented developers particularly in the areas of graphic art, animation, programming and game design.

    "With our focus on developing these AAA games for console and PC, our plan is to grow the studio to a size of 300 developers over the next 4 to 5 years," the spokesperson said.

    The Singapore studio-the 18th internal development studio for the company-is part of a strategy to reinforce Ubisoft's presence in Asia. The company also has studios in China and India. The global videogames industry is expected to expand from US$41.9 billion in 2007 to US$68.3 billion by 2012, with Asia growing the fastest, according to the PriceWaterhouse Coopers' Global Entertainment & Media Outlook.

    Singapore is a relative newcomer to the scene, but the republic displays the usual determination backed by strong government support and funding to grow a viable interactive and digital media industry. So far, its efforts have attracted the big guns-not just Ubisoft, but also Electronic Arts and Lucasfilm from the U.S. and Koei Entertainment from Japan.

    The IDM industry, loosely defined to include interactive applications beyond games and animation and related services, is projected to generate 10,000 new jobs and over S$10 billion worth of value added by 2015.

    "Singapore has a developed IT infrastructure, a well-educated workforce and a growing game development industry," the spokesperson said. "The government has also a demonstrated interest in Ubisoft being a part of Singapore's plans to become a regional art, info-communications and media hub."

    Singapore's vigorous efforts won some notice from global industry trendsetters when it hosted SIGGRAPH Asia, the inaugural Asian event of SIGGRAPH, the world's leading computer graphics and animation conference cum exhibition. It has also been chosen twice to host Games Convention Asia, the Asian edition of the world's largest digital games exhibition.

    The republic wants to raise the stakes by positioning Singapore as the preferred location for companies to create original content for global consumption. Besides Ubisoft Singapore's first game title, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time Re-Shelled, a couple of other companies have also developed and released hits in quick succession. Among them is Koei's Romance of the Three Kingdoms Online, which was launched in Japan in early 2008 and is set to launch in China, Korea and Taiwan as well. The pace is picking up.

    "We have a core group of Ubisoft veterans with years of experience developing AAA games currently in the Singapore studio to help train the local team and transfer their knowledge about video game development."

    Intensive training is given in the specialist skills and cutting-edge technology required for AAA game development. The studio is located within the vast purpose-built engineering physical sciences research complex, Fusionopolis. The fact that Ubisoft Singapore has placed its game development team amid engineering research laboratories is compelling. When quizzed on upcoming titles, the spokesperson only replied, "We are currently working with Ubisoft Montreal on Assassin's Creed 2 together with a number of other unannounced projects."

    Given the incredible technology and resources already at hand, one can only expect that the games will keep getting better.

    For more information on career opportunities in Singapore's Interactive & Digital Media industry, visit www.contactsingapore.sg/jobs or join the Contact Singapore group on LinkedIn at www.contactsingapore.sg/linkedin