How to Outsource Mobile Game Development in 2022

Outsourcing game development means having an external contractor in the form of a studio or individual specialists contribute to the production process either by providing full-cycle development or doing specific game development tasks such as programming, 2D and 3D art, animation, VFX, VR simulation, UX/UI design, testing, etc.

If you are looking to outsource game development in any form, this article will help you navigate the game outsourcing world.

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7 Reasons to Outsource Game Development

Teams of highly-skilled developers work all over the world and offer game design outsourcing services that can save you time and money. Both big, renowned companies and small studios use this way of game production to achieve better results.

For those who are only starting off in the industry, outsourcing at least certain elements of game production might be the only way to produce a game and start building a business.

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  • It is cost-saving

Outsourcing game art production is cheaper than in-house development. The wages in the game outsourcing companies are lower, which is especially important given that you need a big experienced team of specialists to make a game.

Adding all the work hours up, as well as the cost of a software license, equipment, and office rent, the difference in production cost becomes significant.

  • It is time-saving

Time is money in any industry, technology and entertainment especially. You can scale up your team or hire a studio for a specific task, like game art. That allows you to concentrate on other areas, reduce the time of game development, cut the associated costs, and get the profit faster.

  • It is available at last-minute

You can find a contractor last minute: when it starts to look like you will miss a deadline or you have just finished working on the concept and only now know the specific services you need.

  • It provides easy access to specialized expertise.

If your new game development project demands specialists in a specific area of game art production, you do not have to hire people just for this task. You can find outsourced game development company workers who specialize in that particular area and be confident that you will get great results. No additional HR problems, which brings us to our next point.

  • You avoid hiring full-time employees

Hiring and managing full-time employees is a big and expensive responsibility that is not always cost-effective in a rapidly-changing business environment. With project-based recruiting in the outsourcing sector, you buy yourself flexibility — something that all industries are now moving towards.

  • It is ethical

Fortunately, game dev is not fast fashion. Depending on the qualification and speciality, the difference between wages of the game industry workers in Eastern Europe or South-East Asia and those in the US is not that huge. Employees in outsourcing companies make from decent to great money relative to the cost of living in their country. They work in nice offices, get health insurance and vacations, don’t worry.

  • It is a common practice

Close to 90% of game companies outsource at least some aspects of their development process. You could confidently say it is an industry-standard now.

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Outsourcing Models

To rip the many benefits outsourcing provides, it is essential to know as much as possible about how the system works. For example, as we have mentioned before, there are several different outsourcing models.

Full-cycle production is when your concept and other pre-production material are taken all the way through the process of game development for you to get a released game and even support and updates if you wish.

That is not the usual route for game companies to take as they want more involvement in the process but it can be a good fit for a company with the main focus outside of game development.

Specific task outsourcing means delegating one or several specific game development tasks to an outsourcing studio. The tasks that are outsourced the most are programming (most commonly Unity/U# and Unreal/C++) and game art (2D, 3D, animation, and VFX).

Co-development means close cooperation between a core group of a game company and an outsourced team. The two groups effectively merge into one while working on the game development project and it takes some time to establish a workflow that will allow the specialists from both sides to create a video game together.

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What suits your needs best?

Full-Cycle Outsourcing has a company develop a game from scratch for you. Get a released and continuously updated product.

Specific Task Outsourcing has a company deliver a specific part of game development (e.g. programming, game art, etc.)

Co-Development has your team work together with an outsourcing studio team.

In-House Development hires and manages your own team of full-time employees.

Since most game development companies are more interested in scaling their team as opposed to receiving a turn-key product, we will compare only three work models.

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In-House Development

✅ Pros❌ Cons
Complete control over the development processLonger production time
Hand-picked employeesHigher cost
You support the local economyRisk of not meeting deadlines
Additional time and costs associated with hiring employees, adaptation, management, etc.
Lower flexibility
Might not have professionals with specific skills needed for the project

Co-Development Outsourcing

✅ Pros❌ Cons
Lower production costsFinding the right company takes time and research
Lower production timeAdditional time for establishing a workflow and working as a team
Right specialists for the projectYou share risks with the outsourcing team
Great control over the employees
You share responsibilities with the outsourcing team
The project is enriched with the ideas of external developers

Specific Task Outsourcing (programming, game art, etc.)

✅ Pros❌ Cons
Lower production costsFinding the right vendor takes time and research
Lower production timeLesser control over the employees (but you do control the results with feedback and revisions)
Specialized team for the taskYou will need to do other parts of video game development in-house or find another outsourcing team for another task
Meeting deadlines is guaranteed
Flexible team scaling as you go
Fewer difficulties associated with hiring and managing full-time employees
A fuss-free completed part of game development ready to be integrated with other parts
The project is enriched with the ideas of external developers
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How to Outsource Mobile Game Development: a Step-by-Step Guide

1. Outline your project needs

Outline the needs of your project development, decide on which service lines you wish to outsource and what outsourcing model will work best for you.

2. Browse and research outsourcing studios

Use special platforms to browse outsourcing studios. Pay attention if:

  • the studio specializes in the area you need
  • their outsourcing model is right for you
  • the work in their portfolio is similar to the work you need for your project
  • you are satisfied with the quality of the work in their portfolio and the description of their work process
  • their clients have detailed and positive reviews about these projects
  • the studio provides other services that you might potentially use down the road

This way, you can build a long-term relationship with them.

3. Send a brief and request an estimate

Contact a few mobile game development outsource studios, ask them questions and request an estimate. Provide them with a brief and all the specifications for your video game. For example, a brief for game art should include:

  • a description of your game
  • the list of all the assets you wish to produce
  • the specific parameters of the assets
  • the art style of the assets

By doing this, you’ll be able to get an accurate estimate of how much it will cost to develop your game.

4. Discuss the project in-depth

If the initial contact was satisfactory and you are happy with a pre-estimate, discuss the work process with the game studio in-depth.

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5. Sign a contract

Sign a contract with the studio you chose. The contract should include all the aspects of the agreement:

  • game concept
  • work specification
  • key team members
  • deadlines
  • the terms of payment
  • the information on data protection

The contract should also deal with difficult situations such as when the results do not meet the requirements or when one side does not deliver what it is due.

6. Be available for providing additional information

Make sure the outsourcing team has all the information they need. Agree on the hours during which they can reach out. Make sure the relevant members of your core team are available for contact too.

7. Stay in touch and provide feedback

The best way to go through game development is with milestones. Make a schedule showing when tasks are to be delivered and ensure it works for both teams. Stay in touch with the team, provide feedback and make sure they are on track, but do not micromanage. The studio should provide you with regular updates.

8. Receive final work

Receive final work, and request revisions if necessary.

9. Pay for the work. Integrate the completed part into your project.

When you outsource mobile game development project, you need to pay for the work that has been completed. This is generally done through milestone payments. Once a milestone is reached, the developer will send you the completed work. You will then need to integrate the completed part into your project.

This can be a time-consuming and difficult process, especially if you outsourced game development to a company in a different country. However, it is important to make sure that the work is completed to your satisfaction before making the final payment.

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How to Choose the Best Outsourcing Game Development Studio

When you look at a particular full-cycle game development company, the first thing you need to do is to make sure the service line you are looking for is within their expertise. That being out of the way, look closer into their portfolio and the projects they have done in the area of your interest.

Most studios have portfolios on their websites where you can apply filters and look specifically at 2D and 3D art, animation, game character concept art, Unity/Unreal development, etc. It is a big plus if they have an in-depth description of the elements they worked on for a particular project, the challenges they encountered, and the work and collaborative game development process in general.

A lot of projects cannot be talked about in detail due to NDA. For that reason, many studios do their own arts to include in their portfolio and demonstrate their skill.

Clients’ reviews can provide valuable information too, even though only positive feedback is published on the studios’ websites. Comparing the information on the companies a studio prides itself on having worked with, the portfolio examples, the in-detail description of the elements they did for them, the reviews of that same client, and checking if it all adds up can be rather tedious.

However, this comprehensive approach will tell you if the company is trustworthy, how well its workflow is organized, and if the service line you are looking to outsource is likely to meet your standards.

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It is also a good idea to consider the scope of your project and look at how many service lines a particular outsourcing studio would potentially be able to cover. This would help you evaluate if there is a potential for further cooperation and hiring that contractor for another game task should you be satisfied with the results.

For example, RetroStyle Games studio provides 2D and 3D art and animation services, VFX, and UI/UX design. This wide range allows us to create turn-key game art ready to be integrated into the game, should the client wish to have full-cycle game art development.

When you contact the studio, pay attention to how long it takes for them to respond and how “on it” they are when answering your questions and discussing the project. Needless to say, the estimate they give you in response to your project brief should fall within your production budget, there is little work around that.

It’s all great but where do you search for outsourcing gaming companies? We have put together a comprehensive list for you.

Where to Find a Game Development Outsourcing Company

Clutch is a huge platform that helps businesses to find companies that provide professional services and have the right expertise and qualities for the project. It has a comprehensive and sophisticated rating algorithm that evaluates the company’s ‘Ability to Deliver’.

The description of a company includes:

  • Company Info (Minimum Project Size, Number of Employees, Average Hourly Rate, and Location)
  • Ability to Deliver Score that is based on
    • verified clients’ reviews
    • evaluation of the company’s clients and experience
    • market presence
  • Area of Focus in the form of percentage for different categories (Service Lines, Industry, Client Focus, Mobile Focus, etc.)

Some pages also contain portfolios. In short, it is great for game companies that are searching for outsourcing studios and it even allows you to post the details of your project to have outsourcing companies answer the call.

LinkedIn is a platform for professional networking. It also allows companies and individuals to share professional content and engage with it.

On the company page you will find useful info when looking for an outsourcing studio:

  • Company Info (Overview, Number of Employees, and Location)
  • Profiles of the Employees
  • Posts about the company’s news

It is like Facebook for businesses, so it is great for flicking through the companies and getting an overall impression.

Both Behance and Artstationare known as portfolio platforms for creators and creative studios. It is where you can directly search for the right art style and level of quality for your project since outsourcing studios use these platforms to share their portfolios. Behance allows a wider range of creative fields, whereas Artstation is focused specifically on game art and animation.

They are both used by game companies when searching for outsourcing studios, outsource game developers, and other job candidates, so it is like a much prettier and more fun version of LinkedIn designed specifically for creative industries.

Social media like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are less convenient when you are searching but valuable for seeing how the studio interacts with its clients and followers. It is also the place where you can see the companies’ updates: news and projects they have completed or are working on.

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How Much Does it Cost to Outsource Mobile Game Development?

There are so many variables in this question that it is effectively impossible to answer it. The cost will depend on multiple factors, including:

  • The outsourcing model
  • The complexity of the work
  • The number of specialists involved, their skills and experience
  • The name of the studio
  • The location of the studio
  • The timeframes of the project

The best way to find out the cost of game development outsourcing specific to your situation is to contact a few studios with a brief, ask for an estimate, and compare the results.

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How to Outsource Mobile Game Development with RetroStyle Games

RetroStyle Games is a game art outsourcing studio that prides itself in:

  • A wide range of game art service lines: 2D concept art, 3D art, animation, VFX, Unity/Unreal development, UX/UI design, and more
  • A large team of experienced specialists with extensive experience in the gaming industry
  • 100+ projects completed per year
  • Experience with full-cycle in-house game development: 80+ mln downloads with our own games
  • Met deadlines and expectations
  • Dozens of testimonials from our happy clients
  • In-depth descriptions of the projects in our portfolio
  • Full Support and update

Contact us to discuss your project and receive an estimate.

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Conclusion

Game development outsourcing is a cost-effective and time-saving solution for game companies of any size. Knowing the specific needs of your project and the work model that will be most suitable for you, as well as how to search for reliable contractors and establish relationships with them is crucial for successful outsourcing. We hope you found this article useful and are ready to find a studio that will help you realize your vision. Good luck!