Is Hosting Game Servers the Business For You?
One part of the web hosting business you may have overlooked is hosting dedicated gaming servers. Dedicated gaming servers are a niche product and don’t really get talked about much outside of the online gaming community. To the web hosting provider, they represent a possible alternative product offering.
Online gaming is a booming industry and the server requirements to power it all are going up and up. Hosting gaming servers comes with unique challenges though and it's important to know what you’re getting into before making any investments. We’re going to examine some of those challenges in this article.
Game Servers? What and Why
First, let's take a look at what we’re talking about when we say hosting gaming servers. Many modern multiplayer video games require a server of some sort to play. Gamers rent these servers for their own use or make them available for public use, often in the hopes of monetizing that server in some way.
The server admin, who is paying you for the server, can offer his players perks like cosmetic items for in-game avatars, in-game advantages, or even forum moderation powers, in exchange for cash to pay for the server hosting and hopefully turn a profit.
From the customer’s standpoint, they are going to be looking for a provider that offers a high-performance server with a low ping time and will have more needs in general than a customer who has a standard business website.
From a profit standpoint, game server hosting is a growing industry. The number of multiplayer titles requiring hosted servers grows year over year. Some titles such as Minecraft have over 10 million players across a wide range of platforms.
Total revenue for the gaming industry could be as high as $140 billion by 2020 if the industry continues growing at its current pace. While dedicated gaming servers are a small slice of that number, the more growth in gaming there is, the larger your potential customer base.
Another thing to keep in mind is that esports are also beginning to gain increasing commercial success with the value of the esports industry expected to hit $2.5 billion by 2020 and is another factor that drives sales of small-scale multiplayer game server deployments.
Over the last few years, companies specializing in a dedicated game server such as survivalservers.com have proven that there is profit to be found, as they’ve stayed in business and improved their product offerings with features such as custom control panels.
One unique decision you’ll be facing when deciding whether or not to get into offering gaming servers is knowing what games you can profitably provide servers for. While there a lot of games on the market, part of the business is knowing which games are “hot” and have a high player base.
The higher the player base of a game the more demand there will be for servers for that game, thus increasing your customer base. The difference in player count can be huge.
A title like Minecraft could potentially have a million players playing on a given day, whereas smaller niche title might have as few as a couple hundred.
You will have some unique support requirements if you offer gaming servers as a business offering. First game servers can have some unusually high system requirements compared to smaller business websites.
Some game server software packages can need as much as 6GB of RAM just to start and could more than double as the player count in a particular game increases.
Due to the high system requirements, you may have higher up-front costs for onboarding customers. Having a robust and dedicated server offering is a good indication you may be ready to offer game server hosting.
In addition to this, you need to make sure your data center has excellent connectivity. Ping times are an essential factor in online gaming, and people generally want to play on servers they have a 100ms ping time or lower.
The other issue with supporting game servers is that many of the popular titles come out in an “Early Access” state. This basically means that the players have paid for a title early and get to play the beta versions as the software is developed.
For the web host, this basically means you have a customer that is installing beta software on the server they are purchasing from you and expect it to work.
To host game server you will need to get familiar enough with the titles you are offering servers for in order to know the difference between a problem with the beta server software that you can’t fix for the customer and a problem caused by a misconfigured game server.
This adds another layer of difficulty for your support personnel as you will have to have support staff who understand the ins and outs of each title’s server software.
The gaming community can also cause you headaches. Minor disputes between gamers have been known to be the reason behind DDOS attacks on the web hosting providers that are hosting the game servers.
By hosting game servers, you increase your threat profile. That is an important consideration as you are increasing the possibility of a DDOS attack that would threaten all of your customers.
Your ability to mitigate DDOS attacks is another indicator of your ability to offer game servers. If a DDOS attack pulls your whole network down, hosting game servers will likely cause you more problems than it is worth.
Dedicated gaming servers represent a growing and potentially profitable business opportunity for web hosting companies. There are some difficulties with doing it, but as with anything, it's likely not worth doing if it's easy.
Not only will offering game servers help differentiate your business from other web hosts, but you’ll also gain access to a growing niche market in the hosting industry. In a company where its hard to stand apart from the competition, its worth considering adding game server hosting packages to your product offerings.
If you are starting a web hosting business and are looking for a reliable host to start your business with, you might want to look at some of the dedicated server options below to get started: