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The Rise of Video Game Co-Development Over Traditional Outsourcing

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Daniel Poludyonny

Head of Game & VR Studio

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Daniel Poludyonny

Head of Game & VR Studio

Contact:

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In today’s game development scene, things are changing. Video game co-development is becoming a big deal, going beyond regular outsourcing. Now, clients want partners who can smoothly blend in with their in-house teams. It’s crucial for delivering top-notch gaming experiences, especially with the growing expectations of modern game projects.

What exactly does co-development partnership mean?

In the closing credits of your favorite video game, you might notice a myriad of names of people from all around the world. With the ambitious scope and size expected from current game titles, outsourcing additional development capacity has evolved from a useful practice to almost a requirement. 

But co development partnership means more than just outsourcing a few minor tasks like 3D asset creation or outstaffing a few developers for a month. It’s a collaborative process where external developers become integral partners, contributing creative and technical insights and participating in strategic decision-making. Most such co-developers have already shipped hundreds of projects and offer not only specialized game development services but also a deep understanding of effective project management. This dynamic approach ensures a polished end product crafted through a seamless blend of internal and external expertise.

Why co development is taking over

As the gaming landscape evolves, so do the strategies employed by AAA studios. The sheer scale of modern big-budget games necessitates collaboration with major partners possessing specialized expertise in game development services and flexible development work. However, micro-managing a dozen outsourcing vendors can be daunting, often leading to communication gaps and frequent misunderstandings between teams.

These days, our partners are looking for much more than just a straightforward staffing solution for their ambitious projects. They are looking for enthusiastic teams with diverse experience that can work just as hard on a project as any internal development team and grow to be essential members of their company. 

“We wanted it to be a partnership, not just that you guys are working for us,” – says Andrew Trese, Co-Founder at Trese Brothers Games, in our interview.

 

“We see you as an integral partner and not just the vendor. I think that it becomes apparent when you’re working with people on a daily basis,” – Jean Kaptur, Chief Operating Officer at PIXO VR, talks about cooperation with N-iX Game & VR Studio.

The success of AAA game projects often hinges on the strength of personal relationships between internal and external teams, especially when dealing with pipelines deeply integrated between the two parties. Effective communication, dialogue, reporting, and discussions across game companies and external developers become the cornerstone of success.

The overarching goal is to build long-term partnerships that go beyond transactional exchanges, while also eliminating the need for micro-managing multiple vendors. Co-development fosters an environment where external teams grow to become essential members of the company, contributing not just to specific projects but to the overall success and growth of the gaming studio. As the industry continues to move towards co-development partnership models, the emphasis on shared goals, mutual trust, and effective communication will likely play an even more significant role in shaping the future of collaborative game development.

Establishing communication between teams

However, building robust co-development relationships between internal and external teams is a process that evolves over time. As teams delve into their core tasks, the exchange of information becomes paramount. This includes sharing backlogs, task progress, and risk logs to create a cohesive and synchronized workflow. The ultimate goal is to form a unified team that operates as one entity, fostering a collaborative environment where everyone is working towards a shared objective.

“I think that once you realize that everybody is aiming towards the same goal and you can form your communication, your trust, and your relationship around that, you’re in a very good place to succeed.” Anton Wittberg Letoff, Art Manager & Producer at Paradox Development Studio, talks about cooperation with N-iX Game & VR Studio.

paradox interactive co-development office

N-iX Game & VR Studio’s team visiting Paradox Interactive HQ

“So I would say for us, the number one thing that did stick out about N-iX was that you communicated well about the project, and that indicated that you’re going to be engaged the whole way through. It was probably our biggest decider. That’s helpful.” – Andrew Trese, Co-Founder at Trese Brothers Games. 

Fostering conversations across various departments—Art Leads, Tech Directors, Game Design Leads, etc., and them to their teams—increases the likelihood of a unified vision and true integration. Establishing effective communication takes a fair bit of time, but the result always implies a greater chance of success and both parties being happy with the work they do.

Feedback is vital during game co development

Creating and maintaining a well-defined feedback loop is crucial. Timely sharing of feedback proves to be a linchpin in identifying what works well and what doesn’t, ensuring a smooth trajectory toward project goals. It’s worth mentioning that the emphasis here is on ‘feedback’ not just critique. 

“When you’re getting into a meeting, you’re leaving your ego out the door. […] I think that both of us were very good at that, to sort of drop our seniority, drop our experience level, and just talk to each other,” – Anton Wittberg Letoff, Art Manager & Producer at Paradox Development Studio.

This approach fosters an environment where constructive criticism and insights can thrive, promoting a collaborative spirit that transcends hierarchical boundaries.

Moreover, sharing feedback early in the development process is a strategic move that can save both time and distress in the long run. Waiting until a project is fully complete before offering opinions can lead to inefficiencies and missed opportunities for improvement. Early feedback sharing enables a proactive approach to problem-solving. Highlighting encountered issues and proposing solutions in the early stages ensures that the project stays on course. It also provides an opportunity for co-development partners to voice concerns if they perceive the project is heading in the wrong direction, ultimately saving everyone from wasted time and effort.

co-development n-ix game & vr studio banner

Results of effective videogame co-development

The result of an effective co-development partnership is a symbiotic relationship where both internal and external teams thrive. Establishing seamless communication and fostering trust around common goals propels project success and true integration. The collaborative effort creates a unified team adept at overcoming challenges and achieving milestones, laying the foundation for lasting success. Through a dynamic feedback loop and early, transparent communication, co-developers navigate challenges, exceed expectations, and deliver outstanding results. 

In this harmonious collaboration, customers receive stable, quality deliverables, while external employees find fulfillment in contributing meaningfully to the success of the projects, leading to a mutually satisfying partnership.

Effective co-development extends far beyond individual projects, shaping the trajectory of the gaming industry as a whole. Over the past five to ten years, major releases and AAA titles have prominently featured co development, leveraging external resources and talent to elevate the overall development process. This strategic approach has become integral to achieving the desired depth and polish in gaming experiences as the industry continues its expansive growth.

Cooperation with Supermassive Games

Renowned for their hyper-realistic and narrative-driven video games, Supermassive Games is a prominent developer behind The Dark Pictures Anthology series. Since entering into a co-development partnership with Supermassive Games in 2021, N-iX Game & VR Studio has solidified its position as a crucial technological pillar for the company. 

Our skilled engineers have actively contributed their expertise to the creation of Supermassive Games’ recent titles, such as House of Ashes, The Devil In Me, and The Dark Pictures: Switchback VR. Leveraging our profound understanding of the VR industry and extensive experience in Unreal Engine programming, art production, and game design, our team has played a major role in bringing these immersive and captivating games to life.

We deeply value the inclusive approach demonstrated by Supermassive Games towards the N-iX Game & VR Studio team, considering our developers as integral members of their in-house team. In return, we strive to deliver high-quality results consistently.

Cooperation with Paradox Interactive

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Paradox Development Studio, the vanguard of grand, intricate, and historically accurate strategy video games, has set the gold standard in the gaming industry. With a reputation for consistently delivering high-quality gaming experiences, they stand as an unparalleled authority in their genre.

Our collaboration with Paradox Interactive began in 2017 with the creation of a 3D spaceship model, evolving into a profound and enduring partnership. Over the years, our team has become a significant contributor to art production, leaving its mark on a multitude of projects and DLCs, including Stellaris, Crusader Kings III, Imperator: Rome, Europa Universalis IV, Hearts of Iron IV, the most recent Victoria 3, and more.

“The second thing that I think opened new eyes to me was when we were working on expansions (Nemesis) and we gave you the opportunity to implement the work that you’ve made to the actual game. Because you had brought it up, you’ve talked about this. I think it was Sergii [N-iX Game & VR Studio Delivery Manager] who had an idea. He was like: “What if we do that on our end, instead of us sending you the finished model and you would do that.” That was brought up, we talked about it, and we realized that this is a problem that we can solve very easily. We can just give that responsibility to you guys. And that’s another very clear example of how our partnership has been developing in a positive way,” – Anton Wittberg Letoff, Art Manager & Producer at Paradox Development Studio.

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