Why Ukrainian CG Market Is One Of The Driving Forces Behind The Success Of Games Industry

The global CG market is likely to rise at a steady 5.5% annually and become worth US$211.60 bn by 2024, according to Transparency Market Research. In this article, we share some observations on how Eastern European and, in particular, the Ukrainian CG market has been evolving over the last few years. Based on Room 8 Studio’s growth experience as the biggest and one of the oldest independent studios in Ukraine (according to the report “Gamedev in Ukraine 2018: Market map and industry guide”), we will reveal how the evolution of local studios influences the global games industry. You will learn why outsourcing art projects to Ukrainian studios is a reasonable investment and how game developers and publishers benefit from such collaboration.

The current climate of CG in Ukraine

Creative Mindset Factor

Besides the well-known fact that the people’s mindset in Europe differs from that of Asia a lot, even inside Eastern Europe, there is a wide variety of cultural setups; for example, Poland and Hungary differ from Ukraine and Belarus. Ukraine is unique in many ways — although most professionals worldwide are hard-working, Ukrainians don’t only work hard. They are more goal-oriented than time-based, as most of them are self-educated self-starters who evolve because of their passion. In addition, Ukraine is the second biggest country in Europe, with a massive pool of art and tech talents. A large share of this market belongs to the gaming industry. Successful companies such as Wargaming, Travian Games, and Silicon Studio regularly tour Ukraine, searching for highly-skilled artists.

The rise of games development

The Ukrainian CG market got its real boost after the rise of video game production in Eastern Europe. The industry is booming and growing exponentially, and EE, specifically Ukraine, is getting more and more attention. Ukraine is the mature CG market where multiple well-established game publishers and developers have their representations, including Ubisoft, Gameloft, Wargaming, Crytek, Plarium, and Playtika.

Extremely high demand for game art

The current demand for quality game art is enormous. For example, here at Room 8 Studio, Photorealistic game art is booked a couple of months ahead (and for some narrow disciplines – a year ahead). This level of demand helps studios grow fast. Room 8 Studio mainly grows organically, adding a couple of missing artists to complete a project and then finding more projects to keep them occupied. This approach lets us scale fast and, at the same time, accumulate expertise.

CG professional development opportunities

In addition, there are plenty of opportunities to grow as a CG artist in Ukraine. Thousands of CG schools and studios provide the highest level of schooling, including hi-end courses in AAA art creation for experienced artists. Many of them are somehow connected to the companies in need of specific talent, forming a sort of ‘hubs.’ Room 8 Studio has contracts with some of the studios where we send our lead artists to train and can invite the best alumni to work with us on AAA titles after graduation.

Trends and Predictions

From asset creation to end-to-end art support

Around five years ago, Ukraine had a specific image for art creation. Most requests were to create assets by specs. Now it’s a mature market with immense accumulated expertise, the best software, tools, and pipelines. It caused the growth of trust towards Ukraine, and we get more projects where we do the whole art component of the game, starting from art direction, concept art, 3D, UI, level building, in-engine integration, through animation and VFX, also covering marketing promo materials, including UA videos and playable ads. Art direction as an individual solution is also becoming common.

Overall, we observe a shift to more creative art disciplines, which is good for the economy, education, and talent nurturing.

3D animation boom

We also see the rise of animation, including 3D animation. It used to be a part of full art production solution; now, it is a separate discipline and booming to the extent that even subdisciplines arise, especially in demand being mocap cleanup and character setup. Animated feature films are produced in Ukraine, and the number of hi-end studios is also growing, which means a massive pool of talent.

The upgrowth of Indie Game Development

The growth of indie game dev in Ukraine is massive, and many talented artists thrive with some indie teams to create art for new arising games. It is observed, for example, by the number and quality of games in the contests that Room 8 Studio judged in 2018 and 2019.

Why outsourcing art production to Ukrainian studios is a reasonable investment into the success of your title?

Scalability and art expertise

Ukraine is a huge and still growing IT hub with 100+ studios, an enormous number of IT graduates each year, and 20,000 people engaged in the game dev industry. This dynamic landscape allows the studios to continue growth, engaging new talent and industry veterans to strengthen their competitive advantage and accumulate expertise. One can see computer graphics made by Ukrainian artists in such games as S.T.A.L.K.E.R., Warface, Assassin’s Creed, and World of Tanks — the titles known for hi-end game art.  More and more publishers and developers outsource their game art production to local studios. Room 8 Studio, in particular, was blessed to contribute to such world-known franchises as Hotel Transylvania: Monsters, Call of Duty: Black Ops, GWENT, The Walking Dead, Burnout Paradise Remastered, Angry Birds, Family Guy, and more.

Co-creation without boundaries

Ukraine is only a two-hour time difference and 2-hours’ flight away from most European capitals. This makes it easy to build a highly effective collaboration process using all convenient ways of communication, along with personal meetings, without any bounders. As for the US, some studios, including Room 8, have representations in California for delivering onsite help and assisting in some emergency needs our partners may have. But still, the major work on the projects is done by our Ukrainian professionals. We implement partners’ feedback while they sleep working with both Americas, and this approach has long proved its effectiveness.

In addition, language is no anymore a barrier to working with Ukrainian studios. Over the past decade, Ukraine made a massive shift into English speaking business environment. For example, at Room 8 Studio, 70% of all professionals speak good English, and 100% of management speaks perfect English.

Invest in quality

The other important aspect in favor of сhoosing a studio based in Ukraine is the current tax system adopted at the state level that allows for significantly optimizing tax payments and saving costs. This helps local gaming studios leave the ‘sweatshops’ approach far behind and makes it possible to pay a competitive market reward to specialists enough to get a high-quality creative product. Studios set up to work with the global market willingly spend this extra margin to engage high-end professionals in the studio and invest in professional training and development of co-workers.

What to consider while choosing a Ukrainian studio for collaboration?

For those local studios that have already established long-term partnerships with partners around the globe, you, for sure, pay attention to the company image, industry rumors, and referrals. But what if the studio you are interested in does not have enough reputation in the market? What else can help you define whether it is worth dealing with them? It is essential to check if the studio has well-arranged pipelines and is set up to work with big publishers. The reality of any fast-evolving market, like Ukrainian, is that sometimes the setup and processes of newly founded studios don’t keep up with their ambitions. With the depth of creativity and talent, you may face the problem of not existing processes and a lack of solid management. To avoid receiving an archive with hundreds of assets instead of in-game integrated content, it’s better to look for an outsourcing partner with fine-tuned processes.

Take some time to explore the website of a potential partner to check the brands and companies they are working with and how many of them have two or more projects with this studio. It’s not uncommon to request the documentation on processes, methodologies, pipelines, and communication practices adopted by this particular studio. This can help choose the right partner and build transparent and fair relationships. You can trust and let go, which gives you extra time to focus on the internal needs and long-term strategies while having content delivered on time and at a pre-agreed cost.

Have a project in mind? Contact us by using the form below to see how we can leverage our experience to create the game of your dreams!

Stay tuned to our blog updates. In the following article, we’ll share why Ukraine is one of the most promising IT hubs to deliver creative turnkey game development solutions that the industry can take advantage of.

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    Elena Natsvlishvili
    Head of production
    Vadim Krayevoy