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Average Costs for Hiring Game Art Outsource Studios

In video game development, where costs can swing from a modest $1,000 for charming 2D designs to a staggering $50,000 for complex 3D landscapes, the art of budgeting takes center stage.

As indie developers face tight budgets and large game studios plan how to best use their resources, the idea of art outsourcing becomes attractive. This strategy could either save money or lead to higher costs. Let's dive into what it costs to outsource the creation of engaging game worlds and characters. Understanding the financial aspects of hiring art outsourcing services can help developers decide where to invest their money.

Understanding Game Art Outsourcing: Who Needs It and Why?

Game art outsourcing is a strategic practice adopted by the gaming industry to access specialized talent and reduce costs. This approach allows game developers, from indie creators to major studios, to focus on core development tasks while external studios create game assets like:
  • characters;
  • weapons;
  • vehicles;
  • environments;
  • animations etc.
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Source: https://usv.edu/blog/game-design-as-a-new-art-form-for-expression/

Art outsourcing is especially beneficial for:

  1. Indie Developers: Often operating with limited budgets and personnel, indie developers can extend their capabilities without the overhead of hiring full-time artists.
  2. Large Studios: Even well-established studios outsource art to manage workload peaks, meet project deadlines, or achieve a specific art style in which their in-house team might not specialize.
  3. Startups: New companies in the gaming industry use outsourcing to hit the ground running without the immediate need for a large staff.

There are several benefits for game developers to embrace collaboration with outsourcing studios:

  1. Cost Efficiency: Reduces the need for permanent staff and the associated costs like salaries, benefits, and workspace.
  2. Flexibility: The ability to scale art production up or down based on the project's phase and needs.
  3. Specialization: Access to artists with specific skills or unique artistic styles that might not be available locally.
  4. Speed: This can significantly accelerate production timelines, helping games reach the market faster.

Ubisoft has frequently hired studios worldwide to help create the “Assassin’s Creed” series, ensuring a mix of art styles and detailed historical settings. Epic Games has teamed up with various studios to keep "Fortnite" visually fresh, allowing them to quickly release updates and new content. CD Projekt Red also outsourced much of the art for "The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt," helping them create a vast, richly detailed game world. Additionally, the character skins in the “Dota 2” shop have been outsourced to Argentics, highlighting the common practice among game developers of utilizing external artists to enhance visual diversity and meet production timelines efficiently.

Outsourcing is a smart move for game developers because it helps them save time and money while making their games look amazing. By leveraging global talent pools, developers can access specialized skills in 2D game art and 3D game art, allowing for the creation of everything from flat, stylistic sprites to rich, immersive environments. This approach streamlines development by reducing lead times and costs and enriches the game's aesthetic diversity. Whether game developers need classic 2D graphics or detailed 3D models, outsourcing gives them the freedom to achieve their vision without being limited by local resources.

The Essentials of 2D Game Art Outsourcing

2D art outsourcing involves hiring external studios or artists to create two-dimensional visuals for video games. Unlike 3D game art, which involves modeling and rendering objects in a three-dimensional space, 2D game art focuses on creating flat images with height and width but no depth. This style suits various game types:
  • platformers;
  • puzzles;
  • storytelling games;
  • trading card games;
  • retro-style projects, etc..
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The primary difference between 2D and 3D game art lies in the dimensionality.
  1. 2D art is created on a flat surface using drawing techniques like line art, coloring, and shading to give the impression of depth.
  2. 3D art is built on three axes: height, width, and depth, requiring different skills such as modeling, texturing, and lighting to create lifelike scenes and characters.

Creating 2D game art generally starts with concept sketches, which outline the visual style and key elements of the game's art. Artists then move on to create more detailed designs, refine them into final artwork, and implement them into the game. Making 2D game art might include:
  • character designs;
  • backgrounds;
  • tilesets;
  • UI elements;
  • other graphics essential to the game's visual narrative.

How to Choose 2D Game Art Outsourcing Studio

Developers typically partner with studios or freelancers specializing in 2D visuals when outsourcing. These 2d game art outsourcing services provide a range of artistic styles and techniques, allowing developers to find the perfect match for their game's aesthetic without the need for in-house artists.

Selecting the right 2D game art outsourcing studio is crucial. Developers should look for studios with the following:
  • a strong portfolio;
  • good communication practices to ensure that ideas are clearly understood and implemented.
  • positive testimonials and reviews from previous clients;
  • reliable turnaround times that fit within the game development schedule.

By teaming up with a 2D game art outsourcing studio, developers can truly elevate their games' visual charm. This collaboration makes games more captivating and visually unified and helps keep projects on track and within budget.

The Art of Realism: 3D Game Art Outsourcing

3D game art outsourcing is essential for developers who want to make their video games more realistic and immersive. This method involves collaborating with specialized studios or independent freelancers who offer 3D art services.

Creating 3D game art begins with conceptualizing designs that fit the game’s narrative and aesthetic. Using concept art as a guide, 3D modelers use software to build the object's geometry:

  • Autodesk Maya;
  • Blender;
  • 3ds Max etc.

This process involves creating a mesh, a collection of vertices, edges and faces that define the shape of the 3D form.

Once the model is complete, texturing artists apply surfaces to the models. This involves unwrapping the 3D model's mesh to lay it out flat so that textures—bitmap images or procedural textures—can be painted or generated to cover the model. Texturing adds color, pattern, and details, bringing the object to life.

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Rigging is the process of adding bones to a model and creating a skeleton that animators can manipulate. This skeleton structure allows the 3D model to move in complex and naturalistic ways. Rigging is crucial for characters but can also apply to mechanical objects requiring animation.

With the rig in place, animators can now animate the 3D models using keyframe animation or motion capture data. This stage involves:

  • defining the movement of the models over time;
  • creating the illusion of motion, such as walking, jumping, or expressive gestures for characters.

Lighting plays a crucial role in setting the mood and atmosphere of game scenes. It can make scenes look real or evoke specific feelings. Rendering is the process of turning 3D models into the final visuals seen in the game. This includes adding effects like textures, lighting, and shadows. Rendering requires robust computers and software because it is a demanding process. The final models are tested within the game environment to ensure they look as intended and interact correctly with other elements.

Professional 3D game art studios open the possibility of outsourcing for the developers so they could focus on other important aspects of game development. More often than not, 3D art outsourcing brings both a fresh perspective and high-level skills to enhance the quality of a game over what normally goes to market.

Benefits of Working with 3D Game Art Outsourcing Studio

3d art outsourcing services give game developers access to excellent artistic skills and the latest technology without the extra costs of growing their team. This approach can save a lot of money and offers the flexibility to adjust production according to project needs. Outsourcing also improves the visual quality of games, making them more attractive and engaging for players.

By outsourcing 3D game art, developers can make their games stand out in a crowded market with visually stunning and technologically advanced graphics. This strategy improves the game's look and boosts the gaming experience by creating more vibrant and immersive worlds.

Game Art Outsourcing Price: Understanding Cost Factors and Estimations

Understanding the factors influencing pricing is crucial for effectively budgeting when outsourcing game art. Here, we'll explore what affects prices and provide a comparative overview of typical costs for 2D and 3D art assets.

Art Outsourcing Estimation Process

Many factors influence the art outsourcing price, much of which hinges on the team you decide to work with. Let's explore the important factors when picking an outsourcing team for your project and understand how these choices affect the cost of their services.

  1. Complexity of Design: More intricate designs require more time and skill, increasing costs.
  2. Type of Art: 3D art typically costs more than 2D art due to the additional dimensions and details involved.
  3. Level of Detail: High-resolution textures and complex rigging for 3D models can significantly raise prices.
  4. Platform the Artwork Will Be Used on: Different platforms require specific technical considerations for game art, affecting the complexity, time, and production costs.
  5. Region of the Outsourcing Studio: Labor costs vary widely by country, affecting overall pricing.
  6. Experience of Artists: Senior artists command higher rates than junior artists.
  7. Project Duration: Tight deadlines may incur rush fees.
  8. Revisions and Feedback: More rounds of revisions can lead to higher costs.
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Source: https://daap.uc.edu/academic-programs/school-of-art/bfa-games-animation.html

The art outsourcing estimation process involves assessing the project's scope and requirements to determine a price. Typically, this process includes:

  1. Discussing the project details and objectives with the client.
  2. Evaluating the complexity and type of assets needed.
  3. Estimating the hours and resources required to complete the project.
  4. Providing a quote based on these evaluations.

When thinking about outsourcing game art, it is essential to start calculating the costs early. This helps you set clear expectations and manage your budget better.

How Much Does a 3D Character Model Cost

The 3D modeling cost can vary widely based on several factors, including the complexity of the design, the level of detail required, and the artist’s experience. Generally, 3D design charges from $300 for simpler models to $3,000 for highly detailed, professional-grade characters. These costs reflect the extensive amount of work involved in modeling, texturing, rigging, and potentially animating a character to meet the specific requirements of a game or project.

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2D Character Design Price

2D Art is generally less expensive and faster to produce, making it a cost-effective option for projects with tighter budgets or more straightforward aesthetic needs.

The 2D design price can vary based on several factors such as complexity, detail, and artist expertise. Generally, for a character card without effects, you might pay a freelancer up to $1,000. These variations in price reflect the level of artistic input and time required to bring a 2D character to life, from conceptual sketches to the final product with full color and shading.

As we've explored, the costs of hiring a game art outsourcing studio can vary greatly depending on the complexity of the assets, the level of detail required, and whether you're opting for 2D or 3D designs. If you're interested in outsourcing game art design, talking to experienced companies like Argentics can give you customized advice. This can help make sure that your ideas are turned into impressive game visuals. Whether you're just starting or looking to improve an existing project, getting help from Argentics can make your production smoother and improve your final product.
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