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Tech firms in Japan flocking to S'pore

Publication Date : 10-08-2012


A Japanese firm might have cracked the problem that bedevils many mobile game developers - how to make a living when you give your product away for free.

Metaps, as the newly formed company is called, believes a virtual button on a game that leads to free upgrades, points or virtual currencies is the answer.

Clicking on the button would bring up a sponsored list of, say, mobile games. Clicking on a game would then take you to the Apple App Store or Google Play store.

"There, you can buy or download iOS or Android games. When the download takes place, the developer pays us a commission," said director and chief operating officer Choy Wai Cheong, who opened the firm's local office last week.

Metaps hopes to introduce its concept to developers of mobile apps and games in the region through seminars and workshops.

The company is part of a new wave of Japanese tech firms - focused mostly on the Internet and mobile phone businesses - that are opening offices in Singapore.

Tech giants Gree and DeNa, both social mobile gaming platforms, opened offices here a year ago, but the real momentum is coming from small start-ups.

Fun & Cool Ventures from Tokyo will be looking for a new office here next month. Chief executive Ganesan Velayathan told The Straits Times that it will be hiring 10 people, half of them engineers, by the end of this year to develop mobile apps and games.

"Singapore will be our international headquarters. We're also taking Japanese games and apps and translating them into English, Chinese and other languages so they will have a bigger group of users," he said in a telephone interview yesterday from Malaysia.

"We hope to hire 40 people in all by the end of next year. We're now testing our games in South- east Asia before we expand further."

The Japanese inflow has been so strong that a local firm, CrossCoop, was started last year to meet their needs, for instance, by supplying office space.

It has taken on 68 clients since July last year; about half of them are tech start-ups.

Most of the companies use the office facilities provided by CrossCoop for about 12 to 18 months before moving to their own space.

Founder Yasuji Seki, who had been with IE Singapore in Tokyo, told The Straits Times: "Last year's earthquake in Japan, the stagnant economy and the ageing population have made many tech companies realise that they have to go overseas for growth.

"Singapore is a good base for them, because it's safe to bring their families here and there are facilities for them such as The Japanese School."

While the weak Japanese economy is a push factor, firms cite the flexibility of engineers here as a key reason for moving.

Ganesan said getting Japanese games translated was easier as engineers fluent in a variety of languages - English, Chinese, Hindi and others - could be found more readily here than in Japan.

Wong Nian Choon, a director of mobile game firm Nubee, agreed, adding that developing English games for the global market was easier to do in Singapore.

Nubee was one of the earliest Japanese start-ups here, having opened its office in November 2010. It employs about 120 engineers, and has developed mobile games for the iPhone and Android-powered smartphones.

Standing out from the crowd is V-Cube, a 13-year-old tech company from Tokyo. It is not in the mobile or Internet business; instead, it is engaged in Web-based video conferencing.

It opened a Singapore office a year ago to develop and test the software, said director Hironori Nurishi. It has five engineers working out of CrossCoop's facility, and hopes to hire another five this year and reach 20 employees by the end of next year.

Nurishi added: "We want to be a global product. Being in Singapore gives us a chance to understand the international English-speaking business environment."


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