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Revealed: The true cost of building your own backend

Metaplay reveals true cost of tech needed to scale hit games, including the hidden impact on game programmers asked to work on backends.

Revealed: The true cost of building your own backend

The choice to build proprietary backend tech and tooling costs a game studio almost $22 million, a new study of leading US mobile game studios has revealed.

Together with executives and tech leads at major game studios in the United States, we conducted the research in April of 2024. The findings show how much time developers dedicate to working on backend tech, how many people comprise backend development teams at top-tier game studios, and the average salary of a backend developer.

The full and complete results have been published in our new whitepaper Should you build or buy your backend tech? - you can get your free copy through the link, or by leaving your email below: 


Combined, the research has for the first time put a concrete price on a game studio’s decision to build their own backend tech.

The data promises to be especially valuable for founders launching a new game studio, and for game developers starting a new game development project. 

Build or buy your backend? A $21mn question

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The data shows that large publishers are spending an average of $21,662,784 to build and maintain their backend tech.

Respondents, all of whom are C-level execs or tech team leads at companies with at least 50 staff, were asked questions relating to the size of their tech teams, how long they had been working on internal tools, and their teams’ salary. They said:

  • $138,864 is the average salary of an employee working on internal tech at major publishers in the United States.

  • 52 is the average number of employees working predominantly in internal tech.

  • 36 months is the average number of months the companies surveyed had been building internal tech (just over three years).

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The hidden costs of building your own backend

Beyond the hard numbers, the study has shed light on the human costs associated with the in-house development of backend tech.

Almost three-quarters (74%) of respondents said their game programmers had been impacted by being redeployed to work on internal tech as opposed to gaming content.

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Of those who had redeployed staff, 41% said that doing so had slowed the game development process, 34% said it had increased ‘crunch’ working practices, and 34% said this led to higher employee turnover. 

As well as the immediate financial burden incurred as a result of the decision a studio makes to build their own backend technology, the research makes clear that there are profound knock-on effects developers need to be mindful of, too. 

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Third-party backend tech: A new dawn

In the past, game developers have found themselves forced into the choice to build their own internal tech and tooling due to the lack of viable third-party backends available.

But in the last couple of years, the market for third-party backends has evolved rapidly.

A new wave of backend tech providers has emerged as the polar opposite of those which preceded it, offering amongst other things key advantages like full extensibility and customization, features which before had been noticeably lacking.

It is said that this emergence draws parallels with a similar industry shift from the 2010s, when studios had to develop their own game engine in order to be able to build a game on it. Now, third-party game engines like Unity, Godot and Unreal give studios access to next-level tech and tooling that, realistically, they wouldn’t have been able to replicate unless they’d spent hundreds of person-years working on themselves. Importantly, this also allows developers to focus on core game development, and drastically save on cost.

Today, game backends like Metaplay give ambitious game developers all the benefits of building an in-house backend without them having to spend the time, money, or effort on building it themselves.

As third-party backends have evolved, externally-made tech is no longer the second-best choice. Tools like Metaplay are now the sensible strategic decision that allow a company to build the most solid foundations, and set themselves up for long-term technological competitive advantage.


Metaplay: One SDK to cover every step of the way

While some backends ship as fragmented product stacks, the Metaplay SDK is the only complete backend solution that covers developers from their first line of code right through to LiveOps and player support, all in one SDK.

The Metaplay SDK can be used to develop anything from simple single-player games with state persisted on the server, all the way to full real-time games with complex social interactions. Its C# game server comes pre-built with all the necessary features of top-tier games today but is fully customizable and extensible, making it easy to add new features and modify existing ones whenever needed.

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Metaplay ships as source code and its new managed service plans make it easy for developers to get started by deploying their game project’s into Metaplay’s cloud, with a path to self-hosting for full ownership and control.

Games like Merge Mansion by Metacore, Drive Ahead! by Dodreams, and Friends & Dragons by Playsome were made with Metaplay’s technology, while a number of promising venture-backed game startups in Finland are also benefiting from early access.

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Evaluate Metaplay at no cost today

Metaplay’s managed service plans start at just €995 per month and include full access to the Metaplay SDK. To try Metaplay yourself, head to, evaluate the Metaplay SDK at no cost, and start shipping commercially in just a few steps.