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Backend tech: Build or Buy? The industry weighs in

In our latest blog post, we explore the ongoing debate between building or buying backend technology for mobile games. Our comprehensive "Build or Buy" report, based on insights from 125 senior executives, sheds light on the true costs and benefits of each approach. Here, industry leaders share their perspectives, emphasizing the importance of scalability, reliability, and cost-efficiency.

The expert's view on the build or buy debate

Last month, we unveiled the findings of our ‘Build Vs. Buy’ Report; a landmark survey of 125 senior executives and tech leads at major mobile game studios.

The findings revealed some eye-watering figures, with the cost of each studio’s decision to build and maintain their own
backend tech coming to a startling $21,662,784.

As well as putting a firm number on this decision for the first time, the idea behind the report was to stimulate discussion among industry leaders.

At Nordic Game 2024, some of those we spoke to were shocked at the size of the $21 million figure, while several told us they thought it was on the low side.

One said their company had worked on its in-house backend tech for eight years (at considerably higher expense)!

We also received some “on the record” industry quotes from well-known mobile games industry leaders and Metaplay partners.

In this blog, we’ll delve into their thoughts and see what can be learned from their words of wisdom.

Chris Hong - CEO & chief developer, CosmoUniverse


We can’t argue against Chris Hong’s perspective - it’s why we included it on the first page of our report.

Scalability underpins everything we do at Metaplay. A game can become an overnight success, or steadily gain traction over a number of years to eventually reach the charts.

Either way, the backend needs to be prepared for both options.

On a resource level, there’s no rhyme or reason for a studio to be paying through the nose for a backend which massively over or under serves what they need. Backends should scale in line with success. 

As Chris also mentions, there’s more to making a game than developing and shipping it.

Your backend needs to be prepared for long-term live-service and a steady flow of content to hundreds of thousands or millions of engaged users. 

Sonja Ängeslevä, Founder & CEO, PhantomGamelabs


Live service games lend themselves to collaboration between the developer and player.

Look at community chatter surrounding a multiplayer launch, and you’ll see frequent discussions about the nerfs and buffs being added to a game. Gamers are keen to discover exploits, and developers must be quick to respond to them.

To achieve this, player behaviour and actions need to be understood on a 1:1 or high-level basis.

Using Metaplay, developers can provide OTA (over-the-air) updates to adjust the player experience without resulting in server downtime, key for that all-important retention.  

Riku Rakkola, Founder and CEO, Future Run +  Markus Kiukkonen, COO & Co-Founder, BitMagic + Erik Pöntiskoski, Founder & CEO at Dodreams




Three quotes, three studios, one message (and one big fat cigar, nice dub Markus): game-makers want to make great games, and players want to play them.

For the most part, gamers don’t care about the backend technology of a title (and we take no offence to this!).

Instead, it’s the narrative they’ll remember, the engaging gameplay loop that keeps them coming back for more, or that nail-biting multiplayer session with friends.

There is however an exception to this; tech suddenly becomes important to a player when it goes wrong.

It’s why your server infrastructure and backend need to be reliable and built on strong foundations.

Sure, you could start your backend from scratch but why do this when the tech already exists, and there are great games to be made?

Matt Wilson, Founder and CEO, Wild Sloths 


Matt’s perspective emphasises something which hasn’t always been true in mobile gaming, but now certainly is: every penny counts.

Our research found that the average salary for a backend software engineer comes to $138,864, and, of course, more than one engineer is needed to form a backend team.

On average, it takes three years to build a backend with an average of 52 developers needed to do this.

Combined, this puts the cost of building internal backend tech at $21,662,784.

It’s a staggering amount when backend solutions are readily available.

As opposed to the three years it takes to build an internal backend, it takes a matter of weeks to fully integrate the Metaplay Unity SDK (which has been in development for four years).

This means games can be developed and brought to market more quickly, with tech that scales as they do.

Arttu Aalto, Co-Founder, Playsome


The Metaplay team has centuries (literally) of combined experience working in-house at mobile developers and publishers, so we know full well the importance of having autonomy over your project.

From the start, Metaplay has been designed to put developers in control, hosted in the developer’s cloud and shipped as source code. 

Gabriele Aimone, CEO & Founder, TIFO


Gabriele’s input is true for backend providers, and sage business advice in general.

In our case, we provide a range of support packages that best suit your team’s needs. From a Discord community to 24/7 and 1:1 support, Metaplay can be available every step of the way.  

Build or buy? Many opinions; one consensus

Since unveiling the ‘Build Vs. Buy’ report at Nordic Game, we’ve enjoyed speaking to tech leads and engineers first-hand to understand their approach to backend tech. You can download the report here.

We’re keen to hear your thoughts on the report too - drop us an email at