Much can be said about Valheim and the success that Iron Gate has had with this open world, Viking-styled survival game.
Over recent months there have been countless articles discussing why this game has had such massive success. Although its number of players has started to decline, there can be no denying the wave of excitement it brought to the gaming industry.
If you are not familiar with Valheim (where have you been?) here are a few numbers that might be of interest to you: it had one million downloads within the first week, three million downloads within two weeks and over five million downloads during the first month. The peak number of players online at any one time reached half a million, and whilst the number of people playing now is nowhere near the lofty heights of half a million, there are many people who are still engaged and enjoying the title.
In recent months I have read many articles that examine the game's mechanics and what it is about the game that got everyone so excited - however, I have not read a single article that has looked beyond the game itself and at the companies that helped make it such a huge success.
What do I mean, who am I and why am I writing this article?
My name is Roberto Omezzelli and I am the co-founder of a company called GPORTAL, which was started 17 years ago. GPORTAL provides gaming servers to studios and players. We have grown from very humble beginnings in Munich to providing servers in 14 locations around the world and opening a second head office in Texas. Over the years we have worked with many AAA game developers, providing official and private game servers for numerous games.
To understand why I am writing this article, you need to understand the multiplayer orchestration.
Valheim allows players to either rent a private game server or initiate a game instance running on their own PC, where they are the host -- this solution differs from so many other games. Often, we see purely peer-to-peer , where one player becomes the host. Or bare metal solutions, where dedicated servers fire up and close according to demand. Or official and private servers, where a game studio will have several official servers running 24 hours a day, alongside private servers that are owned by players and controlled independently.
If a player wanted to rent a server, then they could obtain one from a private game server host such as GPORTAL.
We have a long-standing relationship with Valheim publisher Coffee Stain Publishing and we spoke with both Coffee Stain Publishing and Iron Gate Studios on several occasions leading up to the launch of Valheim. At GPORTAL, we wanted to host the official servers, but this was not possible due to the way the game worked. We did however offer a cross marketing solution, whereby we incentivised our 600 influencers from around the globe to play and promote the game across various media. In return, GPORTAL were endorsed on the Steam store page as Iron Gate's favourite private game server supplier.
No one was expecting the huge amount of success Valheim had, and that includes Iron Gate and Coffee Stain Publishing. Within a day all private server hosts were sold out. Due to the ongoing global pandemic, there is currently a shortage of hardware. You are probably aware that there is a global shortage of graphic processors and that there are thousands of back orders for the latest PlayStation and Xbox --for GPORTAL and other server hosts, it is servers that are difficult to obtain.
During the first day we had sold a few hundred game servers; this had practically doubled the following day, and within the first week we had sold almost 2,000. We were struggling to meet the demand, and as Valheim is an early access game, there was not a great deal of optimisation. At GPORTAL, we use industry-leading just-for-gaming servers and even on our servers, a single instance of Valheim was using 60% CPU on a single core. This meant we were restricted to hosting eight to ten game servers per bare metal server; however, a patch was issued 10 days after launch that reduced the load on one core from 60% to 5%.
Even with the new optimisation, we had to contact every server supplier we knew, procuring as many servers as we could. Other companies were trying to do this too, so effectively it became a race to obtain as many servers as possible and as quickly as possible.
Once we started to procure extra servers, our team worked around the clock to deploy 120 bare metal servers per day. After two weeks, GPORTAL was supplying 25,000 game servers, and by March 2021 we were supplying 57,000 game servers. To put this final figure into context, 57,000 Valheim servers is more than the top 10 server providers combined.
"We had to contact every server supplier we knew, procuring as many servers as we could"
During these crazy few months, we managed to stay on top of demand by supplying game servers to any player who needed one and, due to our experience, procurement of servers and commitment to meet player demands, we were able to supply 36% of the Valheim servers around the globe. No other company within our sector of the games industry can boast these figures or commitment to the game studio and its fans.
What have we learned?
The video games industry is a strange and exciting beast. Valheim is the world's most successful early access game and Iron gate AB at the time did not have enough people to even field a five-a-side football team. During the early few months of this year, Valheim was the most played and most streamed game -- outperforming titles from far larger and more substantial studios.
Valheim is evidence that no one can predict which game will take off, and it shows that all game studios should prepare for success, even if it is not predicted.
At GPORTAL we have learned that we are able to meet the demand of any game title, that we have the infrastructure and experience to overcome all obstacles.
One final thought
If you are a game developer or are working at a studio and you are still undecided about server orchestration, just take one moment to consider this: As Valheim allows players to host their own game or rent game servers, it has cost Iron Gate Studios not a single penny to have this huge success.
To enquire about private game servers email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Alternatively, visit the GPORTAL site right here.