S'pore games make global splash
Kenny Chee
Fri, Jul 23, 2010
my paper

HOME-GROWN video games owned by independent Singapore developers are doing well, in terms of sales, against international competition on an online portal for Microsoft's Xbox 360 game console.

One useful indicator of this performance: According to the Media Development Authority (MDA), about 4 to 10 per cent of gamers who download and try out trial versions of several Singapore-made games from the portal buy the full versions.

These rates are higher than the comparable average rate for all other games on the Xbox portal called Xbox Live Indie Games, industry players said. The portal offers over 1,000 games now.

The Indie Games platform allows small and indie developers, as opposed to big-name studios like Electronic Arts, to sell their games online.

Developers from 16 countries can upload their games to the portal, which can be accessed by millions of Xbox 360 users in 10 countries, including those from the United States, Germany, Japan and Singapore.

At least five games made by Singapore indie developers are available on the portal, namely Armor Valley, Avalon Legend, CarneyVale: Showtime, Crimson Blues and Tobe's Vertical Adventure. They sell for between $2 to $10.

One of the most successful is action-puzzle title CarneyVale, with a sales rate of 8.8 per cent in the past year. It was the first Singapore game to debut on the Xbox portal in December 2008.

CarneyVale is currently among the top 50 rated games, as rated by users, on the Indie Games portal.

The developers of the other four games received financial support of up to $50,000 each from a 2008 initiative between MDA and Microsoft to develop games to be sold online for the Xbox 360.

The project lead for actionadventure game Crimson Blues, Mr James Phang, said the game was his first attempt to create a full-fledged game and "the experience will help us move on to our next project with greater confidence and know-how".

His title has enjoyed a sales rate of about 10 per cent since it went on sale last December.

Ms Janelle Lee, managing director of two-year-old Protege Production, which made shooter Armor Valley, said her team members pushed themselves to create a title that would have international appeal despite time, manpower and cost constraints.

The game, which has a sales rate of about 6 per cent, sports 3-D computer-generated graphics and won an award for excellence in audio at the Independent Games Festival in Shanghai last October.

Some of these game makers have even been approached by other firms to strike deals.

CarneyVale's developers, government- funded Singapore- MIT Gambit Game Lab, signed a deal that will see Microsoft distribute the game for personal computers to be sold later this year, a first for a home-grown game.

Ms Lee said many American publishers approached her firm about publishing Armor Valley for sale, while the project lead for 2-D platformer Tobe's Vertical Adventure, Mr Raymond Teo, said he is in talks with a publisher to take the game to another gaming platform.

Mr Teo said that being approached by a publisher was a big confirmation of his team's capabilities. "It motivated me to set up my own game company, Secret Base, last month," he said.

MDA said that the sales rates of these games on the Indie Games portal was "very encouraging", considering the number of international titles available. The achievements of the games underscore how titles by indie developers here are making a global impact.

For instance, Tyler Projects' Facebook game Battle Stations has 3.5 million players worldwide and is now available in many languages including English, Chinese and French.

Mr Thomas Lim, MDA's director for interactive media and games, said the agency is trying to promote home-grown games to gamers here through public events, like cybergaming tournaments, under a new initiative called Games2Gamers.

The MDA is also looking at how to take this concept to promote the games at consumer events overseas, and even to foreign game publishers and businesses, he said.



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