By Tan Jee Yee
- New studio to provide art, animation services to Sony’s global exclusive game titles
- Ultimate goal to establish Malaysia as a gaming hub, further announcements to come
They saved the big bang news for the end. At the tail end of last week’s Level Up KL Biz 2019 video game conference held November 8, the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia Malaysia announced that it is partnering with Sony Interactive Entertainment Worldwide Studios (SIE WWS) to establish the latter’s first Southeast Asia studio in Malaysia.
Predictably, Minister of Communications and Multimedia, Gobind Sing Deo hailed the development. “Malaysia will be working closely with Sony Interactive Entertainment Worldwide Studios to create more opportunities for the local and regional games industry.”
Predicting brighter days ahead for the gaming ecosystem, Gobind added: “Together, we will work to uplift creative talents in Malaysia and even establish a partnership with our local educational institutions. This is to ensure the accelerated growth of this industry in our country will be supported.”
As to what compelled SIE WWS to pick Malaysia in the first place, Jim Ryan, SIE president and chief executive officer pointed to a trifecta or reasons: “Impressive talent, a vibrant game ecosystem, and support from the government are key reasons why we have decided to take our partnership with Malaysia to the next level.”
Officially incorporated as Sony Interactive Entertainment Worldwide Studios Malaysia Sdn Bhd, the studio will be providing art and animation services as well as help develop global exclusive titles for Sony’s PlayStation platforms. That’s right, the next hot Sony PlayStation game may well be created in Malaysia. The studio is expected to open in Kuala Lumpur in 2020.
Part of an ecosystem
The SIE WWS partnership follows an earlier announcement that Larian Studios, the Belgium-based developer popular for the Divinity: Original Sin series of video games, will be opening a studio in Malaysia as part of its global expansion. Both join Bandai Namco as some of the major studios that are opening shop in the nation.
This is part of an ongoing effort by the Malaysian government, and Malaysian Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) in particular, to turn the country into a digital content hub. Over the past 20 years, the Malaysias digital creative content industry has seen the creation of 149 IP titles and US$1.838 billion (RM7.6 billion) revenue, with a global reach to over 120 countries.
Speaking to the press after the announcement, Gobind says that SIE WWS’ studio in Malaysia is part of the efforts to build a world class ecosystem that supports the gaming industry. “Gaming is to me very important and is going to form an integral part of Malaysia’s digital economy in the years to come,” he says.
The government has been reaching out to global companies to gauge their interest in coming and investing in Malaysia, as well as bringing their talent here to work with local talent. “We want to ensure we have global companies making Malaysia their first choice when it comes to making investments; to relocate or to start new studios in this region,” Gobind adds.
“Malaysia has shown that not only do we have talent, we have also built an ecosystem in terms of infrastructure – as you know, the Ministry has been giving a lot of focus on how we can expand our infrastructure. With a world class infrastructure, we now have an ecosystem that becomes attractive for industries of this nature.”
The ultimate goal, Gobind reiterates, is to establish Malaysia as a gaming hub. For this, the minister says that they will be making further announcements in a few weeks as regards to other initiatives that are being created or undertaken.
Not just games
On the type of incentives and support given to SIE WWS, the Ministry says that the company has been given incentives in terms of grants.
Gobind elaborates that different gaming companies looking to enter Malaysia have asked for different types of support, based on what they can do and how they want to contribute to the country’s gaming ecosystem as a whole.
“What we do is to reach out to them, look at their requests and discuss. Those discussions have resulted in this partnership with Sony,” the Minister says. “It’s a work in progress and there’s a lot more to be done, but I think it’s a great starting point. Sony starting here is an indication that Malaysia should be looked at seriously by the gaming industry.”
This doesn’t just stop at video games. The government is similarly looking to attract other big players in the content creation industry to the country.
Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC)’s chief executive officer Surina Shukri says: “What we’re seeing is basically a convergence of interactive media. Digital content creation is technology coming together with creativity – those two skills are what we need to succeed in the new world. We’re looking at animation, visual effects and games, and also the technology that powers them.”
Gobind concurs. “The digital economy is going to be a key area to focus on in the years to come, and those are the areas we’re definitely looking at.”