Is mobile game outsourcing a sensible solution for a business? And what kind of businesses should try building mobile games (besides gaming companies, obviously)? To answer this and some other questions, we prepared this article in collaboration with Mind Studios’s game development department.
Here are some numbers.
According to Statista, the revenue for the mobile game market by 2027 is forecasted to amount to $376.70 billion, growing at a CAGR of 7.08% from 2023 to 2027. Another interesting statistic from the same report says that user penetration for mobile games is already at 25.1% — that’s a quarter of all mobile users. And it’s growing too.
What kinds of businesses engage in game development outsourcing?
The obvious answer to this question is “gaming businesses” — it’s not much of a secret that many a big gaming company would hire third parties for small tasks of lesser importance or to cover specific needs.
In many cases, an outside workforce is hired for artsy tasks like character or background design. Outsourcing is also a popular choice for testing and porting (transforming games for other platforms). But there are more use cases for game development outsourcing.
- Individual entrepreneurs. These are people who have a personal business already and building a game is more of a pet project, a dream they want to realize, a self-expression of sorts. The game they wish to build might or might not be related to their business. Of course, it doesn’t mean it’s just throwing away money for fun — an entrepreneur will have a goal of earning a revenue with this new endeavor, which is why game economics are of huge importance here.
- Established companies. This type of game outsourcing clients aim to build games that are an extension of their existing business. It might be for external or internal use — to attract and engage more customers, to teach their audience to use their main product, or to help their employees with their work, especially things like onboarding.
- Game development companies. As we’ve mentioned above, gaming companies often outsource some tasks to other companies. Another case in this type is when a company wants to expand into a new niche where they have less expertise but aren’t ready to hire more full-time employees. Finally, there’s also a case of a gaming company planning to launch more games and needing extra staff fast. After all, hiring in-house developers is a time-consuming process.
- NFT creators. This is a new type of clients we’ve encountered. Web3 aficionados — individuals and companies — who launched their own NFTs and want to build a game for their brand for utility purposes: they will integrate said NFTs into the game. These people are not necessarily well-versed in games (development-wise or even playing) and therefore hiring an in-house team might be a challenge not worth investing in. Outsourcing such game development is a better choice for them.
How mobile games are used outside gaming businesses
Mobile games have long since stopped being limited to kids and teens. These days, we see games as entertainment, yes, but they also exist for educational, promotional, and customer retention purposes. Businesses big and small invest in mobile games for internal and external use.
Some companies partner with existing popular mobile games — for example, how Starbucks partnered with Pokémon Go in 2016. Others build games of their own, like one of our clients for whom we built NanoBytes: ByteWorld, a game where people can scan QR code on the physical toys they bought from our client’s stores to add them to the game and play.
Even serious businesses like banking institutions can make use of games. For example, to educate their clients on how banking works, and to provide basic financial advice in a fun and engaging way.
Mobile games are also used internally — to onboard and educate employees, assist with digital transformation, and more.
At the same time, corporations across the globe are cutting in-house development teams despite old products still being updated and new products being released. This also happened in the game industry.
More and more companies are choosing to outsource software development rather than keeping an in-house team. That goes for game development as well, especially when games aren’t the primary focus of a business. Outsourcing mobile games has enormous benefits for a business.
Benefits of outsourcing game development
Let us highlight the points we find the most important when it comes to outsourcing game development.
The biggest winning point of outsourcing game development is, without a doubt, its cost. When you’re outsourcing:
- You’re only paying for the time developers worked on your game
- You’re not paying for their equipment, work space, utilities
- You don’t provide them social benefits or pay for their vacations and sick leaves
That makes for a big chunk of spending when you have an in-house team, even a remote one.
An outsourcing development company will also stick to your budget, which will be discussed prior to development start and written into the agreement. They will provide you with reports on what your money is used on, too.
Besides, you save both time and money on the hiring process if you choose to work with an outsourcing company and not separate freelance developers.
Additionally, hiring an offshore outsourcing game company from a country with lower average wages might save you extra without loss in quality. (You just need to be extra careful when looking for such a partner.)
If your business doesn’t deal with games as its main product, you’ll need to hire a team of game developers. Even if you have an in-house team of software developers who work on your usual software, they most likely won’t be able to build a game — regular mobile apps use programming languages different from mobile games.
If your company does game development as its main business, there might be high-priority tasks you’d rather allocate your in-house team to, and tasks that can be handled by outside forces without issues. Or you might require temporary team expansion — to launch sooner or to build more titles fast.
Hiring a team of game developers will take time and will cost quite a bit of money too. Your HR and recruiting departments will need to find the right people, interview them, reach an agreement on work conditions, and provide them with a work station and equipment. Then you’ll also need to onboard new hires and let them adjust to your processes. The whole hiring thing might drag out the development of your game for a while.
On the other hand, outsourcing, especially with an established outsourcing game development company, will only require you to find a suitable partner. Their team will be already tight-knit and will have well-established processes, report systems, and communication plans. You’ll be able to start development right away, when you finalize the contract and requirements.
Access to specialized expertise
Outsourcing widens your pool of available talent to include the whole world. This means you can choose the best specialists in the exact field you require. You can narrow down the selection of companies to those who have already worked on games similar to the one you have in mind. And if you don’t find suitable specialists in your area, you can seek help from nearshore or even offshore countries.
Increased flexibility and scalability
Outsourcing game applications is inherently more flexible than having an in-house team. Game development at different stages requires different numbers and types of specialists, and it’s a repeated process. Hence, with an in-house team, you’ll need to keep your employees in the company and pay them even when there’s nothing for them to do.
With an outsourcing team, you can expand the team when it’s necessary and ramp down the number of people when you don’t need them.
No business comes without risks, it’s a universal truth. When you outsource mobile game development, you pay your partner to share the risks with you, among other things. This includes such risks as market changes and technical challenges. A good outsourcing game company will keep an eye open for any possible hiccups that might delay your game launch, and they:
- will be prepared for them thanks to the sheer amount of experience
- will eliminate obstacles on time since they most likely know the ropes already
After all, they’re bound by agreements and might face penalties for non-adherence to deadlines. No such agreements usually exist with an in-house team.
Faster time to market
Outsourcing companies partner with multiple clients, which is why they will be adhering to deadlines more strictly than in-house teams — since they most probably have a different game to build right after they finish yours. The core of outsourcing is high-quality time management, elimination of chances for delays, and streamlining of all possible processes to meet deadlines without losing quality.
With mobile games outsourcing, you can decide yourself how involved you want to be in the development process. If you want to be in constant contact with the people working on your game, you can do that. However, you also have the option to entrust your game to your chosen partners and ask for updates at specific intervals. Meanwhile, you can dedicate your own time to managing and growing your business and preparing for the game launch (e.g. launching marketing campaigns).
Outside look and enhanced creativity
Outsourcing companies usually have a more diverse pool of specialists to cater to a wider range of potential clients. Working with a mobile game development outsourcing team can bring fresh perspectives and creative solutions to the table thanks to the diverse experiences and expertise of its members.
Main risks of outsourcing game development
No collaboration model is perfect, and mobile game dev outsourcing has its own pitfalls. However, an experienced company knows how to mitigate these risks for the client.
Essentially, when you decide to outsource game development, you’re entrusting your idea to a third party. Depending on your agreement with the partnering company, it’s possible for you to get even daily updates. However, your control over the process is nevertheless somewhat limited. Keeping your finger on the pulse for every smallest detail will most likely be impossible.
Here go a variety of possible hidden hazards, from language barriers to cultural differences to creativity. In outsourcing, it’s important to find a partner who will be on the same page with you regarding all important aspects of the project.
Luckily, today, most developers speak English at a decent level at the very least, so language barriers have been diminished, if not eliminated. However, there are still differences in communication style born out of cultural as well as personal specifics.
To avoid this issue, it’s important to have a clear vision and communicate regularly from the very beginning — so that any differences become apparent before the work is done.
Sometimes, your perfect mobile game outsourcing partner is a team on the opposite side of the globe. Time difference isn’t a totally insurmountable obstacle, but it might be somewhat challenging to uphold steady communication and resolve urgent issues.
Proper planning, regular meetings, and establishing effective communication channels can help mitigate this risk.
Data safety and intellectual property protection
Basic NDAs are a must for any third-party involvement in your business, of course, but with game development, not only your internal business information might be compromised. Your game’s concept, design, and assets as in danger well. All-in-all, it might lead to significant financial and reputational losses. That’s why legally binding agreements will need to be in place when working with an outsourced team.
In-house vs. outsourcing mobile game development
To make everything above a little bit easier to grasp, here’s a short comparison table for differences between mobile game dev outsourcing and an in-house team.
Types of game application outsourcing
If you’ve decided to outsource mobile game development, you’ll have a selection of options for how and to whom you’ll trust with your game.
Option #1 — Outsourcing to a team from a game development company
The benefits of outsourcing to a company include established processes inside the company, which allows for rapid start of development, higher quality control, easier handling of NDAs, and easier communication with the help of a project manager. The team already knows each other, has most likely worked out personal specifics, and is able to operate as a well-oiled machine.
However, out of the two outsourcing options this one is more expensive if we’re comparing options from the same country and with a similar experience. That is because a company provides their employees with certain benefits, and also because a company will take upon themselves more responsibility for risk mitigation than a freelancer would.
With an outsourcing company, you can choose to delegate:
- The whole scope of development (full-cycle team)
- Part of development (to cover for lack of expertise in your in-house team or to speed up the development)
Option #2 — Working with freelance game developers
Freelancers can be found everywhere these days. They offer all kinds of services in game development, and it’s possible to find a freelancer that fits your budget as well as can handle the task.
However, managing a team of freelancers will be challenging, especially if they all live in different time zones and speak different languages / have different levels of English. Moreover, controlling their adherence to deadlines, quality, and safety of your intellectual property will be harder. Plus, you’ll need to spend time to separately find proper people for each role you need.
Hiring freelancers is a more valid option if you only need to outsource a couple separate tasks to speed up the process or cover for the lack of expertise in your in-house team with something that’s not necessary for your game constantly.
Ultimately, the choice is up to your personal circumstances and requirements.
Tips for successful game dev outsourcing
To avoid pitfalls and successfully launch your mobile game, here are some recommendations we figured out throughout the years.
Define your goals prior to contacting any developers
Having a game idea is great and all, but if yours isn’t a gaming company and you’re not building games for the sake of building games (and earning revenue from them), you need to clearly define the ‘why’ before you start investing time and money.
Is this game to attract new users, retain old ones, earn extra revenue, or for marketing purposes? Or maybe it’s a game for internal use, to train your employees?
Depending on the answer, your choice of partner and their approach to game design will differ.
Choose a partner carefully
There are a number of parameters to consider when choosing a partner to outsource mobile game development to. Among them:
- Completed projects in the same or similar niche
- How easy it is to communicate with the team (you’ll know this after the first contact or two)
- Your budget and the partner’s price tag
- Time difference with the team
Usually, we recommend narrowing down your list of potential partners to about five to ten companies and contacting each for initial consultation (it’s usually free). During this consultation, you’ll be able to get a grasp on the team’s communication style, principles, and see if they’re on the same wavelength as you. You can also ask about the technology they’d use and possible timeline and rough budget.
Establish proper communication
Whether you decide to ask for reports every day, weekly, or per development iteration, it’s important to set clear guidelines. Besides the frequency of communication, you’ll also need to decide on the most convenient way to communicate — choose a messenger, set up a preferred communication style, and decide on requirements for reports.
Sign an NDA and other agreements
Protecting your game’s and business’s data is highly important. Your game, with all its assets, is your intellectual property and shouldn’t be leaked. Besides, outsourcing software development for your business means sharing certain data with a third party, and some of that data might be sensitive. Go over your agreements carefully and make sure your business is as protected as your partner’s.
Mobile games niche is one of the most competitive ones on the software market, and multiple games in the same genre are launched daily. If your mobile game is for external use, it might end up competing with dozens of analogs. Users do not look favorably to bugs and poor user experience when there’s an alternative one tap away. Rigorous testing will allow you to avoid high bounce rates.
Mobile game development outsourcing in Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe is home to a number of game development companies, both in the field of own products and in outsourcing game development.
The benefits of outsourcing to an Eastern European company include:
- Lower prices compared to US, Western Europe, Japan
- High quality of products (Eastern Europe is known for being home turf of highly skilled developers in both regular software and game development)
- The location is most fitting for offshore collaboration (time difference is 9 hours at most with any part of the world)
- Flexibility when dealing with cultural fit
Mind Studios Games is a department of the Mind Studios outsourcing company. We’ve been developing games for a while now — both our own products and games we built for our clients.
The biggest chunk of MS Games expertise lies in idle games: we build and launch around ten idle games a year. To make this possible, our game developers created a custom engine for idle income calculation. This allows us to build idle games faster.
But that’s not all. We have top-shelf specialists in hyper-casual games, mobile PVP shooters, card games, and blockchain/NFT games. We also have 2D and 3D artists for mobile game development outsourcing.
Mobile game outsourcing is growing rapidly. And this process doesn’t show any signs of slowing down any time soon.
It’s often more cost-effective for a non-gaming business to partner with a third party to develop a mobile game that’s a supplement to the core business, not its main product. And even game development companies lean heavily towards outsourcing parts of their tasks — more often than not it’s art, but also testing, level design, and more.
Reasons for that vary as mobile game dev outsourcing offers significant benefits, from cost reduction to higher speed and faster time to market (an extremely important parameter in an industry as competitive as game development).
If you’re looking for a partner to outsource your mobile game to, hit us with your inquiry in the contact form and we’ll contact you for a free consultation. Chances are, we’re the company you were looking for all along 🙂