Examining the role outsourcing plays in modern game development

"In many cases, outsourcing companies have grown even bigger than the clients who hire them.”
"In many cases, outsourcing companies have grown even bigger than the clients who hire them.”

- Outline’s Michael Thomsen offers a look inside one major outsourcing company

As the costs and scope of triple-A game development projects continue to rise, so does the need for outsourcing companies that can jump in and assist with certain aspects of game development.

To further look at the role outsourcing firms have played in the creation of some recent major releases, The Outline took a look at Virtuos, a major player in that field based out of China. 

The full write-up offers an insightful look at a business that normally isn’t in the spotlight, while also sharing a look at how those companies themselves have changed over the past few years.

Virtuos has had its hands in everything from Uncharted 4 to Forza Motorsport 7, with many of its more recent efforts showing up in Guerrilla Games’ Horizon Zero Dawn. Sixty-five Virtuos employees spent over two years working on enemy robots and bandit settlements to populate Horizon’s overgrown, post-apocalyptic world but it was only one of 18 total outsourcing firms that worked on the game.

Virtuos has 1,300 employees in total, though that number is split between 10 different offices in eight countries. For comparison, Outline notes that Guerrilla Games itself has about 270 employees. Studies cited in the story point out that outsourcing companies have seen significant growth in the past decade and a half. 

In 2001, outsourcing companies were so small they were difficult to measure but, by 2006 40 percent of game studios were using outsourcing companies. By 2008, another study found that 86 percent of major studios polled were using external developers.

Gilles Langourieux, the founder of Virtuos, explains to The Outline that outsourcing companies have grown to become more than existing ‘asset farm’ stereotypes some might make them out to be.

“I think ‘external development’ is more respectful of the work that actually gets done by our people here,” Langourieux explains. “To me, ‘outsourcing’ evokes something which is commoditized, trivial to do, easy to do, so you find locals to do it cheap and fast.”

The Outline’s full look at Virtuos is well worth checking out. The story itself talks with a number of developers that have been working with the company for some time and explores the work done on the day-to-day.

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