[Last month, Gamasutra spoke to three major proponents of outsourcing to discover the case for outsourcing. This time around, three different flavors of outsourcers -- Production Road, Virtuos, and Darkside Game Studios -- discuss what differentiates each of the relatively young companies from each other.]
Despite popular suspicions, if outsourcing is causing job losses at western development studios, that is no one's intention.
At least not according to Andy Cheren, president of LA-based Production Road, a new brand of outsource project management company that is taking advantage of the growth in convergence among videogames, movies, and other digital media.
"Not one client has ever told me that their intent is to save money by cutting jobs," Cheren maintains. "Developers who outsource are doing it to get more on the screen, to spend money appropriately to make the game the best they can possibly make it, and to take some of the pressure off of their core team's functionality."
As an example, he cites a Southern California-based first-party developer of a major publisher with its staff of 120. "They don't want to grow larger than that," Cheren says, "which means that if you ask them to do multiple iterations of both of their next-gen console IPs simultaneously for multiple SKUs, something is going to break. But if a developer's management supports its team leads by embracing the outsourcing model, they will be better able to polish and enhance their projects, they won't become overworked, and their quality of life will improve."
Cheren, a founding owner of recruitment firm Digital Artist Management, helped launch Production Road just 19 months ago as a sister company to DAM.
He describes the firm as "a global production company that offers services and development capabilities to clients in all sorts of new media entertainment." In fact, its first project had nothing to do with games; it involved the car modeling and texturing on the Warner Bros. live-action movie Speed Racer.
"Warner Bros. had hired Digital Domain to build the art assets but then they had a capacity issue and weren't able to meet day-and-date delivery," Cheren explains. "They brought us onboard to take on that part of their obligation to Warner Bros. that they knew we could handle through our development team in Korea. In effect, we were able to find an outsource company for an outsource company."
Cheren describes Production Road as a hybrid -- part agent, part packaging company, and part virtual studio. "Our internal team of 10 executive producers, visual effects supervisors, art directors, and technologists act as a clearinghouse. We function as an external project management team that's brought in to use our expertise to solve a specific problem," he adds.
That expertise, says Cheren, stems from DAM's nine years as a recruiting firm, having compiled a Rolodex of thousands of key contacts throughout the industry and having developed intimate relationships with many.
"What we're doing is like recruiting on steroids," he says, "where instead of moving one person to do a job, we're helping move large numbers of teams with highly specific skills, packaging them appropriately, and managing the development based specifically for our clients' needs. For example, if our client requires AI vehicle and physics development, we have teams vetted in our worldwide network that possess previous experience to do the job, and then we make the relationship work."