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The pros and cons of modern game development outsourcing

The gaming industry is on the rise today, on all platforms, in all segments. It means that the need for original high-quality projects is immense. Unfortunately, not all game developers and publishers can produce enough content for their titles to keep up with tight schedules. This is where game development outsourcing comes to save the day. But is it really a magical instrument that solves all development problems, or does it have hidden flaws? Let’s find out!

Game development outsourcing: a smart tool, necessity, or the choice of the lazy?

Today outsourcing has proved its efficiency across various industries, including game development. A proper and carefully planned approach allows big studios to create more content, meet strict deadlines without crunches, and sometimes save a big buck. However, don’t think of game development outsourcing as a magic wand that will solve all your problems at once. It comes with certain pitfalls and difficulties, but it should not be a big issue if you manage to control them or plan ahead. So let us talk about this service in detail, discover its pros and cons, and take a look at the current situation on the market.

Why do companies rely on game development outsourcing?

Like any other sophisticated job, game development can be divided into portions and segments with different goals for each one. When all parts are complete, you can combine them into one fully functioning piece.

So why not outsource some of the “minor parts” to a reliable partner and keep your designers and programmers on the main elements? Of course, your in-house teams should always prioritize core game design features and their implementation, while repetitive tasks with lower significance can be delegated to a trusted contractor. Many big companies prefer to use flexible business models, which rely on project-based recruiting. So when they need more hands in the project to keep up with the schedule, they invite an extra workforce that carries out certain activities independently.

Smaller game development studios don’t need tons of specialists to support their project after its release. They might need a hundred guys for the development, but when the job is done, maybe two or three dozens will be enough for maintenance routines. Therefore, the most logical solution in such a scenario would be to outsource most of the work instead of hiring extras to work in your company on a regular basis. Needless to remind you, that recruiting and adaptation also takes time. Outsourcing neutralizes these two problems at once.

Some companies are not afraid to outsource almost every single component of their games. This includes game design outsourcing, making 3D/2D assets, composing an original soundtrack, writing code, etc. Obviously, this approach requires plenty of adequate contractors and excessive amounts of money to throw at them. But hey, if you got a super-successful campaign on Kickstarter (something like Star Citizen maybe?) or your previous title yielded you millions, then why not? For example, to make Hail to the Chimp, its developers, Wideload Games, requested the help of 15-20 20 third-party companies.

Outsourcing of game development: current situation

Right now gaming industry is standing at a crossroads and patiently waiting to take the next big turn. New technologies emerge, innovative platforms appear, players’ wants and needs cannot be predicted, and on top of that, the world still suffers from the coronavirus pandemic. This puts game developers under heavy pressure and presents them with more challenges than ever while still asking for high-quality content to be produced.

According to Newzoo’s Global Games Market report (2021), among all gaming niches, the mobile segment is growing strong even after increased security measures and new policies by governments across the globe. By the end of this year, mobile game revenues are expected to hit $90.7 billion. And in 2024, it is going to exceed $116 billion. Furthermore, with the addition of PC and console gamers, the global game market is expected to hit $175.8 billion and beat the $200 billion mark by the end of 2024.

With the constantly growing number of gamers worldwide, such numbers should not be surprising after all. Naturally, this means that the demand for original titles will grow, which leads us to a logical conclusion that in such a thriving atmosphere, outsourcing games will be the way to go for many companies as well as new investors that are looking for lucrative fields.

Advantages of game development outsourcing

With all the strategy and planning involved in the process, it is vital to understand what benefits your current project can get from outsourcing. The final decision to delegate your entire project development (or its parts) shouldn’t be taken in a rush. So, before wasting time and resources, take a break to weigh all the advantages and decide whether it is really worth it or not. To make it easier for you, we formed a list of the most important things to consider.

Benefit #1: everything is on time
Every game development company knows how hard it can be to keep up with the schedule. If the promised features are not ready, you must delay the game’s release or face the consequences. It is also possible to force the whole team into daily crunches that will eventually cause burning out and may result in poor product quality. Outsourcing some parts of the job to a fresh external team might save the day, though. They can create small missing pieces of content or make adjustments to already existing ones. Of course, you will be paying some extra for that, but it will be worth every penny if your title gets a smooth release on time!

Benefit #2: more variability and more content
Seasoned game developers usually have a beefy portfolio of titles that borrow some ideas from each other. It happens because all those projects are done by the same game designers, writers, and artists. So choosing the option of game development outsourcing may bring more uniqueness to the next title without putting too much pressure on the in-house creative department. External developers can suggest a variety of new ideas for every aspect of the game or even create a new IP from scratch according to your vision. On top of that, the more talents you have on board, the more original content you will have in the end.

Benefit #3: better flexibility and specific expertise
Arguably, game developers must possess two vital skills that are in high demand no matter what – expertise and creativity. For example, specialists at Argentics have very specific sets of skills and have experience of working in very narrow niches. Recruiting them for a period to do a certain job would be more effective cost-wise than recruiting a new in-house team for one time job. We genuinely believe that concluding a project-based contract with a games development company is the best way to go in most cases. Depending on the size of your project, they can lend you one or two experts or provide you with a whole team on demand. And when the job is done, you are not paying even a cent more. Win-win for all.

Benefit #4: minimizing risks
The process of game development has a number of risks associated with it. Forcing your in-house teams to keep up with the project development strategy by crunching or switching coders or artists midgame may negatively affect the process. Instead of internal scheming, go for outsourcing as it solves such problems effortlessly. This way, your personnel won’t feel too much stress and won’t lose that “fun factor” that keeps them motivated during development.

Benefit #5: reducing costs
Apart from expanding your in-house team, game development outsourcing also relieves you from dealing with overhead costs. Overheads can be extremely expensive at times – in addition to the salary of your developers, you have to buy hardware and software, pay office rent and social benefits, supply various consumables, and so on. With outsourced workers, you can forget about such financial burdens and only pay for their time.

A basic algorithm for game design outsourcing

Some people think that arranging contracts with third-party companies is a piece of cake. We pay you X amount of money, and you do this and this for us. In an ideal world, it can be so, but there are always loads of nuances, difficulties, and miscommunications in our reality. When outsourcing games, you should follow a simple plan with a few key steps to minimize possible negative impacts.

Stage 0: defining the project’s scope
Everything starts with an idea of the future project. The easy part is to describe what it will be about. The hard one – determine how massive you want it to be. Without enough game development expertise, it is practically impossible to analyze and factor in all the nuances. However, you can always outsource this task to professionals. Proper comprehensive consultation, in the beginning, might save you from unexpected troubles later on. When you know from the start that your dream project is too complex and massive, then it would be wise to outsource it entirely to seasoned developers.

Stage 1: preparation and forming budgets
Obviously, you cannot start game design outsourcing without price estimates and determining how much money you are willing to pay for the job. Companies usually form budgets for their projects long beforehand, taking into account the need to outsource some parts of the game. In addition to that, managers must be sure that their partners have enough human resources to do everything in a timely manner. The easiest and the most troubleless method would be to outsource the entire project to one dedicated team of specialists that will cover all your needs.

Stage 2: finding potential partners
The market is full of companies that practically live for outsourcing games. The game development industry is thriving, so finding potential partners won’t be a problem for you. Many established contractors have portfolios and feedback from previous clients. They will help you to separate good studios from bad ones. You can always start with a project consultation to check the capabilities of your future partners. If they leave a good impression from the start, then you already have a platform to build on.

Stage 3: choosing the right partner
Before picking a games development company that will work on your project, create a table with all pros and cons of potential contractors selected on the second stage. This process should also include the examination of their portfolios, negotiations, and figuring out how much experience your future partners have in the required field.

Stage 4: setting goals and discussing tasks
Before delegating tasks to others, you need to form a full list of them, mark their priority, write detailed descriptions, and provide all required documentation. Only then should you continue with setting long-going goals that must be achieved. If you want to outsource everything, then you need to plan in advance in cooperation with your partners and form a development cycle schedule.
At this stage, you also need to approve conditions for the delivery and acceptance of the intermediate and final results. With clear and transparent rules, both parties will be able to act accordingly to the mutual plan guaranteeing the expected outcome. In addition, knowing standard cooperation methods helps avoid unnecessary actions (changes, fixes, etc.), thus saving money.

Stage 5: work in progress
Working with a renowned games development company following the previously defined rules should be a breeze. Expect minimum fixes without any need for constant intervention and control and maybe a few other bumps along the road that you might not even notice. Equal partners understand each other well, which allows them to evaluate work progress and make mindful decisions regarding all bottlenecks.
In the end, both sides will receive what they want and agree upon. The client will have the finished product (or part of it) prepared for testing and the following release. The contractor will receive a monetary reward for the services.

Final thoughts

Today the outsourcing development market is constantly evolving. It matures, grows bigger with each passing year. More publishers and game creators see potential in outsourcing games. In addition to them, plenty of investors outside of the gaming industry show interest in making their games. Such an endeavor requires skilled developers, marketers, and consultants to serve as a bridge into the world of game development. Argentics could be that bridge for you and provide all the expertise you need to create your own project.

If you still have doubts about these techniques questioning their productivity or ability to handle development procedures, then you should talk with our experts. Argentics is always on your side and ready to provide high-quality services for character modeling, environment drawing, game design, and more. At the end of the day, it all comes down to choosing a qualified games development company to work with!
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