Outsourcing Video Game Development
Outsourcing video game development has grown increasingly popular in the last few years. Video games have become more comprehensive and detailed with every passing generation. With that growth, players’ expectations are only increasing. It can be challenging for a developer to meet these expectations without rapidly expanding their company or taking risks. This is where external development studios come in. Many top developers hire external development teams to help lighten the load and provide skilled assistance when running low on resources or needing expertise knowledge outside of their employee base.
Video game outsourcing studios, also known as Xdev studios, are specifically created to collaborate with and complement already established developers. These studios often specialize in niche areas of video game development like UX/UI design at Sprung Studios or motion capture at Centroid. To shine some light on this growing sector, we have compiled a shortlist of the top benefits game developers receive when collaborating with external development studios.
One of the significant benefits of cooperating with an outsourced video game development studio is the overall flexibility they give to a project. In last year’s external development summit (XDS) insights report, the ability to ramp up and down on a project was one of the primary reasons developers sought out external development studios.
Video game development isn’t always straightforward, with changing deadlines and additional features. Hiring an Xdev studio can help developers meet these deadlines by bridging gaps and supporting the more demanding parts of a project. After the deadline is reached, they can choose to ramp down the amount of assistance they need or stop it altogether. This flexibility is one of the key advantages of hiring an Xdev studio; they adapt to the increased scope of a project and stay on as long as required.
Outsourcing video game development can also assist in the unfortunate event that critical team members from a developer leave midway through a project. While no one can predict when this might occur, the game must be finished. More often than not, there won’t be enough time to hire replacements without the project taking a significant hit. Minimizing the risk by utilizing an Xdev studio can save a title from unnecessary delays and keep the project moving forward.
Some of the more established external development studios often have locations worldwide, allowing for what is known as ‘follow the sun development.’ Studios with locations in different time zones can work on a project almost continuously, with a development team from one studio collaborating with the other as the day progresses. This collaboration leads to development taking place almost constantly throughout 24hrs, resulting in more efficient use of time and resources.
Ease of adoption is also a factor when considering working with an outsourced video game development studio. The first time working with an Xdev studio can be intimidating for a development team, but as the project progresses, teams begin to gel together and become more streamlined. Working with the same studio in the future becomes more natural as the familiarity and workflows from previous collaborations transition into future projects. With talent retention being a common issue within the games industry, being able to consistently work with a team you know and trust will offer reassurance and help ensure regular high-quality deliverables.
Another advantage of outsourcing video game development is how cost-effective it can be for both time and money. While some developers get sticker-shock when they see the upfront cost of working with an Xdev studio, they often underestimate the time and cost to complete the work required with the resources they have.
When a project’s scope begins to bloat or deadlines are moved forward, a developer’s options are to hire more full-time staff or partner up with an outsourced game development studio. Hiring new staff may seem like the cheaper option, but that is frequently not the case. The onboarding and training of new staff can be a time-consuming effort, especially if it is only for specific issues. Time will need to be considered before the recruits are creating work at an acceptable level for the team. This amount of time and effort is already a significant expense, and yet it still doesn’t factor in purchasing new hardware and software subscriptions needed for the incoming staff.
Collaborating with an Xdev studio eliminates any of the issues involved with the hiring process and further increases time savings by providing the developer with specialists who can produce work proficiently from day one. Having external staff focus primarily on one area of their specialization means their work is usually completed quicker than hiring new staff to achieve the same tasks. This time frame reduces even further when a developer works with an outsource studio that practices follow the sun development.
In the 2021 insights report by XDS, quality of work was the top factor that developers and publishers considered when selecting an outsource studio. While external development studios can have multiple departments, staff in these departments are specialized in specific fields, which facilitates high-quality deliverables. Making the most of these specializations is a core benefit of collaborating with an external development studio.
Having access to specialists that can handle particular concerns on a project enables developers to fill in the gaps and utilize various skills that may not be available in their company. These specialized professionals also bring with them fresh ideas that the developer’s team may not have considered.
In Sprung Studios’ case, we believe that some of the best ideas come from interactions between different departments. For example, when working with one of our UX/UI designers, it is not uncommon for our designers to bounce ideas off members of our user research or development teams. This teamwork provides fresh insights, leading to a more informed end-result.
External development specialists can also help a developer’s staff be more productive. If a developer uses members of their current team to take on extra duties, those employees may not be familiar with those fields. With an Xdev focusing on distinct areas of the project, the developer’s team can focus on their strengths, resulting in the project becoming more productive overall.
While outsourcing video game development is still a growing sector of the games industry, many of the world’s top developers and publishers already see the advantages. Flexibility, cost-effectiveness and specialization are just some of the benefits gained from collaborating with an external development studio.
Some developers may think that, when they choose to work with an external development studio, the project might become harder to handle and less productive. In reality, when a developer chooses to collaborate with an outsourced game development studio, they are choosing to be more efficient with their budget, time and staff.
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