Outsourcing: the future of the game industry

Outsourcing has been on developers’ lips for the past several years.  In 2005, Amritt Ventures reported 78% of developers intended to increase outsourcing in the future.  By 2006, Screen Digest estimated that nearly 60% of developers outsourced production, with the percentage expected to rise to 90% by 2009.  Clearly, outsourcing is here to stay.  The challenge ahead is not so much whether there should be outsourcing, but how to go about it so that the drawbacks don’t outweigh the benefits.

What are these benefits?  Cost savings of not having to pay a full-time staff; the need for speed; flexibility of resources; and access to skills not available in-house, just to name a few.  In addition, skill specialization by both developer and outsourcer can lead to a higher value product overall. 

Despite years of outsourcing, the game industry still struggles with many of the drawbacks of outsourcing, often plagued by poor communication.   We explored five outsourcing mistakes as recently as last week.  Despite concerns about quality or finances, “the real costs of outsourcing are often below the line,” said Rick Gibson of Screen Digest.  “This is forcing the industry to undergo a fundamental shift towards stronger project management skills, which have been lacking in many organizations.”

The game industry has taken strides in learning the unique skills of managing outsourcing.  Art has lead the way, as nearly 81% of 2005 study respondents elected to outsource art.  GDC China 2007 focused heavily on art outsourcing.  But to what extent can the lessons learned in art be applied to outsourcing in other areas, such as music or writing and design?  And what lessons have we, as writers, learned that can improve outsourcing partnerships for artists, musicians, and producers alike?  We’ve only yet scratched the surface.

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Filed under Game Industry, Outsourcing

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