Is 2024 really the year of server issues?

With so many games hitting the news for all the wrong reasons, we take a look at whether it’s all a bad coincidence or something more endemic.

We’re only a few months into 2024, and server issues have been making the news one after the other. Helldivers 2 had to cap the number of players. Palworld was paying through the nose for servers. Suicide Squad has been having issues, even needing to shut down to fix a bug. In fact, it’s been bad enough to justify PC Gamer calling 2024 the year of server issues.

But is that really true? Are server issues becoming more common, or is it just some strange coincidence?

These aren’t new problems

Yes, we’re seeing server issues getting more attention this year than usual. But it hasn’t just been this year. Payday 3 had issues last year, Destiny 2 got DDoSed, Rainbow Six Siege had problems.

This has been a rising trend for quite some time now. As we see more live-service games, we’re seeing more studios struggle with their hosting. It’s not a new problem, it’s just been highlighted by a shift in business models. It’s one of those problems that’s been flying under the radar for quite some time. One that can really hurt Steam reviews and your reputation with your community.

But it usually comes down to one of three underlying reasons.

1. Studios aren’t managing their costs

In our experience, predictions are almost always wrong. What tends to happen is a studio will predict a certain number of players at launch, assume everything will go to plan, and budget accordingly. If they get a few more players, so what? They can just dip into the cloud, right?

Unfortunately, while they can turn to the cloud to keep their game online – it can cost an absolute fortune. A cost that studios very rarely account for in their budget.

You’re then left with little choice but to limit your players or haemorrhage money.

2. The studio doesn’t have experience with multiplayer

We’ve seen fantastic strides in technology that help indie developers and small studios create their perfect game. It’s easier than ever for people to get started and make a pretty polished game, without a giant team behind them.

Even if a studio has a few games under its belt, multiplayer games are quite a different beast. A multiplayer game relies on quite a few different systems working together. Even if you’ve made a few successful games, you’re very unlikely to have seen all the problems that could rear their heads.

This isn’t the studio’s fault. But that lack of experience means they fall into traps that could have been avoided.

3. Studios aren’t testing enough at scale

Both of the previous issues have a simple solution: testing. And not just making sure that it works, but asking yourself: What happens if we get ten times as many players as we expected?

Unfortunately, this is where studios often fall down. Usually, because they’re in a rush to get their game out the door.

However, when we worked with Torn Banner on Chivalry 2, we managed to avoid that problem. While they had a huge spike of players that they weren’t expecting, they sailed through it. How? Because we’d been through dozens of alpha and beta tests to spot all the kinks early. We’d tested the system until it broke, and fixed it before they ever went live.

This meant that their launch went well, and their server could handle the unexpected spike. They could manage the costs, make sure everything was running smoothly, and fire up new servers automatically.

Consult with us first

Aside from offering an orchestrator to manage your server providers and automatically spin up new servers, we also consult on your infrastructure itself. We’ve seen what can go wrong, and we know how to prepare for different scenarios.

So is 2024 the year of server issues? Yes. But it doesn’t need to stay that way.