Why we don't do game server hosting

At Anchor we get a constant stream of enquiries for co-location & dedicated hosting from a huge range of different types of businesses. We're always happy to put our heads down and try and come up with hosting solutions for anyone that does contact us. Except for Game server hosting. We don't do game server hosting.

Why?

Game servers are bandwidth hungry

Gaming server hosts characteristically consume large amounts of bandwidth and thrive on low latency links. Because of the large amount of bandwidth consumed, hosting costs become high along with price sensitivity.

Business vs Individuals

Many of the customers requesting game server hosting were individuals rather than businesses. At Anchor we're very much focused on providing services to businesses. Businesses by nature tend to have a level of dependence on services, and a level of tolerance for disruption to services that is very different to that of individuals. One of the major costs of providing services for gaming servers is bandwidth. Running a network that meets the needs of businesses and the budget of individuals is complex challenge.

Quality vs cheap bandwidth

Anchor has never positioned itself to be the cheapest provider of web hosting services in the Australian market. Nor are we the most expensive. We do like to think that the service we offer is of a very high standard though. Providing a quality service from a network perspective means:

  • Low latency Internet connectivity
  • Internet connectivity that is always free of congestion (in normal operation)
  • Good Internet connectivity to domestic peers - ie not routing bandwidth via international carriers
  • Minimal outages
  • A redundant network configuration that works
  • Constant monitoring for faults
  • Rapid response to any service degradation

We don't think it's possible to do all of the above AND do it at a very low cost.

We used to quote on game server hosting and we never managed to land a single client. The prices we discovered we were competing against were most often well below our cost. We can only assume that the bandwidth didn't come with all of the features above.

Gaming as a pastime vs Gaming as a business model

There's absolutely no doubt that there is money to be made out of hosting online games and there are many examples of very profitable companies doing this. World of Warcraft, Runescape etc etc. Such examples however provide game hosting as a business with very carefully calculated models that ensure the hosting costs are justified.

Hosting a game server so that you and your friends can play together in a responsive environment is a very different prospect. Likewise even if end users are paying to access the game server, the number of users need to be very large before hosting costs of quality bandwidth can be covered.

Liability for DoS attack

Unfortunately operating game servers on a hosting network presents an increased risk of denial of service attacks. When the competitive element of a game spills over into the real world and results in a not so happy gamer triggering a DoS attack against the source of the problem, our network suffers and all of our other customers would suffer. This is a risk we're not prepared to take.

Network load

Per Mbps or per GB of data on our network, gaming traffic by nature generates a disproportionate amount of load on our switches and routers. Router load is generally proportional to packet count rather than octet count. Gaming traffic typically consists of a very large number of very small packets (ie, lots of packets and not many octets). This increases our infrastructure costs on a service that at best offers low margins.

Specialist game server providers

There are companies that specialise in the provision of game server hosting. I think it's fair to say that if a hosting company provides game server hosting it will be actively advertised on their website. The absence of such adverts, or an article like this one, should be a pretty clear indicator that game server hosting is not their thing.