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Globalizing Production for the Future
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Globalizing Production for the Future

September 23, 2009 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 6 Next

Reasons to Globalize Production

Every team, company and project will have different reasons to want to globalize their production model. Some of the reasons to consider globalizing your production pipeline include:

  • Reduce and control costs.
  • Use the best talent for the job.
  • Reduce hiring and internal staffing costs.
  • Not have to retain talent in between projects.
  • Be able to bring on more talent for a short period to meet deadlines.
  • Ability to get more work done per day (an overseas team is almost like having a second shift).
  • And many more are possible...

There is a perception with a lot of teams that any work done by someone else is inferior. So, some may argue that outsourcing really doesn't save you money. This can easily be true for projects and teams which don't understand how to manage and direct their outsourcing partners, or for teams who have chosen bad partners. For most people, however, outsourcing even their artwork is a positive experience and a huge cost savings overall.

Evaluating Globalization Costs

Globalization isn't just about saving money, even though it can save you a lot.

Many overseas teams charge less than $200 a man day, whereas a top contractor in the U.S. can charge more than $1000 a day. Not hiring someone full time also saves you other costs -- such as not having to have equipment for them, space, and benefits.

However, there is usually a huge difference in skills which also must be evaluated. For example, I have worked with many concepts artists in the game and film industry, including some world-famous artists like Syd Mead, Roger Dean, and Craig Mullins. Yes, these industry legends are very expensive, but most of the time they are worth every penny.

They are super good, very fast, very professional, highly creative, reliable, and easy to work with. An unknown artist who is more junior is usually slower, takes more revisions, and doesn't produce as high of quality in their final draft - but there are always exceptions.

So, for each project and need, just like when hiring someone full time, you need to access all aspects of them and how it will affect your project, budget and schedule, and then make a qualified decision so that you will understand the true cost and benefits of globalization.

The Reality of Global Production

There is an amazing amount of game development talent around the world.

Developing video games is a relatively new field. Even playing video games in many countries is relatively new. Countries like China, for example, still don't have the Microsoft Xbox 360, Sony PlayStation 3 or Nintendo Wii available to buy, even though they have been widely available for years.

Console game playing outside of the U.S., Europe, and Japan may have been very rare or even impossible for many people, including the people now developing games in those countries. I myself take for granted that I have been playing computer and video games for close to 30 years, whereas some designers I know in other countries have not only been making games for only a few years, they may have only been playing games for a very short time as well.

Not having as much experience in playing games isn't a problem for some developers, but is especially difficult for game designers, who often use the comparison of other games as part of their "language" which they use to relate ideas. This is often critical, especially for more theoretical design concepts and storytelling.

So, when you look at the reality of games across the world, as well as different cultural issues, difference in education, difference in experience levels both in game and software production, it is easier to understand that not everyone around the world has the same abilities. This is even true among the different companies in the U.S., let alone in other countries.

So, it is important to evaluate each team, test them, vet them and help train them to do what you want. You can't assume that just because you hire a "professional" team or company, which are truly up to the task, even if their resume looks like it. You need to go into any new relationships with open eyes, honesty and a little paranoid cynicism to be safe.

In the end, the reality is that some teams are highly creative and some aren't. Some are really great engineers and some are hacks. Some are great artists, and some are just great at reproducing others' art. You need to understand what you need, what you are capable of providing, and what they team can truly produce versus what they claim they can do. You also have to know what is really important to you and what is just content and not really critical.

Examples of Globalized Teams

Some examples of team models which are starting to use a more globalized production model include:

  • Many companies have partnered with overseas companies, open studios overseas, or set up shops in lower cost areas in order to do content production in places which are cheaper. This is most often seen as straightforward art outsourcing, where the bulk of the game is still done by a single team, with just content being outsourced.
  • A few U.S. teams have adopted a more virtual model, where their small internal team is just the top leads and managers who come up with the ideas and then hire others to implement them.
  • Several overseas companies have recently setup offices in the U.S. and hired small creative teams in the U.S. The U.S. teams are driving the design, managing the project and more. This is often done because of their lack of experience and lack of creatives who are able to design more original concepts. 

Article Start Previous Page 2 of 6 Next

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