External Game Development: How To Create the Next Hit Game With Freelancers

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External game development has become the go-to strategy for massive gaming studios looking to produce the world’s hit games. From Xbox Game Studios’ Halo and Gears of War to Crytek’s Crisis Trilogy, established developers are turning away from traditional in-house only teams to hire talent from around the world.

However, that’s easier said than done.

Juggling thousands of contractors, vendors, and studios can become an absolute nightmare. Managing contracts, communications, deadlines, and collaboration requires world-class processes and platforms. Fortunately, we have just the thing.

Below, we’ll walk you through the external game development scene in 2023 and how the world’s largest gaming studios overcome modern-day obstacles with a freelance management system like Worksuite. Data from the “XDS 2023 Insights Report on External Development” was cited with permission from XDS.

External Game Development in 2023

According to XDS, the leading international games industry conference, “external development refers to the practice of video game Developers / Publishers leveraging Service Providers in any aspect of development, including but not limited to art, animation, cinematics, audio, engineering, porting, game development, UX-UI, motion capture, QA, localization, and VFX.”

With the rise of remote freelancing worldwide, one would assume that external development would be easier than ever. Meanwhile, global events have actually made it more challenging.

Everything from geopolitical conflicts and the COVID-19 pandemic, to record-low unemployment rates, higher wages, economic uncertainty, and The Great Resignation have made it more complicated than ever for gaming studios to produce top-notch games. 

Growing Demand for Games Talent

Yet while the market conditions get more difficult, the demand for games only increases. One study projects the gaming market size to grow by 13% annually for the next 7 years — from $282 billion in 2023 to $665 billion in 2030.

Developers are outsourcing key aspects of the game development process to keep up with demand and meet tight deadlines — without exceeding budget constraints. 

Here are the top outsourced tasks in external development:

  • Art
  • Animation
  • Cinematics/VFX
  • Game development (PC/Online)
  • Engineering (server side, front end, web development, etc.)
  • Game development (Mobile)
  • Game development (Console)
  • Motion/Facial capture
  • UI/UX
  • QA

Some studios outsource a handful of responsibilities, while others rely on external involvement to develop entire games. It all depends on the available resources, expertise, deadlines, and budgetary constraints.

The Pros of External Development

Game development studios opt for external assistance for various reasons:

  • Cost savings: Outsourcing game development tasks can be more cost-effective than maintaining an in-house team for every aspect by reducing expenses related to salaries, benefits, infrastructure, and equipment. 
  • Scalability: Scale up or down according to project requirements. Need extra help getting a game across the finish line? Hire outside help immediately without any long-term investment. 
  • Creativity: Engage the best talent in the world, no matter where they’re based — whether that’s hiring an animator in Spain, a developer in Armenia or a QA engineering team in India. 
  • Flexibility: Hire additional resources “on demand” for specific aspects of your project, without the need for a permanent expansion of your in-house team. 
  • Efficiency: You know how fans feel about another delay of a much-anticipated game. Prevent that from happening by improving your efficiency. With the right freelancer management system, external developers can contribute to the development process concurrently, speeding up the overall production timeline. 
  • Expertise: Leverage specialized skills your in-house team lacks (like specific animations or localization) with external contractors. 

External development isn’t all unreal graphics and ageless franchises, though. It has plenty of challenges that only the best solutions can overcome.

Credit - External Game Development 2023 Insight Report - Worksuite
Credit: XDS 2023 Insights Report.

The Challenges of External Development at Scale

Access to worldwide talent at your fingertips might sound like it’s too good to be true. While it’s a reality the top developers and publishers embrace, the games production process is not without its headaches.

The world of external game development is full of challenges, which only get harder at scale. Here’s what you’re up against:

  • Finding and hiring talent (compliantly) in new countries
  • Poor documentation and direction
  • Shifting project priorities and schedules
  • Scope creep and unplanned iterations
  • Increasing competition for developer talent
  • Global political unrest and conflicts
  • Economic instability
  • Communication challenges (especially remotely)
  • Government regulations
  • Climate change (yes, climate change)

According to the XDS 2023 Insights Report for the Video Game Industry, 89% of game developers report that geopolitical events impacted their external development, and 88% have had to make changes to their strategies to accommodate evolving circumstances.

Game developers have turned to secure freelance management systems to overcome many external development issues. From overcoming compliance risks to managing hire and payment processing, the top game studios use solutions like Worksuite to streamline development and stay on-time and on-budget.

How Worksuite Partners With Game Developers 

Worksuite empowers your studio to hire, onboard, and pay the world’s best developers, artists, animators, and designers—regardless of where they’re based. 

Here’s how:

  • Diversify your network: Worksuite supports 190 countries and 120 currencies, meaning you can compliantly hire and pay talent anywhere in the world.
  • Centralize your talent: Find the right person for the right job based on availability, rates, skills, software expertise, and more—then pay them through the same platform.
  • Automate onboarding: Automate everything from collecting NDA signatures and contractor agreements to tax information, and even share creative guidelines.
  • Manage projects and milestones: Manage your entire global projects and keep everything on track with a single, comprehensive dashboard.
  • Streamline your payments: Generate invoices directly tied to tasks/projects, making your accounting life easier so you can stay focused on what matters: The creative work.
  • Organize and store digital contracts: Whether your talent is on retainer agreements or one-off assignments, manage all your contracts in one centralized dashboard. Never miss a renewal, and re-engage your go-to talent with one click.
  • Protect your IP: Use Worksuite’s private, white-labeled contractor management system (with enterprise-grade, bank-level security) to secure your talent network and intellectual property. You can direct message talent right within the platform, and keep your project under wraps until it’s ready to go live!

Top Gaming Companies Rely on Freelance Management Systems

Don’t just take our word for it—see for yourself how game developers and publishers like Xbox Game Studios, Crytek, Skyhook Games and Sumo Digital rely on Worksuite to build hit games.

Xbox Game Studios

Xbox Game Studios manages over 23 game development studios, producing some of the best, most well-known franchises in all of gaming:

  • Minecraft
  • Fallout
  • Doom
  • Halo
  • Gears of War
  • Forza
  • The Elders Scrolls
  • Microsoft Flight Simulator

And that’s just a sample. However, with great potential comes great responsibility, and even with all of these studios, Xbox Game Studious has to coordinate with 100s of contractors and vendors to supplement game development and ensure on-time production.

Skyhook Games

Skyhook Games is one of the market’s most talented outsourcing and game development partners. They work with Worksuite to supplement their workforce and help video game companies push their projects across the finish line. Skyhook developed impressive projects such as:

  • Lawn Mowing Simulator
  • Train Sim World
  • Switchblade
  • Marauders


Crytek studio is the genius behind generation-defining games:

  • Crysis
  • Hunt: Showdown
  • The Climb
  • Far Cry (2004)

Hunt: Showdown won “Best Live Game” at the German Computer Game Awards 2022. The Crytek team puts out some of the most visually stunning and immersive games ever made, and they rely on external teams to help it all come together.

Sumo Digital

Sumo Digital comprises 16 studios across Europe, the UK, Canada, and India. They produce tons of leading games, and their hiring needs can’t keep up with the insane growth and demand (see their 118 open jobs) — which is why Sumo Digital uses Worksuite to find, hire, and manage external contractors worldwide.

Sumo Digital has helped create some of the following games:

  • Forza Horizon
  • Hood: Outlaws and Legends
  • Sackboy
  • Crackdown 3
  • Hotshot Racing
  • Hitman

Build at Scale (With Confidence)

Ready to streamline external game development at your company? Worksuite helps you develop at scale while overcoming the usual obstacles of contingent workforce management. We’ll help you find and hire the best talent in the world to deliver your projects on-time and on-budget. 

Schedule a demo today to see how Worksuite helps your team save time and money with a searchable talent directory, easy-to-use workflows, seamless integrations, invoice management, and contract lifecycle management — all centralized in one user-friendly interface.

Worksuite is a proud sponsor of XDS, the External Development Summit.

Ready to streamline and scale your external development workforce? Book a Worksuite demo today.

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