The outsourcing market is hotter than ever, but the days of the generalists are coming to a close.

It’s not unlike what has happened in medicine, construction, and even in automotive repair. For many years, the family doctor took care of 90% or more of everyone’s medical care, the handyman could handle most home repairs, and the backyard mechanic could fix almost anything that went wrong with your vehicle. But, over time as both technical requirements and the body of knowledge related to each discipline increased, the demand for specialists did as well.

We are seeing the same progression in interactive game development.

Whereas even a few years ago, it was still common practice for full game development studios to offset some of their downtime and expense between development projects by taking on art and animation outsourcing, it’s become nearly impossible to do this competitively now. Publishers aren’t just looking for warm, talented bodies to churn out some assets at a reasonable price, or even just working with studios who don’t do full game development to make sure their art pipeline doesn’t get disrupted when a “better project” comes along. They are, in fact, getting quite granular in their selection process.

Experience in outputting for particular middleware (like Unreal 3), in using particular utilities (like Z-brush), even in working within certain development methodologies (like Agile development) are becoming unique selling points that outsource providers must use to differentiate the niche were they can bring the greatest expertise and potential value to bear. This doesn’t mean they can’t also compete for projects outside that niche, but their greatest avenues of repeat business will come from playing to the stereotype rather than trying to break it.

Developers have been specializing in one or two genres for a while now. So, too, must art and animation studios and other service providers in order to rise to the top of a crowded field.

In simplest terms, don’t be a jack of all trades and a master of none. Find your sweet spot, then work towards owning it outright.

Good hunting!