Let Panda Graphics CEO Yuya Kuratomi explain the process and the challenges in this new frontier for entertainment-savvy entrepreneurs
Films. TV shows. Video games. Each of these entertainment channels requires heaps of concept artwork during pre-production to set a clear artistic vision. And there are a ton of artists who do great work but aren’t acknowledged or sourced in high-tier businesses. Unless these artists know people in higher networks, it’s tough to get recognised.
Enter the world of crowdsourcing graphics, where artists can submit their work and be listed in a database. Sure, it sounds like a glorified Deviantart, but there’s more to this.
For instance, our spotlight company Panda Graphics cherry-picks the best categorised pieces of artwork from its pool of talent, and then assign them to an appropriate video game project based on their portfolios. So if one of them was good at drawing spikey-haired blondes and brunettes carrying big swords, there’s a huge chance they’ll be put on a Square Enix Japanese role-playing game art project. The artists then get paid via bank transfer.
Quality over quantity
Clients won’t be getting run-of-the-mill artwork either. CEO Yuya Kuratomi said to e27 that there’s an in-house art director who oversees the project and provides quality control. The biggest challenge he and his company have to face is cultural differences. “Because we are a global company working with artists from all over the world, there can sometimes be cultural differences (which include language barriers and timezone issues). Finding highly-skilled artists who can work in a client’s time frame is difficult, but it’s worth it in the long run.”
He added that the concept of quality can also be different between countries — art style, difference in tone and colour schemes — which then affects progress when not kept in check. “A designer from country A might have a different concept and might deliver something that is 80 per cent quality; we’re always looking for 100 per cent.”
Right now, the company is going global, thanks to an investment from East Ventures for US$1.4 million. Panda Graphics is expanding in North America first instead of the rest of Asia because of size and volume. “It’s the largest market for games,” said Kuratomi, “and since we mostly work with game companies, we feel that it would be beneficial to have a branch there that can communicate directly with the clients.”
He also said that Silicon Valley is the ideal spot to do crowdsourcing business as it is an epicentre for IT culture. “It’s a great place to be to find new business opportunities.”
Still, Asia is not out of the equation, as Kuratomi is looking at the Philippines and Vietnam as potential production branches. So if you’re planning on pulling off a crowdsourcing art business in Southeast Asia, these two countries are a good place to start due to their breadth of art and animating talent.
What to expect from crowdsourcing funky art
This may be a brand new field, but there’s a lot of room for growing. “Crowdsourcing can be a viable option for major game companies as well as those lacking resources,” said Kuratomi. He added that crowdsourcing will expand and trend more when people are comfortable with making money out of translations and programming remotely on the internet.
So far, Panda Graphics has had positive testimonials from big established publishers and developers like Square Enix and Cyberconnect2. e27 mentioned earlier that the former is recognised for its Final Fantasy titles and the latter for its Bandai Namco-published Naruto anime fighting games. “We have already proven that we can work with big players in Japan,” said Kuratomi. “The next step for us will be to make Panda Graphics famous worldwide to meet crowdsourcing needs.”