What is a game server?

What is a game server?

The gaming industry is set to generate $260 billion in revenue by 2025. Innovations in tech, a new generation of gamers, and launches in new gaming titles, are just some of the reasons for gaming’s continued growth.    

This continued expansion means work behind the scenes for game developers to ensure their games server infrastructure is fit for purpose. Whether updating existing games servers or to set up game hosting servers from scratch, there are some pressing questions for game developers, namely: how to ensure games remain high-quality and lag-free for expanding audiences?

We believe that it all starts with the games server. In this, our ultimate guide to game servers, we’ll be looking at:

  • what a games server is,

  • the different options available and how they match with varying game types,

  • and what you should keep in mind when choosing your own game hosting server. 

But first, a quick definition.

What actually is a game server?

‘Game server’ refers to the software layer installed onto a dedicated server, a bare metal machine which most often resides in a data center. The games server is the application instance loaded onto the physical, bare metal machine that runs the server side of the online game.

It’s easy to mix up game servers with dedicated servers, so make sure that you’re clear on the differences when you’re researching how to host game servers. If in doubt, just remember:

  • Game server = software

  • Dedicated server = hardware

Let’s dig deeper into the different types of gaming servers: peer to peer and dedicated game servers.

Peer to peer vs dedicated game servers

The type of server on which your game is hosted can make a massive difference to the experience of your players. Ever missed a crucial shot in a massive multiplayer game because of lag? Lost out on a win due to poor connection? It could just be that your broadband isn’t up to the task, but it’s possible that the game you’re playing isn’t hosted on a server optimized for large workloads.

What is peer to peer gaming?

Peer to peer gaming (otherwise known as ‘peer 2 peer’ or ‘p2p’) refers to a multiplayer game hosted by players’ machines; this can be either a PC, or a gaming console like a Playstation.There are two types of network structures that commonly occur in peer to peer gaming. In the first type, a sole player or ‘host” acts as the server for the rest of the players. Those players connect to the host who relays data to every player that’s connected to them. In the second type of p2p, all players on the connection are needed to maintain the network. Once the connection is established, the network of computers sends messages to one another to disseminate and balance the amount of work necessary to keep the game up and running.

It looks something like this…

What is a gaming server?

Some of the world’s most popular games run on a peer to peer network architecture, such as:

  • Animal Crossing: New Horizons

  • Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

  • GTA Online

  • Demon’s Souls

What about dedicated game server hosting?

Dedicated game servers are the setup-of-choice for high workloads and big, multiplayer games. You’ll find a dedicated setup game hosting server behind some of the largest open world or fast games, such as:

  • Minecraft

  • 7 Days to Die

  • Counter Strike: Global Offensive

  • Rust

These large games need some serious infrastructure behind them, and dedicated game servers’ power and connectivity make them the perfect choice for resource-intensive games.

Which is the better option?

The most effective setup game hosting server type for you and your game depends on a few factors. If you’re on a tight budget, or your game is designed to be played in close proximity with others, then peer to peer game servers may be the right choice. They’re often cheaper than their dedicated counterpart, and can easily support geographically close play.

But peer-to-peer has its drawbacks. Relying on one player to “host” the others can cause problems if their internet speed is subpar, and also gives that individual a significant advantage as they'll experience almost zero ping. Also, should that player lose connection (or rage quit the game), they’ll often take the rest of the players offline with them—not ideal.

Developers looking to mitigate performance issues like lag, slow loading times, lost files, and crashes should opt for a dedicated games server. This reliable infrastructure setup removes stress from complex game launches by offering a powerful platform for high performance, scalable game hosting.

What is a game server?

Does the type of game affect hosting setup?

The network demands of your online game are definitely a factor when deciding the type of game server you should opt for. Online games can be split into three categories: single player games, asynchronous multiplayer games and synchronous multiplayer games. Let’s have a quick look at each.

Single player games

These games are always a solo effort. While they can vary hugely in scale (from killing ten minutes on Candy Crush to settling in for a day of Red Dead Redemption), it’s always just you playing.

While they can include some online connected elements, like leaderboards or in-game purchases, there is little information sent back to a games server infrastructure to process.

Asynchronous multiplayer games

Asynchronous (literally meaning not in sync) multiplayer games involve more than one person, but players do not engage with each other in real time. They’re often turn-taking games, such as chess or Words With Friends.

From an infrastructure perspective, these games require slightly more hosting input than single player. Although actions aren’t as time sensitive as quick-fire shooting games, a games server must still, for example, receive an action from one chess player and play it back to their opponent.

Synchronous multiplayer games

This is the real resource-intensive stuff. Multiple players engage in real time action in what are often incredibly latency-sensitive operations, such as the fast action shooting of CS:GO and Fortnite.

Unsurprisingly, synchronous multiplayer games are the most resource intensive of our three gaming types. Unless you want raging gamers coming after you on Reddit, well-specified gaming servers with low latency network connections are needed to deliver acceptable speeds and experience.

So, if your game involves either asynchronous or synchronous play between people, it’s best to opt for a powerful dedicated game server host who can provide the speeds needed to make gameplay excellent.

What is a game server?

Let’s summarize. If you’re choosing your own game server, what should you keep in mind?

The type of game you have should influence your hosting choice decision. But there are a couple more considerations you should make while evaluating your game server hosting options, namely:

Where are your players located?

Are they predominantly in one or two countries? Or spread around the world? Understanding where your players are located is key to choosing the best game server hosting option for you. In virtually all computing scenarios, speed is crucial – but none more so than in gaming. Game servers are latency-sensitive applications: players experience games at their best when latency is below 60-100ms at the time of everyone playing together.

When it comes to latency, every mile between server and player counts. To ensure a consistently good experience for everyone, players need to be located as close as possible to the setup game hosting server. If your game has a global player base, you’ll want to opt for game servers for rent from a hosting company that operates an international network of data centers.

What hardware specs do you need?

What is the optimal specification of game server infrastructure you need to ensure a speedy, efficient gaming experience for players?

Cloud server providers typically offer high density hardware powered by lower-speed multi-core CPUs. These work fine for general business computing tasks, but as they lack the clock speeds needed to meet the demands of high-performance gaming, they aren’t the ideal game server hosting option.

In order to get maximum value from your game servers for rent, consider how you can make the most of the multi-core CPU. In theory you will be able to run multiple instances of the game server application on the same hardware – but you must ensure you specify enough RAM for each core.

Good hosts that provide games servers for rent will help you set up various hosting options to experiment and find the optimal configuration for your game. Your game’s entire performance and user experience is dependent on a solid infrastructure, and even good value options aren’t cheap. We’d even suggest looking elsewhere if your chosen provider is unwilling to assist you when choosing your game server specifications. We’re more than happy to guide you through testing rounds and help you choose the best setup game hosting server.

How we can help

There’s a lot more to game servers than simply plug-and-pay, and there are many considerations to bear in mind if you’re looking for game servers for rent. We have years of experience hosting some of the world’s most popular online games; we help launch more than 50 games per year.

By using the top carriers and smart routing, our game servers for rent provide the super low latency and fast loading times required to ensure excellent game play.

If you’re looking to set up a game hosting server or have a question for our experts, you can reach out to us or check out some of our previous work.


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