Outsource game development or Gaming Process Outsourcing (GPO) is not an alien concept in the burgeoning console game development industry. The terms Gaming Process Outsourcing means outsourcing of different processes or allied activities required for the development of a game to a third party.
Gaming, which has for years captured the imagination of the younger generations, is now more than ever at the heart of the entertainment business. Popular game IP is increasingly being adapted for television, and some of the biggest games are rivalling Hollywood in terms of scale, grandeur, and revenues.
Red Dead Redemption 2, one of the most anticipated games of 2018, developed by Rockstar Games, went on to become the second-highest grossing entertainment product in history with over $725 million in worldwide retail sales in its first three days of availability. Now compare this with the paltrier $641 million (worldwide) biggest movie haul opening weekend of ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ during that very year.
Watching the end credits of popular game title, Horizon Zero Dawn, which was published by Sony Interactive Entertainment for the PlayStation 4 in early 2017, reveals that 18 different outsourcing game development companies have worked on the game. The outsourced work included character modelling and facial animation for human characters; interface design, motion capture, building models for a few robotic animals, and designing environmental assets to populate the game’s world.
China, Vietnam, and the Philippines have been pioneers in the global outsourcing game development business. Vietnam, in particular, is no longer the war-torn country from the 1960s and is giving serious competition to countries like India in outsourcing game development. A few notable gaming studios like Glass Egg, based out of Ho Chi Minh City, in southern Vietnam, have been part of producing major game titles for the likes of Microsoft and Electronic Arts.
Philippine outsourcing game development companies have also carved a niche in the console game production ecosystem. Driven by low costs, decent technical skills, and fluency in English, local gaming studios are helping global giants like Microsoft and Disney develop high-quality games without breaking the bank.
The biggest game companies of the world: Electronic Arts, Sony, and Microsoft, among others, also outsource game development work to major China-based game development studios like Virtuos. The company specializes in 3D art and designing levels. Virtuos is behind some of the biggest game titles, including Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, Forza Motorsport 7, and Far Cry 4.
However, China’s dubious reputation with regards to protection of intellectual property (IP) has been a longstanding concern for companies looking to outsource game development projects to the Red Dragon. The same applies to Vietnam, where the legal wall is not well-built and well-protected by the country’s regime.
In fact, protecting IP from the Chinese has become an industry in itself. CIPRUN Global, a Chinese subsidiary operating out of Boston’s Back Bay area is helping US firms protect their IP in China. Language and cultural barriers are another area of concern for companies outsourcing game development to China, Philippines, and Vietnam.
In sharp contrast, India comes across as a viable alternative to outsource game development with a robust IP rights enforcement infrastructure in place, which was introduced by the ruling government in 2016 as part of the National IP Policy.
A few Indian companies have emerged as pioneers in the video game art outsourcing business in the last decade-and-a-half with clients comprising of names such as Disney, Microsoft, and Sony.
According to NASSCOM, India’s video game development industry is currently valued at $890 million and accounts for roughly just 1% of global gaming industry market.
The resurgent growth in the Indian game development outsourcing industry can be largely attributed to the availability of highly proficient game developers at globally competitive prices.
What gives Indian video game outsourcing companies the edge over outsourcing game development companies in countries like China and is that India is the second largest English-speaking country in the world, and the English language, the country’s only lingua franca. The knowledge of the English language among the developers community in India makes communication with the outsourcers easier ensuring smooth workflow and timely deliverables.
Another crucial aspect that makes India a mature market in terms of business delivery is that the Indian developers are blessed with inherent cultural flexibility, which enables them to quickly absorb and engage with the people of other cultures, making them highly popular across the globe.
So Far, So Good! But Have We Really Arrived?
The biggest pitfall for the Indian outsource game development industry is that gaming still hasn’t found its way into the mainstream consciousness and there is lack of adequately trained people especially in the arena of console game development.
However, the Indian game development landscape is fast maturing. Driven by the continuous efforts from the present Indian government of introducing various initiatives under the mentorship of the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC), there is a lot of focus on skilling and developing this ecosystem.
Despite stiff competition and higher developer prices in comparison to Vietnam and the Philippines, India is fast catching up with competition. The game developers in India are gradually acquiring new skills to deliver work in sync with international console game development standards, guaranteeing a solid base for future home-grown outsource game development companies.