Saturday, April 21, 2007

Outsource Code

If you caught this article back in 2006, then you were as surprised as the rest of us to learn that many of the games you've come to believe were from big name development houses were in fact products of a shadowy group of foreign outsourcing genius. Their name is Tose, and they found a nice market for doing a lot of the grunt work behind the scenes while remaining mum about the whole thing. Now whether or not you think this is a great idea depends more or less on how you feel about the whole outsourcing of work debate. Although it has made us American's quiver in our boots at the mere mention of the word, it's quite apparent that the rest of the world (at least the Japanese) don't seem to share out limited view on it's practice.

Now looking at this from a personal view as someone who's actually worked in a factory where such deals conjure up a great deal of anxiety and anger, as well as spent a little time in business school, I'd like to think that I can appreciate both sides of the argument. This one is a little more complicated though. We're dealing with varying cultures, who have strikingly different views on the subject matter. I'm by no means a historian (so correct me if I'm wrong), but I recall the Japanese being a little more about the individual being less important than the big picture. How this applies the topic at hand is quite simple. I'm guessing that if you were to approach a group of developers somewhere in the States, and request them to work on a high profile project and to not receive any credit anywhere on the game for doing so, it might not go over too well. Would this be the case for everyone? Probably not, but I have the nagging feeling that more often than not, things would fall this way. The climate in Japan is just more suitable for this type of thing to occur.

This, of course, is taking into consideration that we're talking about some sort of software that doesn't involve national security, multiple aliases, and black sport utility vehicles with charcoal colored windows somewhere in the mix. Now don't get me wrong, as I don't want to paint the wrong picture about our great country, or artificially inflate the worth of another. I'm just using this example of a perceived social difference in order to make a point about the whole matter. So, back to the topic of contention.

It appears that Gamasutra was able to do a recent follow up interview with some people from Tose again, and it's interesting to note that while things are very much the same, their name is starting to appear on a few games for a change; most recently Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime. Of course they have stayed true to their name, and are still very much the "Ninja Developers" behind the scenes for the majority of their work, but now that word has gotten out about them, they have found the spotlight to be more friend than foe. Now that their name is in circulation, the Western market that they once sought to tap into now seems within grasp. Some publishers have begun using their outsourcing service (who, I'm not sure of), and it appears that many more discussions of future endeavors are very much on the table. So once again, you have to wonder…..What does this mean, and is it a good or bad thing ?

It's common knowledge these days, that the costs for creating new games are pretty much off the charts. We're talking about Hollywood Blockbuster tally's here. What's becoming even more apparent, is that the profits at the end of day aren't what they used to be for those involved in all aspects of the game. This is why you hear talk of ads being placed in games (a practice that I still despise), and titles once thought to be bound to one console finding themselves spread across several platforms.

As much as we all might hate to admit it, the whole outsourcing thing with games is more or less an extension of this, and another way for developers to their costs in order to remain competitive…and survive. With the way things are, and are heading towards, those costs are only going to get a lot worse. Having said that, it seems that there are only a couple things you can do about it. You can raise the prices of your product, you can make cutbacks, or you can use the outsourcing method. Oh yeah, you can opt out of the business too. I'm thinking the first couple options are a bit more feasible (and attractive) than the latter.

I'm still not sure how to feel about the whole thing myself, and even though I'm sure it frees up some capital and time for things on the developers end (the one's paying for the outsourcing), who's to say that it will translate into more value and better games for the fans. As much as we would all like to think that the savings will be passed on to us, or the extra time will be spent on polishing a future gem, we just don't know at this point. As is the case with most other things in life, time will tell.

1 comment:

Candie said...

Interesting to know.