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We all know that video games are hi-tech complex products that require a good amount of skilled people, time and money behind them to provide a good entertainment product.
They are a risky investment, the market is crowded with many types of games, so only the ones that really tick on the target users, are the ones that can really compete and be profitable.
That makes quality, an essential factor for a successful game.
Quality doesn’t mean AAA graphics, quality means well polished and finished products that achieve their entertainment goal for the target audience.
And that is not achieved magically, it requires: good communication; correct decisions and direction; a cohesive team with high production standards; high-technical and artistic capabilities; and excellent market and game business knowledge.
Whether you are a game entrepreneur looking to create a business around a game idea, a publisher with an IP looking to create a new product, or porting your games to different platforms, or an indie studio looking for up-to-speed reinforcements to complete your project… working with the correct game development partners is key for the success of your goals.
In this post we will try to help by providing insight on what you should check and look for when choosing the perfect partner for your game development needs.
Evaluate your needs
The first thing is to understand what are your needs based on your goals and current status. Usually those are the main type of outsourcing services by your needs:
- Consultancy/Expert partner: you have an idea for a project and the financial backup to make it, but you have no idea on how to make a game nor about the game industry. So you need a game development partner to help you understand the risks of the endeavor, the cost, the steps and how it is made.
In summary, you need someone open, transparent and trustworthy, backed by experience, that will take care of the technical work, but also guide you and help to better understand the journey through your final goals.
- Special Forces: you know very well about the video game business, you are a game studio or a publisher, but you don’t have available resources to tackle a specific problem.
Port your game to a different platform; integrate Steam Workshop; create a level editor; produce fast prototyping iterations; bring your UI/UX to the next level… you name it, the list is endless. But you need a game development partner to delegate that part.
In essence you want to delegate a specific part of the project, so you need a small but compromised team that feels like an extension of your own team and is able to get up to speed really fast and deliver solid results.
- Scale content: You have a game that is already in production but you need to scale its content. You need hands to produce good quality content with a well established production pipeline that increases productivity and ensures that there is room for providing feedback and validation from your side.
Which outsource fits your needs better
Once you know what type of need you have, then it is time to filter among the available service providers out there. There are lots of them, so it’s important to understand which one will be the best fit for your needs.
These are the types of game development partners you might be interested on:
They are single professionals that usually have experience in the industry and offer their skills as a service. If you are sure you have found the correct one, that’s gold, try to hire him/her immediately or buy him/her with a silly amount of money. Otherwise they will eventually fly to new projects, or work on other projects.
The most complex part of building any business is having the best talent next to you.
The ability to evaluate the real commitment, personality, capability and trust of each freelancer among the vast list of freelancers available, is one of the main problems to choose this option. Another one, is that they are just a single person, so the amount of work they can do is limited.
You can hire more than one, of course, but that’s like building a house over weak soil. Even if you have the talent, what really makes the difference and what really matters is the power of the team. Their capability to coordinate and work aligned. And that’s almost a quimera with a team made of freelancers.
Freelancers are the best option if you have a small independent task or if you just need to reinforce the team with a single specialist and it’s not a critical area for your project.
- Indie Game Studios.
Many young companies or studios that want to make their own games provide services as a way of living while financing their own games.
There is a big amount of this type of companies, but fewer than freelancers, and the good thing is that they already have a team and sometimes really good talent. So they are usually able to handle different types of tasks in different areas and can scale up to some degree.
Likely you will know about them by word of mouth. The main problem is that their focus is really on their own games, and this can end up on unexpected delays, or affecting the company’s financial stability (as mixing two business models in a young company is really complex).
They are a good game development partner option instead of freelancers or when something slightly bigger is needed.
- Specialized outsourcing studios.
They are usually Midsized game studios that have a clear business model focused on providing services.
They tend to specialize in one or multiple areas like: game porting, UI/UX, Animation, Prototyping, Multiplayer games, indie productions… Their size is bigger than an indie studio, from 10 to 40 employees and they offer a really close and easy approach due to their size. They can’t handle many clients, therefore each client is valuable. Also, as they have a clear business model they offer a safe commitment with clients problems.
Main problems with this type of companies is that they are not big enough to scale massively while their price tag might be a bit more expensive than small indie studios.
They are ideal for specialized works, consultancy, as a reliable game development partner to complement your team during a full production or for scaling your team on mid-sized indie style projects.
- Mass production outsourcing studios.
These teams usually have 100+ employees across the world. They can offer a big amount of services and have top professionals in the lead positions.
Usually most of these companies focus on providing art services for mobile games, as they can easily scale and top tier direction ensure a good result. This is the most common type of outsourcing companies in the market, many of them in countries like India, Poland, Ukraine, Romania or Spain.
Those companies, due their size and business model, have a high level of rotation between their base tier employees and the relationship with clients is purely transactional, more close to a reliable provider than a business partner.
This type of outsourcing companies are good for projects that already have a project in the market and need to scale their content while keeping the quality on a moderate budget.
- AAA outsourcing studios.
Those are the more specialized studios and the ones that only few companies can afford.
If you are reading this post, this is probably not the type of outsourcing company you are looking for.
They are really expensive because they have top professionals on all their levels. Top quality is what better defines those companies. With the new game engines capabilities and democratization of game development tools.
Many small studios produce results that look amazing from unprofessional eyes, but when a publisher invests millions of dollars on a game production, those companies are the safe bet. It’s not only how they look once you play, it is how the assets are made internally. As the way they are made also affects game performance and production pipelines massively, which costs lots of money.
They usually specialize in 3D assets production, VFX and cinematics.
Search for the connection
As you can see the first step to choose the perfect outsourcing company for your project starts on analyzing your own needs. Then based on your needs, make a list of the game outsourcing service providers that fits more with them, and the size of your project scope and budget.
For that matter, you just have to know what to check on their website. First of all, the Home page, to understand their front door, how they present themselves speaks about what they have in the back.
Then check the Portfolio.
Most portfolios show projects that no one knows about and so sometimes it is difficult to evaluate what has been actually made by the team. Check if they show specific explanations about what has been made by them, links to the actual games, good quality images, tools and tech used and target platforms.
If you liked the Portfolio, then check the “About Us” page, it will help you understand a bit more about where the company comes from, the history and solvency of the company. A company with a long past and good partners is likely a trustful company. Add them to a list of the companies that generated a good feel from that analysis.
From that list, get ready to schedule a call with them where you will likely have to explain your goals, background, scope and approximate budget before receiving a quote. Then, it is just a matter of evaluating which one generates more confidence in you and which one fits more your essence.
When choosing, keep in mind that usually is more important the feel and connection you get with the representative of the company than the actual final cost. Why? Because you are going to work together on a creative project, and as told at the beginning, communication, alignment, ease to talk and understand the goals, is key.
All the previous checks on the web will also be very useful for your call with the company, as it will allow you to validate the authenticity of everything on the web.
With all that you should have a good fine tuned list of final game development partners candidates to choose from.
Choosing carefully a game outsourcing partner is really important, because there isn’t anything worse than working with the incorrect partner. So trust, connection and capability are key factors to look for.
We can’t provide a “5 steps guide” to choose the perfect one, it isn’t easy, there isn’t a magic trick, but we believe that knowing what you have to find for, is the best way to go.
We hope this is truly helpful for anyone looking for a game outsourcing partner for their projects.
If it helps you, at Brave Zebra, as a part of WildFrame Group, we are specialized on working with small-mid sized game companies and publishers with indie spirit. We have experienced from inside of an indie game like Moonlighter, so we can provide a lot of help to those types of projects.
Get in touch with us, we are easy to talk with and, if we are not a good fit, we will communicate that clearly.