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Anyone has experience in outsourcing game development projects?

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Hi there,

It has been a while since I last posted on GameDev, planning to check the forums more frequently - so much interesting information!

Anyhow, does anyone on the forums have any experience with outsourcing entire game development projects or by RFP's (especially the starting a bidding process-phase)? I work for a game studio and we're currently looking to fill our development pipeline [promotional wording deleted by mod]

Does anyone know a place where 'outsourcers' meet up, submit requests to receive game proposals or mingle in general? I would love to connect and meet them!

I'm hoping someone will point me in the right direction, or perhaps if you're looking for these types of services [promotional wording deleted by mod]

- Raccoon Edited by Tom Sloper
promoting his company's dev services

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1. does anyone on the forums have any experience with outsourcing entire game development projects or by RFP's (especially the starting a bidding process-phase)?
2. Does anyone know a place where 'outsourcers' meet up, submit requests to receive game proposals or mingle in general?
3. - Raccoon


1. Yes. I have outsourced many game projects in my career. I am not looking for developers at the present
time.
2. Yes. It's called "GDC," and "E3," and "other conferences and networking events." Are you a member of
the IGDA?
3. I can speak only for myself, not for others on this forum. As a producer, I would be leery of hiring a
company represented by someone who calls himself by an animal nickname instead of signing his real name.

Lastly - you can use this site's Classifieds to promote / advertise your company's services to potential
clients. Please don't promote or advertise your company in the discussion forums. Good luck! Edited by Tom Sloper

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Hi Tom, 

 

Thanks for the reply. It wasn't my intention to promote our services directly in the discussion board, I'll go checkout the classifieds. 

 

We're a member of IGDA and are present at the events (plus more) that you've mentioned in the post. Thanks for the suggestion though, I was hoping for some kind of 'secret' forum or list where companies request proposals etc. Hopefully one day something like that will emerge on the Internet.  :lol:

 

The majority of the forums use a nickname, that's why I took my gaming handle as well. I don't have any problem sharing my full name, but this is still an online public forum where you're not required to do so. 

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The majority of the forums use a nickname, that's why I took my gaming handle as well. I don't have
any problem sharing my full name, but this is still an online public forum where you're not required
to do so.


Yes, but you want producers to feel comfortable taking a risk with many thousands of dollars with you.
You want them to take you seriously and to trust your openness. That isn't the result when you use a
nickname and choose an avatar photo that shows "you" grinning wickedly and rubbing "your" paws together
in a wicked greedy manner.
 
raccoon.jpg

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In general, this type of finding work is a tricky work, and a difficult part of remaining a viable contractor. 

 

The people and the organization need a reputation for quality and/or for cost. The company will need to get on the publisher's long list of contractors, then get on their short list.  It also helps to have some business development folks with lots of contacts who can suggest the company's name, and those too are carefully curated lists based on shared experience and histories. Even so, contracts come and go frequently, contracts get cancelled mid-project, and for many companies the life of the contracting business tends to balance on the razor's edge between job losses and a small profit with little margin for error.

 

Shopping around for business developers is a tricky thing.  People who get the deals are reluctant to share their contacts because then there will be more competition for the infrequent contacts. You'll need to hunt them down using your own contacts and Internet research. It isn't hard to do if you already have industry contacts, just takes a bit of leg-work (or finger-work) to track down the key people online.

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I believe you're asking the wrong question:

The fact I have experience with the RFP process won't help you out.

In this particular instance, it would appear you are actually interested in Business Development (the art of getting new clients for your business).

 

First and foremost, I will assume that your team is relatively young, and that you are new to the servicing business (and most likely don't have a dedicated business development manager).

The things you need to know is that there are roughly 3 'stages' to becoming a new partner:

 

1 - No portfolio, no contacts, no reputation

I imagine this is where you are. You may or may not have developed products on your own that you could leverage as proof of your ability to create exciting experiences with quality in mind. That means you are not likely to come across anyone that may be interested in dealing with you as your basically have no reputation that precedes you, no proof of actual work, and no means to prove you can do the job (better than others).

My advice at this stage is: complete more projects. Get them out there, try to see if you can get some traction on some of them.

 

2 - A portfolio, but no contacts or reputation

Once you have some projects to show for, it's time to go on the hunt. You most likely won't convince anyone at tradeshows, but you will likely be able to start building a list of businesses. Not the higher tier ones (1st party published such as Ubisoft, etc.) What you should be on the lookout for is primarily smaller organizations that may not be able to do everything in-house. Let them get the big contracts from higher up, and think about how you can help them deliver.

One of the astute ways of doing this is building a QA or Localization service. A lot of businesses are ready to do development, but most of them don't have proper QA or Localization teams. Poaching middle-sized businesses for a likely need of these services might come at an opportune time and land you some work. Granted, it is not the work you're shooting for, but it can get you there.

 

Cold calling is the art of calling or e-mailing people directly. It requires to have an understanding of who does what. As far as emails go, LinkedIn can get you somewhere, but don't just run a search. Instead, go at a local convention, try to identify a few people. They are likely not the ones you should be speaking to, but they will let you know that their business exist. Once you search their business, you can see whoever is the most appropriate to contact (if they have an outsource manager, great, but most likely, their title will be much more cryptic, sometimes producers handle this on their own, sometimes its a hellamorecomplicatedthanthis!)

 

The idea is that you want to build 2 things there: contacts AND reputation.

You gain contacts whenever someone replies to you politely with anything more than 1-2 sentences. That means there MIGHT be an interest in the future, and you can work with this in some way (don't worry, they almost always say no at first because timing can be a bitch).

You gain reputation when you do the work. It's not just about what you end-up delivering to your clients (though it matters A LOT), but also how the working relationship was. Clients will remember how communication was, how you handled major issues, etc. Shine there, and they might bring you more business, better yet, speak on your behalf to other potential clients!

 

3 - Some reputation and a lot of contacts

You've reached the level where showing up at tradeshows makes sense. You can pretty much initiate a conversation that touches (even remotely) anything close to what you did with your past projects. If you've had a lot of luck making Vuforia-oriented games, then try to get a hold of anyone even remotely invested in AR, etc.

You can show your past projects (hopefully you have some that are not white-labeled!) and discuss who you've done business with (but remember that you may be limited regarding what you can and can't disclose based off previous SOWs, MAs or NDAs you may have signed).

 

There's a lot more to it obviously, and a lot of this comes down to the personality of your Business Development Manager (salesman). What they're good/bad at will likely determine their best angle of approach for new clients.

 

 

For example, I went through steps 1-2 by being tactical: I kept in touch with past employers for which I had done great work, even gave them some contacts/business (things I couldn't possibly handle on my own). When I went from freelancer to business, it was 'relatively easy' to sway them into working with me. From then on, I had more than nothing to show, which helped a lot.

Still, my first few contracts as a business were tricky, and almost entirely due to luck (that's why you need to do a LOT of cold-calling: it is a depressing part of the job, but even the best organizations need to do it at one point or another when larger relationships elapse or market goes stale).

 

The important thing I did not mention above is that your business also needs to identify its strength and weaknesses (you made a SWOT right???)

 

Most potential clients you'll come across at first will simply seek the lowest budget possible (their sales estimates may be low given their own size and the risk level, and the only way to help them make a profit is to cut on expenses altogether, especially if working for advert-gaming companies).

You are not likely to be able to compete with them, even if you wished. True, as a small business, your cost of operation may be low, but unless you live in a much less developed country (India, Romania, China, etc.) you simply won't be able to be competitive with their pricing as their cost of living is drastically different. No matter how much you'd like for it to work, could be that your business' rent is 10 times the price of your competitor, and that's just a start!

 

Still, you have to be willing to go for these clients whose projects come with a high level of risk (for YOU), who are willing to go for a fixed fee (forget hourly projects, at least for now, they aren't all that common anyway) and may smell like something's wrong. There's no bad project to start, you just want to get whatever you can, so unless it puts your business in a position where you could risk bankrupty, go for it.

 

Once you've made a few projects, you'll need a business model, that is, find a way where you are better than 'almost anybody else' for certain projects. It is not just a question of the type of projects you want to work on, and specializing yourself. Most of the time, it comes as something as simple as 'Complete Solution' or 'Reliable Team'.

Don't spit these words at your potential clients, they've heard it before, rather, let your reputation precede you when you tell them what you'll do, and try to be as precise as possible about the way you envision this could work (even if they've given you absolutely no context). It shows that, in the absence of guidance, your business is able to deal with 'chaos'.

 

Without naming any specific businesses, I've seen some boast their business' ability to do a 360 solution, that is:

"If you come to us with a game project in mind, we can make the game, localize it, create assets for social media campaigns, run said advertising campaigns, put together your press releases, create a short viral video that has more to do with a miniseries episode than an actual trailer, etc."

 

I've also worked with a business that would, instead, leverage their large experience and strategic mindset to 'handle' the strategic aspect of the project. Instead of relying on the client to give feedback during production of the project, they'd list out what they've noticed, how they feel it should get resolved given the client's current needs (outside of the specific project), etc. Some larger clients have a hard time self-organizing, so working with a 3rd party developer that takes ownership can be a real blessing, and they may be willing to go for you as opposed to an Indian firm if they're given sufficient assurance that this is true value to them.

 

That would be my 2 cents ;)

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