When it comes to game development trends, it's a case of everything, everywhere, right now.
There's more competition in the market, the quality bar is ever-increasing, while time-to-market is always under pressure.
Of course, let's not forget the demands of games-as-a-service and the global market opportunities available.
It's no surprise then that many companies are looking to derisk development by concentrating some key areas in-house, while partnering up to handle other project elements.
Having been involved with over 300 projects to-date, it's something Alexander Goldybin, the co-founder and CEO of outsourcing game production company iLogos, knows all about, as he explains.
Pocket Gamer: Can you give us some background to iLogos and your inspiration for starting up?
Alexander Goldybin: The company was founded with the idea that "we want to create great games!", be it complete productions starting from concept stage or more in a collaborative approach covering only parts of the game development process. We just love games and love to work on many game projects in parallel on different platforms.
We usually have between 20 and 30 ongoing parallel game projects and support many platforms, such as web, social (Facebook etc.), mobile (iOS, Android, Windows 8 Phone) as well as some of the newest ones, e.g. we're about to start with our first Oculus VR-based project soon.
The company was founded in 2006 when browser games industry started to grow strongly, so it became our first market (browser games' development). Then we quickly moved to social games as the extension of browser games, and finally a couple of years ago we've successfully entered the mobile games space too.
Nowadays we're quite a sizeable team of 250 staff members. Our aim is to become number one company globally for any kind of external game development projects and to collaborate with successful game companies around the globe.
Why do you think co-production is growing?
Due to the fact that game industry is a hit-driven industry, it leads to a high level of risks for any game productions, as the probability of failure is high even for seasoned teams and professionals with solid track records.
Costs have become increasingly important along with high production values and required expertise in free-to-play monetization and live operations. Co-productions reduce all the risks - the costs are lower, the production values can remain same or even higher compared to sole in-house productions, and the missing expertise can be gained through the partnership.
How open are the new generation of indie start-ups to working with external teams, or do you tend to work with larger companies?
Indeed there are some cases where we work with tiny indie companies (1-2 people) who just completely externalize their game development, acting only as game producers and game designers. But in most cases we work with medium-sized and large companies, as they usually have mature processes in-house for externalizing either entire projects or parts of them.
For us it doesn't matter if it's a big company or a small one. What's more important is that we are on the same page in terms of understanding how the external development should be structured.
Team management and communications are key for co-development projects so how do you ensure your professionals fit into the working patterns of your clients?
Communication is the key for success in any external development. I deeply believe that any external development project without a constant ongoing communication is doomed to failure.
There should be also one assigned person on the clients' side who acts as the main coordinator (a mix of a game producer and a project manager). Additionally there is always a project manager or a game producer on our side - besides of the communication this helps to fit into the working pattern of a client/partner.
Our professionals are flexible and versatile - this is definitely one of our core strengths - so we can adapt to virtually any working pattern, preserved that the proper amount of communication remains in place.
As you're based in Eastern Europe, how do you deal with issues such as language and time zones?
Our company is indeed mostly based in Eastern Europe with the headquarters in Germany. In most cases there are no issues with time zones, as we work successfully with companies from North America and Asia without any problems. It just needs to be properly organized in terms of weekly/daily calls, regular updates via email and project management tools (such as JIRA for example).
Again, with coordinators on both sides, there are usually no problems in this regard. As to the linguistic issues, sometimes there might be some issues on the level of regular team members, especially with fluent verbal English communication (the written communication is not an issue in most cases). But in most cases, it's not required as the project coordinators on our side guide the entire team bilingually.
Do you have your own technology and/or can you support thirdparty development technologies?
We do have our own game engines for different types of games (such as strategy games, city-building games, match-3 games and some others), as well as a set of our own libraries, modules and components, but all of them are built on top of a specific technology. We use Unity, Marmalade, Cocos 2DX, Flash, Starling and sometimes HTML5.
Of course there are also games coded natively on iOS and Android, but we usually prefer to work on cross-platform technologies. In many cases, it's expected that we don't use any of our existing technologies and just create everything from scratch, even with exclusion of open source.
You offer two business models, one of which involve revenue share. Is that becoming more popular or do clients prefer to know exactly what they are spending?
Generally speaking, it's up to the mindset and preferences of the clients/partners. In some cases our partners want us to participate on the potential success and expect our full involvement. In some cases they are just fine with commissioned work-for-hire projects, without caring about any revenue share afterwards.
We constantly get enquiries for both types of projects and are glad to collaborate based upon both models. The co-production model is slightly preferred, because usually it means a long-term relationship, and of course there is always a chance to get a significant upside in case of a big success.
Would you ever consider developing your own games internally or does that go against your business model?
We are asked this question regularly, and the answer is clear - if we developed our own games, it would be separated in a new entity with its own staff.
Our aim with iLogos is to partner with as many game companies globally as possible and not being in a fierce competition with them.
What trends do you see happening in the game market during 2014 in terms of the skills requested in co-production deals?
I see definitely an even stronger trend for cross-platform development in 2014 (Unity, HTML5, Marmalade etc.), additionally Windows 8 Phone is slowly getting ground. Also new platforms like Oculus VR are starting to be enquired.
Generally speaking it's nowadays even more important to offer a full range of co-production capabilities, starting with a concept up to the initial beta and beyond to the live operations. Therefore we're constantly strengthening our creative team (game producers and game designers) as well as our live operations teams including analytics and customer service.
You can find out more about iLogos' services via its website or meet iLogos at GDC, Gamescom and other industry events.