When the global pandemic put the whole world on pause, gaming saw buy-in at an unprecedented rate: In the US, 1 out of 2 Americans picked up a controller (or keyboard!) during the pandemic. While revenue from gaming might have ever-so-slightly decreased in 2022 from record 2021 levels (logically, given eased COVID restrictions and suspensions in sales to Russia), the industry is still poised to grow 40 percent from 2022 to 2027.

For companies seeking expert game development services that’s good news, as new opportunities have allowed quality firms to prove their worth. But that good news doesn’t mean that the industry as a whole is immune from worsening economic forecasts. Scrappy indie developers and AAA gaming studios alike are relying on game development outsourcing firms for the artistic and engineering talent they need to keep their production lines moving.

Benefits of outsourced game development

Studios face challenges at every phase of development: meeting key deadlines, finding the right talent for their game's engine, and creating the thousands of art assets that today’s games require. By sourcing external artists and engineers, studios of any size can eliminate some of the most common development headaches.

Fast scale-up

The gaming industry has a famous (some might say infamous) reputation for razor-sharp deadlines that come up fast. Ambitious producers can sometimes over-promise (even to themselves), and often find that a time-sensitive task is bigger or creeping up faster than they anticipated. Outsourcing firms specialize in providing developers who have the talent and — just as important — agility to swoop in and help a project hit those make-or-break milestones.

Cost-effective development

A great in-house team is a valuable asset for any studio, but games require more engineers to build than maintain — meaning that a full-time development-level staff is often more than a studio needs. Lean operations hire in-house to match their steady-state engineering needs and augment their core team with outside coders and artists when development demands exceed the in-house team’s bandwidth. The result is a flexible staff of full-timers and “day-players” who can deliver the goods without blowing budgets.

Fit for any business

Outsourcing is sometimes perceived as something only name-brand corporate studios can afford. But if anything, newer startups and small companies receive more value from outsourcing than the big players. Eliminating the HR/onboarding processes a new in-house hire requires saves time and effort — both precious commodities for first-timers and small-scale companies.

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Play your way: Finding the model that works for you

There are myriad ways to get a game to launch; each path poses challenges. Fortunately, outsourcing firms are geared towards providing tiered or tailored services to address a client’s specific needs.

Specialized expertise

Sometimes all you need to fire up your game are just a few more people fluent in Unreal (or Unity, or XML, Python, or Lua). Should you think that outsourcing firms only deal in large “orders” of engineers, rest assured that most qualified vendors don’t deal in minimums. An outsourcing firm will work with you to select and deliver the right number of developers for your project — even as few as two or four — giving you just the additional coding muscle you need for as long as you need it.

Co-development

Co-development is especially beneficial when your existing team possesses technical expertise but not the experience necessary to both oversee and execute operations on its own. If you’re building out a team for an upcoming project or enhancing the staff for a project in progress, co-development provides a modular solution to meet talent needs. Outsourcing firms will work with you to roadmap a workflow plan that puts specialists where they’ll be the most help at every stage of development.

Art outsourcing

Even the simplest of games can comprise thousands of art assets — 3D animation, texturing, rigging, environmental effects . . . not to mention optimized UX and UI. It can get a little overwhelming. The good news: Qualified outsourcing firms have art outsourcing down to a science. The right game-dev supplier will not only deliver skilled coders, they’ll ensure that your game-defining aesthetic gets the time, care, and creativity it deserves.

VR development

As code-intensive Virtual Reality development continues its expansion into mainstream gaming, demands on developers' time, resources, and skills will only increase. The right outsourcing firm can augment your VR competencies or supply you with an entire dedicated VR team.

Full-cycle development

With end-to-end service, your team provides your game concept, storyboards, and pre-production elements to an externally sourced team — and the external team brings your game to life. “Full-cycle” means just that: art design, sound, QA. If it goes in your game, the external team is responsible for getting it there. Full-cycle development not only takes your game from ideation to product release. If you choose, it can also provide patching, updates, and recurring maintenance. This model is ideal for companies that want a game to be supplementary to their core business but lack the necessary game development resources.

Choose your character: Evaluating outsourcing firms

Building a game can sometimes seem more fraught with challenges than the game itself. One of the biggest is also one of the most basic: knowing how to choose a qualified outsourcing firm that’s right for you.

Here are pro tips on finding the right firm.

  • Start your search by looking at projects that candidate firms have worked on already. When blockchain game dev VerseX started looking for a dev partner, naturally they were on the hunt for one with a strong background in blockchain dev. A custom software company’s past work will indicate what you can expect in terms of quality, and inform your follow-up questions if you choose to interview a representative (e.g., “How do you onboard remote engineers?”)
  • Ask what specific role(s) the candidate firm played in the development process of past games. For instance, if the game has gorgeous visual assets but bombs everywhere else, you want to know whether the firm was involved in developing the game's majestic artwork or its painful gameplay.
  • Don’t be shy about discussing the budgets and schedules of the dev company’s past projects. You don’t necessarily need a specific price tag; even a budget range is helpful to know. Also ask whether there was any difference between the original project delivery date and its eventual release.
  • Find out if the project served up any unexpected roadblocks, and what the candidate firm did to adjust on the fly. Knowing if an outsourcing firm can resolve challenges with a reliable methodology is vital, and can give you a sense of whether the firm has the necessary grit to overcome any hurdles that your project might encounter.
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VerseX - We’ve helped VerseX Studios define the game in full while advising that it’s developed in distinct phases. Rather than try to create everything at once, VerseX Studios are on track to release a minimum viable product (MVP) and will keep interest levels up by adding the features we’ve defined with them over time.

Read more about our work with Versex

    Outsourcing game development isn’t just for the big fish. Smaller firms can take advantage of its benefits without radically altering their budgets or timelines. With the right outsourced team in place, any studio can get out of the lobby and into the match at a speed-run pace.