Make or buy: A scalable multiplayer game server backend

Multiplayer game server backend
7 March 2023

If you’ve decided to not spend top dollar on flexible cloud solutions, nor want to overcommit on dedicated resources, it is likely you’ve arrived at the conclusion that you need a scalable game server backend to scale your compute resources up and down based on your real-time CCU (Cost per Concurrent Users) and preferably predicting it in the future to scale up resources right before the players turn their consoles on.

Table of Contents

Build your own scalable game server backend

We don’t need to explain that building a scalable game server backend is a complex and challenging task that requires a significant investment of time and resources. If you are part of a large and established studio or publisher, this task is likely to be made easier by access to existing scalable backend tech and tools, as well as colleagues with years of experience in building and managing the tech needed to successfully create your own. However, for independent game studios, the lack of access to this technology and ability in-house will make this process much more difficult.

Aside from whether you have access to the tech and ability in-house, you will need to consider at least three important points that may be easily overlooked when focused on the backend:

1. Security and stability

It needs to be secure and stable without minimal downtime, well, duh. But the thing is, do not forget that your players play 24/7, so your backend will have to be secure and stable 24/7 as well. If you are the only person in the studio to understand how this works, you will also be on standby whenever something happens (and something always happens).

2. Scaling strategy

It will have to handle scaling up for spikes in player traffic very quickly, well, duh again. That is the whole point of building a scalable multiplayer game server backend. The point is, what is your strategy in scaling up? If you are scaling up into one cloud provider, what if their specific location and instance type you want to scale up into is sold out? What logic are you implementing into your backend to make sure it can always scale up for player spikes, regardless of what is happening with your vendors, as you would still be dependent on them for compute resources? So aside from the expertise of building such a backend, make sure you understand the logic of it.

3. Maintenance

Privacy policies, GDPR and the constant adding of new features to follow changing regulations, new game engine versions, game builds etc. Basically, as we’ve written in another blog, running a live service, or basically any multiplayer game is like owning a dog, you won’t be leaving the house anymore.
To summarize in one sentence: If you are building your own scalable game server back-end, keep in mind the three points (there’s more) listed even if you have the tech and expertise and before you build it. If you don’t have the tech or expertise, and the above three points look scary to you, look for alternatives.


It’s good to see many people realize how difficult it is to build a scalable multiplayer game backend, as the people that have experience with it either started their own companies creating Backend-as-a-Service or work with infrastructure companies that have integrated automated scaling products into their product portfolio. There are several ways to approach the challenge of multiplayer game development, depending on your specific needs and requirements. One way to categorize potential solutions is by the type of provider offering them.

1. Infrastructure providers

These providers offer compute and connectivity resources to support multiplayer games. The infrastructure providers that focus on the video gaming industry also have software build tools that help manage multiplayer components, such as (parts of) a game server backend.

2. Software orchestrator providers

These providers offer tools that take care of some of the management of the infrastructure aspect, making it more hands-off for the developer. However, these providers do not own the actual infrastructure which your game runs on.

3. Backend as a Service providers

These providers go beyond infrastructure solutions and offer a broader range of solutions throughout the game development lifecycle. However, they also come with similar challenges to the software orchestrator providers and may affect the user experience.
Whichever type of provider works best for you depends again on your expertise and the tools available. But as always, there are two important variables to think about prior to deciding: a) How could my decision impact player experience? and b) How could my decision impact cost control during the lifecycle of my video game? The last thing you want to do is migrate everything to another solution when your game goes past the growth phase.
Main Take-Aways

Building a scalable game server backend is a complex and challenging task that requires a significant investment of time and resources. You will need to consider important points that may be overlooked; therefore, it is an option to look at solutions with providers who have automated scaling products in their portfolio.