Preventing vendor lock-in to maximize cost efficiency and performance

Stopping vendor lock in
31 October 2023

Cloud computing is used by billions of users worldwide, for good reason. It has everything one can think of, from simple compute resources to complicated software. Everything is in one place, ready to be deployed, all at the click of a button. 

When it comes to the gaming industry, among many others, public cloud infrastructure providers offer compelling deals to attract studios and publishers. With attractive offers of free credits or months of free services, “effortless” scaling and countless value-added services, it’s easy to see why many companies leverage these services. However, beneath this lies a complex web of long-term risks in the form of vendor lock-in. 

Vendor lock-in is a widely adopted strategy to ”trap” customers in an ecosystem. The majority of tech giants nowadays have built ecosystems designed for vendor lock-in; using proprietary software, file formats and specific APIs embedded in the source code of applications, making sure your operations stay within one single ecosystem. Vendor lock-in is not something that is inherently evil, as there is certainly value in staying within the same ecosystem. But while designing your game and making choices regarding which third-party infrastructure software to leverage, it is crucial to think of a hybrid strategy, or even an exit strategy.  

Table of Contents

Cloud providers and hidden costs

Many cloud providers offer game studios multiple months of free services. But with prolonged periods of free service usage, it’s easy to turn a blind eye to the long-term complexity of public cloud billing structures and the fees you might incur once the free trials are over. After you have integrated a few proprietary services and additional products public clouds offer, there are not many other options left.  

Once integrated, you have a plethora of different services you can utilize, from storage to connectivity to managing all the used services. In the beginning, the bill for your cloud usage will remain at a minimal level and will stay like that if your game doesn’t get the attention it deserves. It’s only when you are live and the game starts catching the hype of the gaming community that your infrastructure needs to start scaling up. Higher compute needs, more database usage and more egress traffic costs; all of that will be reflected in a ramping invoice at the end of the month. Once entangled with the services of your provider in combination with the payable invoice, the barriers to leave will seem almost insurmountable.

Inflexible solutions

The potential for large, unexpected cloud bills is just one part of the entire vendor lock-in issue. Once you have integrated your hosting environment into the public cloud provider’s ecosystem, your freedom to choose services that are optimal for your use-case diminishes. Imagine a situation where your matchmaker is not satisfactory anymore, does not meet your requirements, or becomes too costly to maintain and you find a solution in the market that covers all of your needs to the dot. Due to the nature of vendor lock-in, with vendor-specific API calls, proprietary data formats and public cloud provider ecosystem-tailored middleware solutions, your choices of using third-party services become limited, forcing you to use your cloud provider’s proprietary solutions even though they might be sub-optimal for your use case.  

“Once entangled with the services of your provider in combination with the payable invoice, the barriers to leave will seem almost insurmountable.” and the hybrid approach firmly believes in the hybrid model, allowing game studios to employ the multi-cloud scaling approach, utilizing public clouds like AWS, GCP, Azure and Tencent for additional resource capacity, in combination with a bare metal server layer for base player capacity and public cloud resources for planned or unplanned player influx. This is purely from an infrastructure perspective, which are the systems that need to scale once your game is a success. As our ecosystem is open, it allows you to leverage other third-party systems such as matchmakers and crucial tools to run your multiplayer game, giving you the flexibility to adapt.

Main Take-Aways

Vendor lock-in, with its constraints and hidden costs, can be a major obstacle for the game studios in the long run.’s approach frees you from these shackles, offering you the flexibility to utilize multiple providers, all while maintaining the cost-effectiveness and technological excellence you need to succeed.