Outsourcing Games to China

Outsourcing various tech industry jobs has been a topic of hot debate for a few years now, but it is becoming more and more common in game development as well. Gamasutra takes a look at the practice of outsourcing games to China, a trend which has sprung up following the formation of various independent game studios in the country. Ubisoft Shanghai, which develops various entries in major Ubisoft franchises such as Ghost Recon, Splinter Cell, and Rainbow Six, has spurred development growth in the region and now other major publishers such as Electronic Arts have set up shop there as well.

With this, of course, comes the standard industry procedure of developers leaving established studios to found their own, and China is now home to a growing number of companies whose bread and butter is working on titles for external publishers.

To better understand the business, we visited the offices of Virtuos CEO Gilles Langourieux, who's been operating his firm in Shanghai since the end of 2004. He has a team of around 110 people, working on both art outsourcing and game porting for major publishers including EA, Microsoft, Vivendi, THQ, Atari, and Ubisoft.

Virtuos is at the high end of the Chinese outsourcing boom right now in terms of quality and pricing. But its CEO suggests that even his top-end service provides a 50% saving over most Western development costs for any of its services, whether it be a full PSP game port or next-gen art production. In other words, it appears that this is a significant market waiting to be unlocked.

The article also touches on Gamestar, opened by founder David Zhu as the first independent game outsourcing company in China, as well as concerns that an "outsourcing bubble" may be forming in China, certain difficulties associated with outsourcing games, and whether outsourcing affects game jobs in the West.