The Benefits and Considerations of Outsourcing in Game Development

October 30, 2023
October 30, 2023 Paul Virostek

The Benefits and Considerations of Outsourcing in Game Development

The Benefits of Outsourcing Game Development

Access to specialized skills. Scalability and flexibility. Those are some of the benefits of outsourcing. But choosing the right sound partner for your games is crucial for the outcome. “Outsourcing is like choosing a school for your children,” as one of Pole’s clients puts it.

Outsourcing services has been part of Pole´s DNA from the start. But initially, the founders – Max Lachmann, Mats Lundgren, and Bernard Löhr – weren’t even familiar with the term outsourcing. It just happened to describe part of what Pole offered.

“We never sat down and made a strategic decision to offer outsourcing. It came naturally to us since the first jobs we did in the early 2000s were set up like outsourcing, and then word got around, and the phone started ringing. The better we got at what we were doing and the more talent and experience we tied to the company, the more concrete services we could offer as an audio company. Over time, it also went from very ad hoc to structured outsourcing offerings covering several services with clear processes and deliverables,” says Max Lachmann, CEO and founder of Pole Position.

Cost savings and increased efficiency are often included as benefits of outsourcing. Max also emphasizes flexibility and scalability as significant advantages.

“For smaller game developer studios, outsourcing provides an opportunity to adjust and scope staffing according to production needs efficiently. This way, they don’t commit to staffing and office costs but still get the extra hands onboard when required,” says Max.
“Bigger studios have a larger supply of project resources but might not possess specific capabilities.

“Our expertise and experience often complement in-house knowledge. It could, for instance, be certain aspects of audio that are more complex, like vehicles or weapons. But also to provide a composer for a project or supply an audio programmer who can alleviate an in-house programmer team running at full capacity,” says Max.

Ramping up and down according to production needs

Pole’s outsourcing services are close to comprehensive in audio, stretching from field recording and sound design to music, implementation, and programming. Voice-over is seldom offered since access to satisfactory English accents is limited in Sweden. Pole staff can connect to operations as a complete audio department, taking full ownership of audio or support within specific areas where the studio lacks expertise or knowledge.

“A key benefit for our clients is our possibility to ramp up and down. We could have a programmer working 50 percent on a project for part of the production. Further down the production cycle, we could have the same programmer pitching in full-time along with a technical sound designer and two sound designers. To manage those “momentary needs” with in-house resources is much more complicated,” says Max.

Pole’s clients range from AAA studios with several hundreds of people to small start-ups with less than 20 people on the team who want high-quality audio but want to keep the core team small. Pole can supply resources working on-site but also resources working remotely, taking part in stand-ups and meetings across the globe.

“Our crew is there for one reason: to get the assigned job done with the best possible result. They are not interested in internal company politics or in making a career within the company. Furthermore, working with many different clients makes us very experienced in everything from tech to planning and execution, so we can often be a valuable team player on many levels,” says Max.

Primary factors in the decision

While outsourcing offers many benefits, it also requires careful consideration and management to ensure successful implementation and maintain quality standards.

“Choosing the right sound partner for your games is crucial for the outcome. Outsourcing is like choosing a school for your children: you always want the best that your money can buy, and the people brought in must be aligned with your vision to ensure the best results,” says David Carrasco, CEO of Vermila Studios, a boutique game studio from Madrid, Spain.

On a recent project, “Crisol: Theater of Idols,” an immersive horror action adventure in a dystopic world inspired by Spain and different cultures and religions, Vermila Studios collaborated with Pole. Pole’s industry knowledge, experience in different genres, and extensive sound catalog were primary factors in their decision to choose Pole for this project.

“Incredible sound design was a must if we wanted the project to be a success, and we knew we needed a large number of quality sounds that could transmit a dark and oppressive atmosphere, so we decided to approach Pole. They took the challenge and delivered. The results were beyond exceptional,” says David Carrasco.

He continues:

“Of course, nothing is “free”. Outsourcing sound design will require extra work to ensure that the external efforts transmit the emotions and sensations established from game design. But sound design is a field where most companies do not have internal expertise and can use the support of a trusted collaborator. This is especially true if the project has narrative qualities or a deep atmosphere, whether it is an action FPS or an adventure RPG,” says David Carrasco.

A successful collaboration

Philip Eriksson is the Audio Director at Stockholm-based Hazelight, a mid-sized studio with approximately 80 employees, and recognized for their last project, It Takes Two, which was released in 2021, and the debut game, A Way Out, from 2018.

When Philip Eriksson and his team procure outsourcing, they look for resources who can seamlessly integrate into the audio team and learn to use Hazelight’s proprietary tools.

“We do not want to have an external person providing us with only sound effects. Instead, we want them to be able to play the game and have access to everything we have at Hazelight so that they can communicate with the rest of the studio and share ideas and feedback with everyone here. This allows them to create assets and own the implementation and mix of each task,” says Philip Eriksson.

Pole sound designer Sebastian Pohle [sic!] is currently integrated with the Hazelight audio team.

“When we started looking for external help, we needed someone with seniority, someone who could get up to speed with less onboarding, and who would come with excellent skills in many areas of audio production. We saw the chance to add something to the team we did not already have, alongside providing our project with excellent sound design – and Sebastian is really doing that!” says Philip Eriksson.

Hazelight has been using Pole sound libraries for many years in their work and always adds Pole’s latest sounds to their internal sound collection. Bringing Sebastian Pohle onboard meant instant access to Pole’s extensive sound catalog.

“Knowing that Sebastian came with even more of these incredible sounds sure was a bonus! We are always looking for fresh sources to help us create new and unique soundscapes for our games, and working with Pole provides us with a lot of material. We find that Pole’s approach of giving many perspectives, variations, and unique recordings works well for use in game audio. Their sound libraries also fit our mentality at Hazelight, where we always strive to create new sounds for our players instead of relying on pre-made assets,” says Philip Eriksson.

Philip Eriksson believes there is no “one size fits all solution” regarding outsourcing. The concepts he discussed above are based on Hazelight’s needs at specific times.

“And those needs will vary with every project, team, and studio – so shape your request to your needs. Pole was very flexible and eager to find a well-working process together with us, and the experience that they have around working in many different teams and projects makes them a great help when it comes to finding the best suitable strategy together with you as a client,” says Philip Eriksson.

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