Mobile game development outsourcing: What you need to know

Outsourcing mobile game development

Gaming, to the uninitiated, may seem like an industry that is all about play and hardly any work. The truth, however, couldn’t be farther from it. Being part of the gaming industry is serious work. In fact, mobile gaming is touted to expand the traditional periphery of the gaming industry in ways not expected.

According to Tim Merel, the MD of Digi-Capital a game investment bank, mobile gaming is predicted to give the gaming industry a revenue boost to the tune of $100 billion by 2017.Asia is becoming a major contender in driving the global mobile gaming revenue. Together with Europe, Asia is believed to command 80% of the global revenue.

In 2013, gaming accounted for 23% of mobile app use and 67% of tablet usage. Also, 72% of mobile app revenue and 40% of mobile app downloads were attributed to gaming. Given this growth frenzy, it is only natural for entrepreneurs and businesses to take the plunge. But what happens when the skill to develop games isn’t available in-house? How does one outsource something as complex and crucial as game development to an external team with efficient results?

Game development outsourcing needs a radically different approach compared to outsourcing other processes. To begin with, one needs to understand the nuances of game development to truly be aware of the complexities involved.

What:
First of all, not all stages of the game development process can be outsourced. In game development the stages typically are concept development, pre-production, production, testing and distribution.  Historically, the conceptualization and distribution stages are better not outsourced. On the other hand, pre-production, production and testing phases have a higher possibility of being executed well when outsourced.

Where:
Secondly, outsourcing game development is more dependent on skills and capability than any other process. Not all development teams are equally proficient at every component or stage. For instance, the Phillipines would probably be able to utilize available talent to work on storyboards, character development and artwork. Similarly, Eastern European countries might be better at complicated processes such as motion capture.

Type:
Your approach to game development outsourcing also depends on the kind of game you have in mind. PC or casual online games require smaller teams (say 10-20 members) and also involve lower costs of production. On the other hand, massively multiplayer online role-playing games or first-person shooter games need much larger teams (usually in hundereds), involve greater costs and need a couple of years at the very least to complete.

Who:
Picking the right team also means that the client has to see eye-to-eye with them in issues regarding development. Creative affinity with the client is absolutely crucial. More than any other outsourced process, game development desperately requires a solid rapport between the client and the game development team to bring to fruition what was conceptualized.

How much:
This one is common to anything outsourced. Development costs will largely be dependent on how many components you are outsourcing (parts of it or end-to-end development), where you are outsourcing to and what the nature of your game is. As always, you have to walk the tightrope between sticking to your budget and getting quality work done.

Apart from these considerations, there are a few pointers that you should follow when outsourcing game development. Among them, the most important may just be the Game Design Document. This is the founding document on which the entire game is built. Simply put, it is an explanation from the client to the development team dealing with what is expected of the game. It describes the functionality of the game in as much detail as possible. This greatly reduces the guesswork and margin of error.

It is also good to have some kind of basic knowledge of game development so that the development team doesn’t have to spend time coaching you and there is a greater chance of the game meeting your expectations. Also dividing the entire exercise into smaller, manageable chunks will give you better idea of the progress.

While outsourcing game development isn’t an impossible task, it does require some know-how and attention to detail. In this case, ignorance is certainly not bliss.

 

Image courtesy:
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Badudoy

 

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