Of course, artists don’t want to create the same characters over and over again. But since a game art outsourcing company works on several projects at once, the artists have a place to turn, which cannot be said for a studio that works on a large-scale MMO in the same style for several years in a row.
Any large organization has a rigorous hiring system. Applicants fresh out of high school have their own plan for the extra training that’s required since the skills they get right out of school aren’t always enough to get them into production quickly. That is why game development studio spend three months for each probationary employee to train them on real projects of increasing complexity.
Not only local applicants go through this hiring system, but also foreigners, who often hold managerial jobs. For example, Andrey Supryaga joined Virtuous in 2007 and now oversees all of the company’s art department in Shanghai, Xi’an, Chengdu, and Saigon.
He grew up in Vladivostok, studied fine art and physics at school, and made Quake III character simulations at night in the campus computer labs, which he later used to build a portfolio that earned him his first job as a developer in Moscow.
When he joined Virtuous, he was surprised to learn that his first assignment would be working on Electronic Arts’ Medal of Honor: Airborne, the same kind of project his Russian employer was working on. The difference was that in Russia, Andrei worked on the game’s combat uniforms, while in Shanghai, he was charged with making old-school weapon models for the game. So he traveled halfway around the world just to work on the same game.
Sperasoft’s team organization is essentially a mirror of the partner studio. A company studies the structure of its partner, whether it’s Ubisoft or someone else, then divides up its own teams and moves developers to match that structure. The studio works with the brief and uses its knowledge to fill in the gaps in the task at hand.
New hires at Virtuous Shanghai studio earn about $11,000 a year, or about 6,000 yuan a month. Entry-level salaries at Virtuous are slightly higher income than the national average monthly salary of 5,169 yuan, according to China’s National Bureau of Statistics, but slightly lower than the average salary in Shanghai, which is 6,504 yuan, according to the Shanghai Statistics Office of the Bureau of Resources and Welfare.
According to an industry study by the Gamasutra website, the average salary for an entry-level artist in the U.S. gaming industry is $50,643, up from $55,682 in 2012.
Despite the difference in pay, chief executive officer Langhorieux insists that the work done at the Company is “not much different from what’s done inside the internal studios.” Although the company lacks creative control over every project-“writers, the creative directors, people like that”-it insulates Virtuous from the volatility of the market. “We are not betting on certain IPs,” he said, meaning intellectual property. The biggest risk remains on the game studio.
The bet paid off because, in six years, they were able to outperform and surpass all the competitors that existed when they started the company. It’s a reasonable approach, but too many people see outsourcing as a stepping stone to doing their own thing. But for others, outsourcing is their ultimate goal. And usually, the ultimate goal is to become the best in the field for the gaming industry, as well as for other digital content industries.