gamigo: Staying ahead of the game with the power of Google Cloud

About gamigo

Founded in 2000, gamigo is one of the world’s leading publishers of free-to-play mobile and online games. The company strives to grow its business organically as well as via acquisitions and has undertaken more than 15 M&As since 2013, including companies specializing in games and technology as well as individual game assets.

Industries: Gaming
Location: Germany

gamigo uses Google Kubernetes Engine to provide a reliable, scalable infrastructure for dozens of online games, serving more than 100 million players worldwide.

Google Cloud results

  • Delivers seamless game experience by eliminating outages, with high-performance and stable infrastructure built on Google Kubernetes Engine
  • Supports an ambitious M&A strategy in the cloud to help gamigo save hundreds of thousands of dollars
  • Cuts management overhead, allowing developers to focus on customer needs instead of infrastructure maintenance

Google Kubernetes Engine cuts server costs by half

Making games is serious business. Nobody knows that better than gamigo, which has published dozens of games over the last 20 years. Now part of the Media and Games Invest group, it has made its name publishing free-to-play mobile and online games. Instead of developing games in-house, gamigo partners with smaller developers to take interesting game concepts and publish them for a mass audience. Today, the company has around 30 titles enjoyed by more than 100 million gamers all over the world.

“We’d grown so much that our data centers were becoming too expensive and hard to manage. We wanted to build a more reliable and scalable infrastructure without sinking costs into physical servers. In terms of value for money, we realized Google Cloud would be the best solution for us.”

Mike Thomas, Manager of Contracts, gamigo

gamigo’s success in recent years has come from several mergers and acquisitions. “We realized that we had a good track record for bringing smaller companies into the group and making them profitable,” says Mike Thomas, Manager of Contracts at gamigo.

While this was excellent news for the business, it created a challenge for the technicians as they had to ensure that they could support the IT infrastructure of dozens of companies, each with their own game-specific needs. By 2017, gamigo’s infrastructure—physical servers held in data centers across the world—had become too large and expensive to manage effectively. The company turned to Google Cloud for a solution that would scale with its success and keep costs to a minimum.

“We’d grown so much that our data centers were becoming too expensive and hard to manage,” says Mike. “We wanted to build a more reliable and scalable infrastructure without sinking costs into physical servers. In terms of value for money, we realized Google Cloud would be the best solution for us.”

Scalability, reliability, affordability with Google Kubernetes Engine

Each game that gamigo publishes has unique requirements for its infrastructure. While this allows developers free rein to create games in whatever way they want to, it can lead to headaches for the technicians who have to keep the servers running. Because of the way one game was built, it needed a minimum of five servers running, even if there were only a handful of players online. As gamigo acquired more games and more companies, it had more and more infrastructure to manage.

By 2017, the company had contracts with 14 data centers across the world, which had become complex to manage. Faced with rising costs, gamigo tasked Mike’s team with consolidating the existing infrastructure into two data centers. The team proposed something bolder.

“We felt money was being wasted on physical hardware,” he says. “It’s expensive to maintain and very expensive to replace or update. We wanted to move to the cloud, so that we wouldn’t have to worry as much about maintenance or manually adding more memory.”

The gamigo team looked for a cloud-based infrastructure solution, and by the end of the year began a trial with Google Cloud and another leading cloud provider. It was impressed with Google Cloud and its ability to use managed services with Kubernetes, the open-source container orchestration system developed at Google. Apart from the impressive technology, the gamigo team also considered cost. And Google Cloud won out over the other solution both in terms of overall cost and price flexibility.

Almost as soon as it made the decision to switch to Google Cloud, gamigo had to migrate a large workload at very short notice. “We ran into a problem with one of our bigger data centers,” says Mike. “It was hundreds and hundreds of servers for some of our most popular games, so we had to get the new instance up and running as soon as possible.” Even though it was working with new technology, gamigo found the Google Cloud documentation and technical help invaluable and migrated the data center’s workload across in just under a month.

After that first rush, gamigo felt it could take the time to plan the rest of its migration and refactor its architecture to work more efficiently with Google Cloud. The biggest change has been a move from physical servers to a services-based architecture. Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) is the core component of the new infrastructure, allowing gamigo to easily create, replicate, and scale new clusters up or down. Meanwhile, Google operations, formerly known as Google Stackdriver, helps the company with monitoring and logging.

“Google Kubernetes Engine has been incredibly stable for us. There haven’t been any outages due to the infrastructure going down. It’s also very easy to manage. If we need to add more servers because of a spike in players, we can do that very quickly.”

Tomasz Koczorowski, Director of Technology, gamigo

With GKE, the company can operate at scale much more efficiently than before. For example, the game that once required five servers simply to start, can be initiated with far fewer resources in a services-based setup compared with virtual machines.

One of the first games to run entirely on GKE is Ironsight, an intense first person shooter with a heavy graphics load. A hit with players, Ironsight has continued its success and is now available on the popular Steam platform. GKE has proved customizable enough to run almost all of the games in gamigo’s portfolio, but there are a very small number of games that require extremely granular control. For these, which are kept in bare metal architectures, gamigo relies on the flexibility of GKE to integrate instances into the wider company platform without any disruption.

“Google Kubernetes Engine has been incredibly stable for us. There haven’t been any outages due to the infrastructure going down,” says Tomasz Koczorowski, gamigo’s Director of Technology. “It’s also very easy to manage. If we need to add more servers because of a spike in players, we can do that very quickly.”

“Google Cloud is so much more efficient and reliable than what we had before. We can put our focus on what the players want, such as new in-game characters or clothing items, instead of on boring stuff like maintaining servers. It all feeds into providing a better service for our players.”

Tomasz Koczorowski, Director of Technology, gamigo

Keeping the focus on the customer

Since moving to Google Cloud, the most welcome change for gamigo has been to the budget. The visibility and transparency offered by the Google Cloud console is a world away from the opaque data center vendor contracts of the past. “We can see exactly what we’re using and how much we’re paying for it. I’d say we’ve cut our server costs by around half,” Tomasz shares.

That increased transparency has led to better management of resources which, along with the managed overheads of GKE, means that gamigo’s IT staff can work on developing new features for its games instead of being tied to infrastructure tasks.

“Google Cloud is so much more efficient and reliable than what we had before,” says Tomasz. “We can put our focus on what the players want, such as new in-game characters or clothing items, instead of on boring stuff like maintaining servers. It all feeds into providing a better service for our players.”

With the migration complete, gamigo is looking for other uses for Google Cloud beyond powering its game servers. The company is evaluating Agones, a brand new Google Cloud product designed specifically for hosting multiplayer games, to work with its upcoming marketplace. Meanwhile, the company is readying itself to bring its business intelligence platform to BigQuery. The powerful data analytics solution offers an opportunity for developers to proactively figure out what players want and how best to deliver it for them.

“I think a major growth area for us in the future will involve analyzing and using the data provided by our players, so that we can serve them better,” says Mike. “And I think Google Cloud will be a big part of that.”

About gamigo

Founded in 2000, gamigo is one of the world’s leading publishers of free-to-play mobile and online games. The company strives to grow its business organically as well as via acquisitions and has undertaken more than 15 M&As since 2013, including companies specializing in games and technology as well as individual game assets.

Industries: Gaming
Location: Germany