The modern video game industry is extremely competitive, with constant pressure to deliver stellar titles on tight budgets and schedules. In this environment, game developers must leverage every strategy available to produce games efficiently without sacrificing quality. One effective but often overlooked tactic is outsourcing game art to external specialists.
Outsourcing game art offers significant cost savings compared to large internal art teams. External studios have lower fixed costs and hourly rates, especially when leveraging global talent. Work is also provided on an on-demand basis, rather than carrying full-time employees. This allows game studios to scale production up and down flexibly based on needs. Access to specialized outsourced talent in specific art disciplines that a studio may lack internally is another major benefit.
Access to Specialized Talent
Game art encompasses many disciplines – concept art, 2D art, 3D modeling, animation, VFX and more. Few studios have experts in all these areas on staff. Outsourcing provides access to a global pool of specialized talent in each genre. This talent would be difficult or impossible to hire full-time. Studios can hand-pick the best artists for each specific need.
Thanks to the global talent pool and ability to hand-pick specific skills, outsourcing enables game studios to achieve art diversity and quality difficult to attain solely in-house.
Faster Turnaround Times
In-house teams often get overwhelmed with workload during crunch times. A game art studio or partner can take on the spillover work to prevent delays. They can also be used to produce initial game art assets in the pre-production stage while the in-house team focuses on engine development and gameplay features. This parallel work reduces overall project timelines.
Game development schedules are tight, especially as launch milestones approach. Outsourcing provides several advantages in accelerating art production turnarounds, including specialization, managed schedules, overflow capacity, low overhead, etc.
One of the biggest challenges in staffing for game development is the ebb and flow of production needs across the project lifecycle. At the start, small core teams work on engine/technology development and pre-production. But as the game builds out, art needs to grow tremendously.
Project needs fluctuate during the various development phases. Outsourcing provides flexibility to scale production teams up and down as required. When extra bandwidth is needed, such as towards alpha, beta or the game’s launch, additional outsourced resources can be utilized.
Focus In-House Efforts
Outsourcing game art allows in-house teams to focus their efforts on core competencies like game design, programming and testing. It frees them up from art creation tasks. This leads to greater productivity in their areas of specialization.
By leveraging external talent for scalable art production, studios enable their in-house staff to focus on the high-value strategic and creative responsibilities that only they can perform.
Specialized outsourcing partners are experienced in delivering game art assets on schedule. They offer substitutes if a resource falls through. The risks and costs associated with hiring full-time artists that don’t work out are also avoided.
While handing off work externally does cede some control, the risks of major cost/schedule overruns, skill gaps and staff churn are also substantially reduced compared to relying solely on in-house art teams.
Latest Tools and Pipelines
Good outsource partners stay updated with the latest art software, tools and production pipelines. This knowledge transfers to projects without the developer having to invest in additional equipment or training.
Outsource partners stay on top of software like ZBrush, Substance Painter, Marvelous Designer and Blender. They actively test new photogrammetry and scanning technologies. They also develop efficient production methodologies leveraging the latest asset management systems.
Reputable outsourcing companies have standardized quality control processes to ensure art assets meet project needs. Work samples and progress reviews can be used to verify output quality matches expectations.
With the right oversight methods, studios can leverage outsourcing’s advantages while ensuring art assets consistently meet quality bars to deliver stellar gaming experiences. Fortunately, there are multiple methods to ensure outsourced art meets expectations:
- Reference Art
- Art Tests
- Milestone Reviews
- Pipeline Integration
- Encrypted Delivery
Art Outsourcing Doesn’t Mean Loss of Control
Game studios gain immense advantages by strategically leveraging external art production capacity while still retaining overall art direction internally. The keys are finding reliable long-term partners, starting with small tests, maintaining transparency and setting clear expectations. When done right, outsourcing game art allows developers to achieve more with less while still delivering AAA visuals. The result is reduced costs, faster turnarounds and more focus on the strengths of internal teams – ultimately leading to better games.
Outsourcing game art production allows developers to tap into top global talent in a cost-effective manner. With the proper vendor relationships and project governance, studios can realize enormous advantages from outsourcing art creation – reduced costs, access to specialists, quicker turnarounds and improved focus on core competencies. As competition intensifies, outsourcing game art is becoming a winning strategy for keeping budgets down without compromising on the look and feel of games.