Havok sets sights on Japanese games market

24 Apr 2008

The Emmy-award winning Irish company Havok, which provides special-effects wizardry to top-selling video games, now has six locations worldwide, with the latest having officially opened yesterday in Japan, ‘the spiritual home of the games industry’.

This Japanese presence brings the total number of Havok employees to 100, one decade after the company began as an incubation project in Trinity College Dublin.

While Havok already works with all the big games companies like Sega, Microsoft and EA, the new offices in Tokyo provide an opportunity to connect with these companies’ Japanese headquarters. The new location has also resulted in a deal with Yukes, a firm which develops games including WWE Smackdown and D1 Grand Prix.

“Our Asian presence has gone from almost 0pc of our revenue over a year ago to about 15pc in 12 months based on the contracts that we have, which is quite significant,” said David O’Meara, managing director of Havok.

“Japan is the second-largest games market in the world and not alone is it huge but it is the home of where gaming started, if you look at the likes of Sega and Atari and hardware for consoles, which is also still largely designed there.”

The main differences between the western and eastern games market, O’Meara observed, apart from the fact it is a mature market, is the penetration of Wii consoles: “It is doing phenomenally well in Japan.”

The games market overall is rapidly changing due to the Nintendo Wii and handheld gaming in the form of the PSP and Nintendo DS: “I was in the US a few weeks ago and saw that the Wii had even been installed in retirement homes for people to play fitness games.”

Two years ago there was a natural growth in the gaming market of 10-25pc per annum but the market has accelerated beyond that now due to segments of the population gaming for the first time, O’Meara said.

This Japanese foray is all part of Havok’s natural progression, O’Meara explained, and would have happened regardless of the company being bought by Intel. However, he added that should Havok wish to accelerate its plans, such as opening an office in China, this would be aided by Intel.

Havok was bought by Intel last September for US$110m but operates as a separate, independent Irish-headquartered company, where the board has two Intel and two Havok members.

Havok, in association with Intel, will make its complete physics engine free to download by students and developers for non-commercial use from May 2008.

By Marie Boran