Outsourcing Game Art vs. In-House Production: A Cost-Benefit Analysis

In the dynamic world of game development, the decision between game art outsource and producing it in-house is pivotal. Both paths have their unique costs and benefits, shaping the final product and the overall development process. This comprehensive comparison aims to shed light on these two approaches, helping game developers make informed decisions.

Understanding In-House Game Art Production

Producing game art in-house means that a game development company uses its own team of artists and designers to create the visual elements of a game. This approach has several key aspects:

Benefits of In-House Production

Control and Communication: Having an in-house team ensures direct control over the art production process. Communication is often more straightforward, with opportunities for immediate feedback and adjustments. This close collaboration can lead to a more cohesive game design.

Consistency in Art Style: In-house teams are deeply aligned with the company’s vision, ensuring a consistent art style that aligns with the game’s core identity.

Long-Term Skill Development: Developing an art outsourcing studio in-house contributes to the long-term growth of the team, enhancing skills and expertise that can be applied to future projects.

Costs and Challenges

Higher Overhead Expenses: In-house production often leads to higher costs in terms of salaries, benefits, workspace, and software licenses.

Resource Limitations: Smaller studios might not have the resources to hire a diverse team of artists, limiting the range of art styles and expertise.

Scalability Issues: Scaling an in-house team to meet fluctuating project demands can be challenging, often leading to either underutilization or overworking of staff.

Outsourcing Game Art: An Overview

Outsourcing game art involves hiring external studios or freelancers to create the visual elements of a game. This approach is increasingly popular, especially among indie developers and smaller studios.

Benefits of Outsourcing

Cost Efficiency: One of the primary advantages of outsourcing is cost efficiency. Outsourcing eliminates many overhead costs and often provides access to a wider range of talents at a lower price point.

Flexibility and Scalability: Outsourcing offers great flexibility. Studios can scale up or down depending on project needs without the long-term commitments associated with full-time employees.

Access to Diverse Talent and Styles: Outsourcing opens up opportunities to work with artists worldwide, bringing diverse artistic styles and fresh perspectives to a project.

Focus on Core Competencies: By outsourcing art, the in-house team can focus on other aspects of game development, such as story development, programming, and marketing.

Costs and Challenges

Lesser Control and Oversight: Outsourcing can lead to less control over the art production process. Relaying the exact vision and style can sometimes be challenging.

Communication Barriers: Differences in time zones, language, and culture can pose communication challenges, potentially leading to delays and misunderstandings.

Quality and Consistency Risks: There’s always a risk of receiving art that doesn’t meet expected quality standards or varies in style, requiring revisions that can be time-consuming.

A Balanced Perspective: Combining Both Approaches

Many game development studios find a middle ground, combining both in-house and outsourced game art production. This hybrid approach can mitigate the drawbacks of each method while leveraging their respective benefits. For instance, core game art elements that define the game’s identity can be handled in-house, while more generic assets can be outsourced.


The decision between in-house and outsourcing game art production is not one-size-fits-all. It depends on various factors, including the size of the studio, the nature of the project, budget constraints, and the desired level of control over the creative process.

For large studios with ample resources, developing game art in-house can foster a consistent art style and build a skilled team for future projects. On the other hand, smaller studios or those with limited budgets may find outsourcing a more viable and cost-effective solution, offering access to a diverse pool of talent and artistic styles.

Ultimately, the best approach may involve a mix of both, leveraging the control and consistency of in-house production with the flexibility and cost-effectiveness of outsourcing. By carefully assessing their specific needs, resources, and goals, game developers can make a choice that aligns best with their vision, ensuring the successful realization of their creative endeavors.

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