The global CG market is likely to rise at a steady 5.5% annually and become worth US$211.60 bn by 2024 according to Transparency Market Research. In this article, we share some observations on how Eastern European and, in particular, the Ukrainian CG market is evolving over the last few years. Based on Room 8 Studio growth experience as the biggest and one of the oldest independent studios in Ukraine (according to the report “Gamedev in Ukraine 2018: Market map and industry guide“), we will reveal how the evolution of local studios influences the global games industry. You will find out why outsourcing art projects to Ukrainian studios is a reasonable investment and how game developers and publishers benefit from such collaboration.
The current climate of CG in Ukraine
Creative Mindset Factor
Besides the well-known fact that the people’s mindset in Europe differs from that of Asia a lot, even inside Eastern Europe, there is a vast variety of cultural setups, for example, Poland and Hungary differ from Ukraine and Belarus much enough. Ukraine is unique in many ways — although most professionals worldwide are really hard-working people, Ukrainians don’t only work hard, they are more goal-oriented than time-based, as most of them are self-educated self-starters who evolve because of their passion. In addition, Ukraine is the second biggest country in Europe with a huge pool of art and tech talents. A large share of this market belongs to the gaming industry. Successful companies such as Wargaming, Travian Games, Silicon Studio regularly tour Ukraine in search of highly-skilled artists.
The rise of games development
Ukrainian CG market got its real boost after the rise of video games production in Eastern Europe. The industry is booming and growing exponentially and EE, and specifically Ukraine get more and more attention. Now Ukraine is the mature CG market where multiple well-established game publishers and developers have their representations, including Ubisoft, Gameloft, Wargaming, Crytek, Plarium and Playtika.
Extremely high demand for game art
Current demand for quality game art is really huge. For example, here at Room 8, Photorealistic game art is booked a couple of months ahead (and for some narrow disciplines – a year ahead). This level of demand helps studios grow fast. Room 8 Studio mostly grows organically, adding a couple of missing artists to complete a project and then finding more projects to keep them occupied. This approach lets us scale fast and at the same time accumulate expertise.
CG professional development opportunities
In addition, there are plenty of opportunities to grow as a CG artist in Ukraine. Thousands of CG schools and studios provide the highest level of schooling, including hi-end courses in AAA art creation for experienced artists. A lot of them are somehow connected to the companies in need of specific talent, forming a sort of ‘hubs’. Room 8 Studio has contracts with some of the studios where we send our lead artists to train and can invite the best alumni to work with us on AAA titles after graduation.
Trends and Predictions
From asset creation to end-to-end art support
Around five years ago Ukraine had a specific image for art creation. Most requests were to create assets by specs. Now it’s a mature market with huge accumulated expertise, the best software, tools, and pipelines. It caused the growth of trust towards Ukraine and we get more projects where we do the whole art component of the game, starting from art direction, concept art, 3D, UI, level building, in-engine integration, through animation and VFX, also covering marketing promo materials, including UA videos and playable ads. Art direction as an individual solution is also becoming common.
Overall, we observe a shift to more creative art disciplines, which is definitely good for the economy, education, and talent nurturing.
3D animation boom
We also see the rise of animation, including 3D animation. It used to be a part of full art production solution, now it is a separate discipline and booming to the extent that even subdisciplines arise, especially in demand being mocap cleanup and character setup. Animated feature films are produced in Ukraine and the number of hi-end studios is also growing, which means a huge pool of talent.
The upgrowth of Indie Game Development
The growth of indie game dev in Ukraine is massive and a lot of talented artists thrive with some indie teams to create art for new arising games. It is observed, for example, by the number and quality of games in the contests that Room 8 Studio judged in 2018 and 2019.
Why outsourcing art production to Ukrainian studios is a reasonable investment into the success of your title?
Scalability and art expertise
Ukraine is a huge and still growing IT-hub with 100+ studios, an enormous number of IT graduates each year and 20,000 people engaged in game dev industry. This dynamic landscape makes it possible for the studios to continue growth, engaging new talent and industry veterans to strengthen their competitive advantage and accumulate the expertise. One can see computer graphics made by Ukrainian artists in such games as S.T.A.L.K.E.R., Warface, Assassin’s Creed, World of Tanks — the titles known for hi-end game art. More and more publishers and developers outsource their games art production to local studios. Room 8 Studio, in particular, was blessed to contribute to such world-known franchises as Hotel Transylvania: Monsters, Call of Duty: Black Ops, GWENT, The Walking Dead, Burnout Paradise Remastered, Angry Birds, Family Guy, and more.
Co-creation without boundaries
Ukraine is only two-hour time difference and 2-hours’ flight away from most of the European capitals. This makes it easy to build a highly effective collaboration process using all convenient ways of communication, along with personal meetings, without any bounders. As for the US, some studios including Room 8 have representations in California for delivering onsite help and assist in some kind of emergency needs our partners may have. But still, the major work on the projects is done by our Ukrainian professionals. We implement partner’s feedback while they sleep working with both Americas and this approach has long proved its effectiveness.
In addition, language is not anymore a barrier to work with Ukrainian studios. Through the past decade, Ukraine made a massive shift into English speaking business environment. For example, at Room 8 Studio, 70% of all professionals speak good English and 100% of management speaks perfect English.
Invest in quality
The other important aspect in favor of choosing a studio based in Ukraine is the current tax system adopted at the state level, that allows to significantly optimize tax payments and save costs. This helps local gaming studios leave the ‘sweatshops’ approach far behind and makes it possible to pay a competitive market reward to specialists, enough to get a high-quality creative product. Studios that are set up to work with the global market, willingly spend this extra margin to engage high-end professionals to the studio and also invest in professional training and development of co-workers.
What to consider while choosing a Ukrainian studio for collaboration?
For those local studios that have already established long term partnerships with partners around the globe you, for sure, pay attention to the company image, industry rumors, and referrals. But what if the studio you are interested in has not enough reputation in the market? What’s else can help you define whether it is worth to deal with them? It is important to check if the studio has well-arranged pipelines and is set up to work with big publishers. The reality of any fast evolving market, like Ukrainian, is that sometimes the setup and processes of newly founded studios don’t keep up with their ambitions. Together with the depth of creativity and talent, you may face the problem of not existing processes and lack of strong management. To avoid receiving an archive with hundreds of assets instead of in-game integrated content, it’s better to look for an outsourcing partner with fine-tuned processes.
Take some time to explore the website of a potential partner to check the brands and companies they are working with, how many of them have two or more projects with this studio. It is not uncommon to request the documentation on processes, methodologies, pipelines and communication practices that are adopted by this particular studio. This can help choose the right partner, build transparent and fair relationships in which you can trust and let go, which ultimately results in gaining extra time to focus on the internal needs and long-term strategies while having content delivered on time and at pre-agreed cost.
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