LevelUP: The True Cost of On-Premises vs Cloud in Gaming

Transitioning from traditional on-site infrastructure to cloud computing is a historical turning point in game development. This has a huge impact, particularly in the real-time multiplayer game world – where scalability, flexibility, and rapid deployment are mission-critical for your game to succeed. Cloud computing offers cost-effective and efficient options, along with other advantages, including security and managing unpredictable workloads at launch time. Choosing the right infrastructure has a ripple effect on your game that you may not know about until it is too late. While I personally have sided with on-premises infrastructure in the past, the cloud has improved significantly over the years, to the point where it now makes more sense to take advantage of it. 

Cost Efficiency: On-Premises vs Cloud

Compared to traditional on-premises infrastructure, cloud computing significantly lowers cost management during production. Unlike the fixed costs associated with on-premises equipment, cloud computing offers different levels of pricing that can react to the changing needs of game development and maintenance. This eliminates the need for a special team or individual to monitor and scale your infrastructure, saving that money to use towards the completion of your game. Your programmers will be focused on what you are paying them to do rather than troubleshooting hardware that they may not be familiar with. I am willing to bet they can figure it out; however, for you, that’s time wasted – not focused on your end product – taking away from your bottom line.

Scalability and Flexibility: On-Premises vs Cloud

When developing real-time multiplayer games, the requirements are always changing. This is why cloud computing is so far ahead of on-premises when it comes to scalability and flexibility. You can instantly react when you see large quantities of players coming to your game servers. This is difficult with on-premises equipment because if you need more servers, it could take hours, days, weeks, or even months, depending on your infrastructure requirements.

First Impressions Count

The scalability portion is what really made me reconsider going from on-premises equipment to cloud computing. During a game launch, you only have one chance to make that first impression. Ordering infrastructure is difficult for any studio; even AAA studios have under-provisioned their infrastructure. By doing this, it causes a messy launch; players are waiting in queues just to get into the game. While it may seem like a good problem to have, if you are on dedicated equipment, it is not. By the time you get your new servers up and running, you have lost momentum, and possibly even the players who have been experiencing delays.

Now, with cloud computing, you can see that bottleneck, address the issue right away and spin up more instances quickly. Players will take notice that you are being proactive and ensure that they have a great experience in your game. This gives the players a much more positive experience, as you can increase your resources to accommodate the demand.


Scalability goes beyond just handling player traffic; it is a game-changer on the development side too. Being able to test multiple configurations seamlessly is a crucial advantage. Developers can scale up their resources and simulate different worlds, stress-test under different conditions, or add new features. This flexibility allows for a robust development process and enables teams to identify and address potential issues or bugs quickly. This also streamlines the workflow, ensuring the game can improve throughout the development process.

Rapid Deployment: On-Premises vs Cloud

Cloud computing is the winner over on-premises in terms of quick deployment. When you implement game updates and fixes, you can be assured of quick deployment. On-premises systems usually demand longer upgrading procedures, which will result in long delays and negative player feedback. It is not like the old days where, if you did not have a smooth launch, the faults would disappear over time. In today’s world, people are leaving reviews and voicing their opinions on multiple platforms instantly. You only have one chance to make a great first impression, and if you choose on-premises infrastructure, this really could delay a game launch – not based on the game not being ready, but because your infrastructure is not able to handle the load from a rush of players.

Game Launches Are Unpredictable

No matter how much research you do, predicting the exact number of players who will download and log onto your game is a real challenge. There are typically only two potential outcomes that happen when choosing on-premises: either over-provision or under-provision hardware. In the player’s eyes, over-provisioning is a great experience. They do not experience queues or issues logging into their chosen server or shard. For the studio, however, this is a fatal mistake. Likely, what happened was not only over-provisioning but also ordering spares in the event of a huge player spike. Now you are left to soak up the cost of the servers and the time spent setting them up, where that money and time could have been allocated more efficiently across the project.

The other outcome is that you under-provision to save money. This is a nightmare for both the players and the studio. The players will not have a good experience if they are waiting in queues and might not even be able to get on at all. You are in a spot where you need to rush to order more physical servers. Depending on what you order and if the stock is available, this could pose significant delays. In turn, players will leave feedback on social media and put you under a microscope on how you handle this nightmare. Your team will have to work extra hard to ensure players are compensated for the issues they are experiencing.

Post Game Launch

While no one likes to think about it, one harsh reality is that post-launch, your player base starts to stabilize. The initial surge of players naturally decreases, and the flexibility to scale down resources becomes invaluable. Being able to do this not only ensures cost-effectiveness but also aligns with the demands of your game’s lifecycle. By reducing unneeded resources when your player count decreases, you can maintain operational efficiency and reduce costs. This is critical to ensuring that your game has long-term success and is profitable. Without this, you run the risk of overspending, not only on server resources, but also on customer support and marketing efforts to retain players.

On-Premises vs Cloud in a Nutshell

Transitioning to cloud computing is a huge change in game development, particularly for real-time multiplayer games. The change to cloud infrastructure not only saves money by offering scalable pricing and reducing the need for specialized monitoring teams, but it also keeps your development team focused on game development.

Looking back at my experiences, the change from on-premises infrastructure to the cloud has been a game changer. The complexity of game development today demands a system that is robust, agile, and responsive. Leaseweb offers this adaptability in a robust and scalable cloud solution, ensuring that studios can focus on what they do best without technical limitations getting in the way.

The ability to instantly respond to fluctuating player numbers is a key to the success of a game. Being able to rapidly deploy will ensure timely updates and fixes, which are crucial for maintaining a great player experience – particularly when living in a world where first impressions can make or break your game. Looking at the choice of infrastructure, each decision has major effects on your success. The cloud is not just a technological choice but a strategic asset in the ever-evolving landscape of game development. What will you choose?

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