Game Art Outsourcing: Your Roadmap to Success

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In recent years, Game art outsourcing has been on the rise with the huge success that the gaming industry had. Game studios especially casual and hyper casual studios wanted to create more than 3 to 10 games per year.

This meant they either hire more people or rely on outsourcing which is the cheaper less risky way of scaling game production.

Game art outsourcing of course is not all rainbows and butterflies, it has lots of challenges to it and also lots of positives.

In today’s article, I will take you through my experience managing and dealing with art outsourcing studios and let you decide in the end if it’s something you want to invest in.

Check out this list of The Best Game Art Outsourcing Companies

What Is An Art Outsource Company?

Let’s start by defining what an outsource company is, basically is a company with lots of talents that is specifically aimed at doing external projects and not internal ones.

There are different kinds of outsourcing companies:

  • Developpement outsource companies
  • Art outsource companies
  • Design outsource companies

Each one is specialized in one department and has lots of talents that caters to that medium. Though most popular outsourcing companies are art outsourcing companies, and the reason is simple, every game is heavily demanding on creating art assets which is what makes a game.

Hiring a huge art team is not only time-consuming but also costs a lot and has lots of legal complications attached to it, for example, it takes roughly 3 to 6 months to fully recruit 1 artist and onboard him/her on the project.

As mentioned below the need for a quick turnover on games does not allow any studio to wait that long to hire the best talents and bring them some time from overseas.

In addition to the time issues, legal constraints are also an issue, which entails contracts and probation that makes it hard for the companies to find work for all artists when times are down and then resort to layoffs which is never easy to do legally.

The Pros and Cons of Outsourcing Game Art

Of course, outsourcing has its negatives as well as its positives, and below I will go over some of those.

ProsCons
Quick assets turn aroundCommunications issues
Great quality Quality consistency with different artists
Less management Confidentiality issues
No need to hire any new employeesTime zone issues

How to Choose an Art Outsource Company?

Usually in a game development studio, the search for an outsource company should be started early on, and by early on I mean in pre-production.

the reason why it’s best to start that early is:

  • Finding a good outsourcing company can time some time
  • Onboarding and getting used to the work routine with them also takes some time.

The producer is the one responsible for searching and contacting outsourcing studios and along with the art director and lead artist the final prospect is chosen and onboarded.

What To Look For In A Game Art Outsource Company?

Quality of work isn’t the only metric you should be looking out for when choosing an outsourcing studio, most people fall into that trap and end up regretting it later.

From my experience here are a couple things you should keep in mind when choosing a game outsourcing studio:

  • Timezone: this often gets disregarded, but it’s very very important to be able to communicate with the art outsourcing team, have at least weekly syncs with them via video, and have daily deliverables.
  • Language: to communicate effectively make sure the outsourcing studio you choose speaks your language and understands it very well otherwise feedback will take forever and this will cost you more than you anticipated. Some studio have translators or a project manager that speaks very good English but the actual team don’t speak English, ideally, you want to communicate with the actual artists but some of those cases worked out well for me.
  • Tools of communication: Make sure the game outsourcing company has the tools of communication you have at your studio because you want them included within the art workflow, having them secluded will only result in more corrections as they don’t quite understand the project.
  • Quality: Make sure the outsourcing company has done a project with a similar style to the one you want to hire them for, and I would go one step further by making them do a test asset with the desired style just to make sure because sometimes those sites that they have is a bit overexaggerated.
  • Team Size: Scaling is of the biggest benefits of an art outsourcing company, make sure they have enough artists on board to serve your needs in case you would like to scale.

How To Onboard An Art Oursource Company?

Onboarding a game art outsourcing company has to 2 parts one is internal and one is external.

  • Internal: Make sure your art director has set up an art guide already on tools like Confluence so that the outsourcers can read through that and get up to speak quickly with art. Make sure to set up a plan that gradually gets them into the project, by starting with small assets first and then slowly progressing to bigger ones.
  • External: Set up an introductory meeting with all of the art team, introduce each and everyone, and try to make them feel like they are part of your team and not just an external machine that produces assets.

How To Work With A Game Art Outsource Company?

Usually, game art outsourcing companies are always resorted to when a game goes live, the reason is in live ops the demand for new assets increases a lot as the game tries to introduce events and tries to make the player session longer.

After onboarding the art outsourcing company there should be a set pipeline on how to work with them, meaning there should be only one person giving feedback to them, as art is subjective and things could spiral to an endless path of opinions.

in terms of tracking tasks, creating a Trello board and adding them to it so the art director and project manager can keep track of tasks and give feedback in one place would be ideal.

Game Art Outsourcing FAQ

 Can I outsource only a part of the art production?

Yes for sure sometimes you have a very strong character art team but you don’t have strong environment artists on board that could produce assets within the timeframe needed, then you can simply send over any environment work to the outsourcers and concentrate the internal team efforts on characters.

How can I ensure the confidentiality of the art assets when outsourcing?

Make sure you have the outsourcing team sign an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) early on so you can onboard them and not run into any legal issues.

Make sure you specify in that NDA what could be shared online and when and how that would be possible.

Can I outsource game art to multiple studios at the same time?

Yes, you probably won’t find a game art outsourcing company that is strong in all aspects of the art pipeline, from characters to environments to props, to UI to VFX. So you might end up with for example an outsource studio for UI and another for assets creation and another for VFX and that is totally fine.

How can I make sure that the outsourcing company delivers on time?

Be clear on expectations early on, this also ties in with the team size of the game art outsourcing you go for, this is why if you have very high deadlines make sure you choose a studio with a large enough team size and also make sure you share those deadlines with them early on so you can be on the same page.

Conclusion

Choosing a game art outsourcing studio is an important step to make for any game production studio, better to start as early as possible to avoid being cornered in time later on in production.

It’s always a good idea to have at least 1 outsourcer onboard in case there is a need for more assets or a sudden change in art direction happens.