Tencent's new game development studio in Singapore to boost city state's role as gaming hub

A handout photo. TiMi Studio Group, developer of Call of Duty: Mobile, is setting up new game development studio in Singapore.
PHOTO: South China Morning Post

Tencent Holdings, the world’s largest video gaming company by revenue, will open its next game development studio in Singapore, which has emerged as a regional hub for game development after investments from industry giants including Ubisoft and Riot Games, according to two people with knowledge of the matter.

TiMi Studio Group, the developer behind Tencent’s biggest hits such as Honour of Kings and Call of Duty: Mobile, is setting up a new studio in Singapore, according to the people, who declined to be identified because they are not authorised to speak to the media.

It will be Tencent’s first studio in the city state and TiMi’s fourth overseas studio behind Los Angeles, Seattle and Montreal. Until now, Tencent has only had its employees in Singapore work on existing games.

That move comes in the wake of Beijing’s regulatory crackdown on Big Tech at home, which has spurred companies like Tencent and TikTok owner ByteDance to look to Singapore as a base where they can hire foreign talent to develop products for the global market.

Singapore, which attracts high-paying jobs with its low taxes and warm weather, is shaping up to be a regional hub for international video gaming giants.

Over the past two years, Tencent’s signature subsidiary Riot Games, the developer behind hit game League of Legends , has moved much of its Hong Kong team to Singapore, while French gaming giant Ubisoft has been building up Ubisoft Singapore, which contributed greatly to the company’s latest hit Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla .

The new TiMi Singapore studio has yet to be announced to the public by the Shenzhen-based gaming giant. While details regarding the new studio’s size and function remain scant, a job post listed online last month shows that it is hiring middle and senior level software engineers with experience developing AAA games, an informal classification used to describe games made with industry-leading production quality and published on consoles or PCs.

Tencent did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

TiMi Studio is said to have generated U$10 billion in revenue last year, according to a Reuters report. Honour of Kings is the most popular game in China with over 100 million daily active users last year.

The Singapore operation also aims to support TiMi’s recently established F1 studio, the Post first reported in October. It is developing a metaverse-like experience that is said to involve all the global TiMi teams.

Francois Dallaire, a game development veteran who previously worked at Ubisoft and Riot Games, was named principal technical artist for TiMi Singapore. According to his LinkedIn profile, Dallaire has been with Tencent since September.

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TiMi’s new studio coincides with Riot Games’ pivot from Hong Kong to Singapore over the past two years, according to two other people familiar with the matter, who also declined to be named.

Riot Games opened its Singapore studio last year, and many engineers from the Hong Kong office have relocated to the city state since, according to the people. Riot Games initially planned to stop hiring engineers in Hong Kong to pave the way for its Singapore studio, but in the end opted to keep part of the team in Hong Kong, the people said.

However, Singapore’s burgeoning game development industry has also sparked major controversy in recent months. In August, Singapore’s national employment watchdog, the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP), launched a probe into Ubisoft Singapore after media reports claimed sexual harassment and racial discrimination at the company.

Outside video games, Chinese tech companies including ByteDance have been building up product development resources in Singapore.

Besides naming a Singaporean businessman, 39-year-old Shou Zi Chew, as chief executive of TikTok in August, ByteDance has directed its developers in Singapore to make apps tailored for Southeast Asian customers.

Last month, ByteDance launched a seller’s app for TikTok so merchants can manage their digital stores.

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.

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