Game Preservation and the shutdown of servers. What is the cost of keeping servers alive?

We have seen it over and over again. A digital game comes out and it's playable for a few years and bam, they remove the servers.
The company is still in business. Why take servers down? It can't cost that much, especially if they are using their own servers or if not they use so much they would get better rates then if you or I rented a server.
I admit, I don't know much about server renting and maintenance, but i would think owning your own is just putting up a computer or blade and connecting it to the internet so it has it's own ip (i have done this with a web based server and my own computer, before buying a domain name, it was free, just used an ip address) Outside of electricity, and hardware, where is the cost here?
If a game has less players, due to being older, wouldn't they just need to scale the servers back to less of them, it should be cheaper to maintain? How much money are we talking about keeping a server up.

Example Dark souls servers, Gran Turismo 5/6/sport, PS3/360/wii store/game servers etc....

If its not that much of a cost, wouldn't they warrant better pr and trust by keeping servers up?
What is the solution. Why isn't there pushback, or laws to push preservation?

What is crazy is these companies will still sell you the games, and sometimes jack the prices up.
I went to check out playing dark souls again on pc (I own all 3) and apparently all their servers have been shut down since January. They were supposed to come back up after Elden Ring.
2 months after Elden Ring now and still they are down.

GT7 and its always online connection, when they pull the servers as you know they will, the game will be gone. For multiplayer only games, I understand a bit more, but not for singleplayer games.
Also if the player count is that low, can't they just scale down the number of servers available? It can't cost that much to leave 1 or 2 up, right?

I don't have a ton of time to play games. I have a backlog a mile long. I expect I will be widdling them down in the nursing home (they better let me bring a pc in, lol) , or in a rocking chair when I retire 20+ years from now.
That being said I will be able to play games that don't have servers. With so many games tied to this its impossible to do.
Also some companies shut down their entire storefronts. So you can't buy games. I foresee a problem where later on they will get so greedy, they won't let you redownload your old games as it will cost them 50cents an hour or something.

I am doubly concerned about the store situation with the switch. What happens to our games after the next nintendo console comes out? They killed the wii and are in process of killing the 3ds stores. Why do this? Why not keep them up with less servers? Bean counters want their 5cents? What am I missing, how much does it really cost?
 
Last edited:

ReBurn

Gold Member
If there's a cost to keeping servers up for games that are no longer generating profit then there's no financial incentive for companies to keep servers active. Fan service only exists as far as it generates revenue. It would be great if companies would make it possible or more accessible for fans to spin up their own servers to keep old games with online requirements active. If fans are willing to pay for servers and bandwidth to run them it would be a good option.

The problem is that for the most part games aren't public domain and preservation isn't a priority for the owners of the IP. Despite having all the physical copies they can get players don't actually own anything but a license to play their games. So if the servers go offline physical copies just become cool conversation pieces. This isn't going to change any time soon.
 
Devs/publishers don't care, they could just let people host the games like it was on PC back in the day.

Now you pay for the online just for your game to stop working a few years lates, specially if it isn't very popular.

Worst case scenario, show the recepts (how much it is costung to keep the game up) and let fans pay for it with a kickstarter if there is enougth people intrested.

There are so many solutions that it becomes obvious how much they don't care about game preservation.
 
Last edited:

M1chl

Currently Gif and Meme Champion
Basically fucking nothing, servers nowadays are in containers, which are spawned to match the deamand and when it's not needed, those containers all can be basically turned off and just some microservice which cost like cents per month is there to watch for request so it can spawn new container which has all of that MP logic inside. Servers are definitely not physical, they are virtual, possibly running on some AWS, Google Cloud, Azure. Maybe some custom server base, but just to note with sockets, basic ass GOlang app with MUX can handle a 10K simultaneous request on 5USD VPS 1CPU, 512MB. You don't really calculate physics on server, that's always client side and basically that server is there to store some data, but most importantly to do the tunnel, which connect all parties together.

Logic for compensating latency isn't really CPU taxing.

Just some fun video which basically shows it:
 
If there's a cost to keeping servers up for games that are no longer generating profit then there's no financial incentive for companies to keep servers active. Fan service only exists as far as it generates revenue. It would be great if companies would make it possible or more accessible for fans to spin up their own servers to keep old games with online requirements active. If fans are willing to pay for servers and bandwidth to run them it would be a good option.

The problem is that for the most part games aren't public domain and preservation isn't a priority for the owners of the IP. Despite having all the physical copies they can get players don't actually own anything but a license to play their games. So if the servers go offline physical copies just become cool conversation pieces. This isn't going to change any time soon.
I get financial reasons, but how much does it actually cost to host a server? For an old game or client, I imagine they could scale it down or am I thinking about this wrong? If they can downscale it would cost less and I would think they could just eat a small cost for the good will, trust and loyalty it generates. More happy customers, good word of mouth and trust equals more sales and more future customers.
 
Basically fucking nothing, servers nowadays are in containers, which are spawned to match the deamand and when it's not needed, those containers all can be basically turned off and just some microservice which cost like cents per month is there to watch for request so it can spawn new container which has all of that MP logic inside. Servers are definitely not physical, they are virtual, possibly running on some AWS, Google Cloud, Azure. Maybe some custom server base, but just to note with sockets, basic ass GOlang app with MUX can handle a 10K simultaneous request on 5USD VPS 1CPU, 512MB. You don't really calculate physics on server, that's always client side and basically that server is there to store some data, but most importantly to do the tunnel, which connect all parties together.

Logic for compensating latency isn't really CPU taxing.

Just some fun video which basically shows it:
Which is what I was thinking. If its peanuts why remove. Back in the day hosting websites and quake 3/ut servers on a pc didn't cost me anything outside of the hardware. And with cloud based servers instead of dedicated hardware like my quake 3 box it could be dynamic in allocation. So that being said, is it just bean counters and companies being greedy over a few cents or is there some other reason.
 

M1chl

Currently Gif and Meme Champion
Which is what I was thinking. If its peanuts why remove. Back in the day hosting websites and quake 3/ut servers on a pc didn't cost me anything outside of the hardware. And with cloud based servers instead of dedicated hardware like my quake 3 box it could be dynamic in allocation. So that being said, is it just bean counters and companies being greedy over a few cents or is there some other reason.
Simply because they can and like, there is a chance of some of them doing this in broken language like JS, which basically means that if need to migrate, than a lot of packages to need to run the logic isn't available. However outside of that it's really mystery, why gigants like EA doing this. Maybe so you coonsoom their next product, because otherwise I think it cost more to send someone to ssh into the vps and shut it down.

And also to note QUAKE 3 codebase still can be virtualized, however it's not written in most cloud-friendly language since it's calling very low level functions, which isn't accessible for example in docker/kubernetes/aws cloud (typical container-ing environment nowadays) . It's done to make it fast, because it was build for Pentium 100mhz and 56kbit internet. There are some ports, but they aren't that good, because Carmack did also his own C compiler, which really makes it shine. Smart people like that aren't born every day...
 

ReBurn

Gold Member
I get financial reasons, but how much does it actually cost to host a server? For an old game or client, I imagine they could scale it down or am I thinking about this wrong? If they can downscale it would cost less and I would think they could just eat a small cost for the good will, trust and loyalty it generates. More happy customers, good word of mouth and trust equals more sales and more future customers.
It depends on how active the server is. I've run servers for personal projects that cost me anywhere from $10 per month for compute and bandwidth to $500 per month for chonky data ingestion workloads. Just depends on how active it is and the workloads you run. Online servers for games like shooters can be compute-heavy depending on where processing for things like hit detection and position tracking is done, and compute-optimized servers can be expensive. But each application is different so it's hard to tell.

The real cost may just be backend hardware maintenance for old games. If the server is in a dedicated data center, as was likely the case prior to services like AWS and Azure entering the mix, then it was very expensive because you had to maintain or replace expensive server hardware as well as pay for the wide pipes to the internet to make online play possible. It's less expensive overall to keep a server running on a cloud host these days because you don't need as much headcount and hardware to maintain physical infrastructure, but it's still not necessarily cheap.

If the servers for old games are on physical hardware it may not be worth the cost to the company to migrate them to the cloud, especially if the game isn't earning revenue. Most likely they're running on old, unsupported versions of operating systems that are no longer receiving updates. It's not always possible to just deploy old code to a newer OS version or newer hardware. Sometimes you have to update code to meet backend security requirements. Sometimes newer hardware isn't backward compatible with older software. Maintaining old software is expensive. All reasons why servers go offline.
 

lh032

I cry about Xbox and hate PlayStation.
#LongLivePhysical
handshake GIF
 

Elysion

Member
I‘ve been wondering about this for a long time too. I‘m not savvy at all when it comes to network and online stuff (I haven‘t played a single online game in my life), but I always assumed that (on console at least) online gaming is for the most part p2p, and that there wasn’t any need for server hardware since the consoles of the respective players would communicate directly with each other, similar to how local multiplayer with a LAN connection works, except in this case it’s done over the internet. So that‘s not true at all?

I‘m asking because I distinctly remember discussions on gaming forums back during the PS360 era, where PC people claimed that online gaming on PC is superior because not only is it free, but because online gaming on PC is usually done through ‚dedicated servers‘, which was a big buzzword back in those days. But instead it seems all online gaming requires servers of some kind? In that case I understand why Sony and Nintendo followed Microsoft’s lead and required a subscription to play online (in fact I‘m surprised that they offered free online for so long in the first place). Or is there a difference between ‚dedicated servers‘ and just… standard servers, I guess?
 

lyan

Member
You need someone/team to keep tabs on all these old running games for accounting and maintenance (when things breaks), that's the biggest cost I imagine.
 

Sleepwalker

Member
There's always the question of durability, nothing lives forever. Not servers, not consoles, not discs and cartridges (as much as you may want to believe it). When you buy a disc or a cartridge it is up to you to maintain your personal copy. With servers and game preservation there's also a durability and as much as we would like it, companies are not obligated to keep them up forever, there's a cost involved for little or no return when it comes to maintaning old storefronts and multiplayer servers that are no longer used, both in manpower, electricity and hardware maintenance.

PS3 and X360 as an example are consoles that launched in 2006 and 2005 respectively and you can still download and use games from those storefronts, that's 17 and 16 year old consoles and games, actually way more time than the average user will mantaing his/her discs in shape. It's basically the equivalent of keeping your SNES games in perfect shape and functional up until 2007. Sure yeah some people collect and do it, but really not many. I believe the current effort from MS and Sony are fine when it comes to their servers in general (there are some exceptions ofc).

There's also ways to rip up the contents from those games, emulate on pc, create custom online servers, etc. If you want to preserve games there's ways to access basically every game ever released aside from some from the start of the internet and gaming that are sadly lost forever.
 
Last edited:
I don't know why they don't allow player-side hosting private servers once the official server goes down. I shouldn't lose access to online play because a company doesn't want to host it. They sold me that game as advertised, with no clear timeframe of if or when that portion of the game was going to be locked out.

If you had a savvy enough lawyer, you could sue the companies for wrongful advertisement or something.
 

StreetsofBeige

Gold Member
I don't know why they don't allow player-side hosting private servers once the official server goes down. I shouldn't lose access to online play because a company doesn't want to host it. They sold me that game as advertised, with no clear timeframe of if or when that portion of the game was going to be locked out.

If you had a savvy enough lawyer, you could sue the companies for wrongful advertisement or something.
Because the game company wants you to move onto and buy their next game.

Also, player hosted servers can lead to cheats and mods, which no company wants. Even though the MP modes would be 100% dead without gamers paying for private servers, a lot of them would rather bury it then let random gamers keep it alive.
 
Because the game company wants you to move onto and buy their next game.

Also, player hosted servers can lead to cheats and mods, which no company wants. Even though the MP modes would be 100% dead without gamers paying for private servers, a lot of them would rather bury it then let random gamers keep it alive.
I agree with what you're saying. It's still a shitty practice and a middle-finger to the long time fans, who must have stuck around for years to get to a point where servers shut down.

Player hosted servers with cheats and mods is a breath of fresh air to a dead game. I'm all for dead games having rapid fire snipers, explosive ammo and big head mode.
 

StreetsofBeige

Gold Member
I agree with what you're saying. It's still a shitty practice and a middle-finger to the long time fans, who must have stuck around for years to get to a point where servers shut down.

Player hosted servers with cheats and mods is a breath of fresh air to a dead game. I'm all for dead games having rapid fire snipers, explosive ammo and big head mode.
Ya. It's a weird thing.

Some companies dont seem to give a shit if players keep playing. I'm sure some people still play Unreal Tournament on private servers. I don't think Epic and Tim Sweeney make a nickel off any of this. Yet, they dont give a shit if people want to play 20 year old games over and over again.

But then some game maker will cut service to more recent games and zero private server access leading to the game to the digital graveyard.
 

Bo_Hazem

Gold Dealer
I'm happy that I give no fucks to games I've beaten. Had this bad habit a decade or two back.

I usually departure way ahead of games being dead, too early sometimes.
 

ViolentP

Member
Electric, bandwidth, maintenance, and labor costs. Multiply that by every game that requires online servers and multiply that by 12. If the sum yearly income of these games is lower than your yearly overhead costs, you would be operating at a loss.

And seeing that video games is a business first, no one is going to operate at a loss voluntarily.
 

StreetsofBeige

Gold Member
Electric, bandwidth, maintenance, and labor costs. Multiply that by every game that requires online servers and multiply that by 12. If the sum yearly income of these games is lower than your yearly overhead costs, you would be operating at a loss.

And seeing that video games is a business first, no one is going to operate at a loss voluntarily.
Good point, but COD servers are still up. COD 2 MP on Xbox 360 is still accessible as you can even google it where people say you can still find a match even if it's just 3 people wanting to play.

If greedy Activision can leave up what seems to be one shitty server for 360 COD 2 , anyone can.

IDK. How much does t cost a company to keep up one game server per year? $1000?
 
Last edited:

ViolentP

Member
Good point, but COD servers are still up. COD 2 MP on Xbox 360 is still accessible as you can even google it where people say you can still find a match even if it's just 3 people wanting to play.

If greedy Activision can leave up what seems to be one shitty server for 360 COD 2 , anyone can.

IDK. How much does t cost a company to keep up one game server per year? $1000?

There are a number of factors that come to play when hosting servers: performance needs, quantity, bandwidth requirements, labor needs, etc...

These metrics are impossible to determine without looking behind the curtain.

But if I were them, I would do a requirement assessment and determine if keeping the servers up provide some level of marketing benefit. If there is and the traffic needs are low enough, there would be nothing stopping me from hosting it on another already established server. A company like Activision/Blizzard has enough of an infrastructure that a legacy title wouldn't exactly need dedicated servers. But when you start getting to games like Drive Club, they lack such an infrastructure so it would likely have to be dedicated servers just to keep the game going. Also not ignoring the much higher server requirements for something like this vs. a 360 game.

Put shortly, if you have an otherwise established infrastructure to mitigate the cost of operating a legacy title, there may be value in doing so. If keeping your title running is 100% cost however, it needs to bring in more than it takes.
 
The whole issue actually boiles down to the IP system which I feel it is a bit silly (but this is not the point here). Hopefully, in a few years, a number of these old/forgotten/unplayable games will become public and then people will be able to put up their own servers if there is a community for it.
 

daveonezero

Member
When games are put to pasture, patching in P2P is absolutely the solution to this issue.
Or self hosted servers like those that have existed in pc gaming

The whole issue actually boiles down to the IP system which I feel it is a bit silly (but this is not the point here). Hopefully, in a few years, a number of these old/forgotten/unplayable games will become public and then people will be able to put up their own servers if there is a community for it.
What do you mean?

Walled gardens created this problem.
 
Last edited:

bender

What time is it?
Good point, but COD servers are still up. COD 2 MP on Xbox 360 is still accessible as you can even google it where people say you can still find a match even if it's just 3 people wanting to play.

If greedy Activision can leave up what seems to be one shitty server for 360 COD 2 , anyone can.

IDK. How much does t cost a company to keep up one game server per year? $1000?

I tried COD4 a few years on One X and while the servers were up, it was unplayable due to how rampant cheating was. I think the cause behind the Souls games online services being taken down on PC was because of an exploit. Keeping servers running for the status quo might be inexpensive but maintaining the user experience may not be.
 

Zug

Member
Dark Souls servers didn’t go down because of cost but because of some exploit.
The network code in DS servers allowed for some RCE (remote code execution) scenarios.
It put their consumers computers at risk, without an effective remediation, NamcoBandai couldn't let them online or they would have been sued eventually.
It sucks but it's much better that way. Now, will they fix this, the question remains.

I don't really see how a client-server app can be preserved with only the client part anyway.
Sometimes the server part is leaked or reversed/recreated (Wow private servers, Everquest P99...) but it takes a lot of work to do/maintain, so only a handfull of very popular games will have this "privilege".
 
Last edited:

BigBooper

Member
If you want to look it up, the City of Heroes private servers have been upfront about their running costs.

I don't remember what they said the monthly cost was, but you can find it out there. Look up Homecoming's costs because their server is the most popular I think.
 

Eevee86

Member
Saw a twitter post explaining this not long ago. The costs add up but they said the real issue was things becoming outdated and needing to keep people around that understand how to keep them running in addition to security becoming an issue.
 

The_Mike

I cry about SonyGaf from my chair in Redmond, WA
I prefer dedicated servers over p2p, but this show the only true advantage with p2p.

It doesn't require servers so the online is technically online forever.
 

Yoda

Member
Most games with an "online component" have servers which do some or all of the following from a feature PoV:
  1. Inform the client when an update is available (the update itself is usually handled by a 3rd part ex: Steam) -> computationally cheap
  2. Authenticate clients (anti piracy + anti cheat stuff) -> computationally cheap
  3. Perform matching making -> computationally cheap* (some games make a good effort to do thoughtful match making, but those are a small minority)
  4. Pick a client to host the game itself AKA P2P model (dedicated servers whewhenre they aren't required (ex: MMOs) are rare) -> computationally expense stuff happens on a player machine at their expense.

Now there are "behind the scenes" items which need to be handled, but as someone who works w/large scale, highly distributed systems (100 of millions of users), most of these process are fully automated and would probably sap maybe a few hours a month of a single employee's attention at best. These include:
  • Server failures -> automated (literally an "out of the box feature" from AWS/GCP/Azure)
  • Security patches -> automated (same as above)
  • Demand re-balancing (games gains or loses popularity) -> automated* (generally requires tweaking overtime, but is very straightforward).
Most of the automation would've been built in during development. So KTLO (keep the lights on) is maybe a few thousands dollars on an organization's budget.

At the end of the day, it's short-sighted greed. Most likely it goes down something like: X mid-level manager wants to show their boss they found cost savings. It's easy to exaggerate how much the MP servers costs to keep running (plead ignorance at most of it being automated) = nice "win" on their promo doc.

EDIT: One extra tidbit: If the games runs a cash shop, depending on how hard they tried to lower the cost (on themselves) for each transaction, that could be a pain to maintain. Presumably if a pub/dev is already considering shutting a game down, they'd turn off the cash shop.
 
Last edited:
It's almost certainly cheaper than whatever the big companies say, since foreign-region websites, high school students, and others have been able to set up the required materials in their bedrooms and basements.
 

Clear

Member
Keeping a product in use/circulation isn't preservation.

Ironically preservation typically involves keeping things "safe" from the market/public etc.
 
I used to be pro preservation but now that i know life is too short i don't care anymore
i just play whatever i want and when i beat it i move onto the next thing
cause 1 day your on this earth the next day you might drop dead so keeping all these old stuff
barely has any meaning to me anymore
 
It depends, some proprietary systems are very expensive, hardware dies and eventually it becomes hard or impossible to drop in a replacement... Or the knowledge of operations and basic maintenance becomes lost

Îmagine trying to find parts for an old dec alpha server? Or if your data was stored on some proprietary database + hardware created 20 years by people who retired or even died.

Even old PCs are not necessarily that obvious to maintain.
 

treemk

Member
If the server can be virtualized the cost of keeping a low population server running is completely negligible.

If it can't be virtualized then lol

IMO consumers should get some legal protection where if a company decides to shutdown servers permanently they have to release the server code so the community can keep it running
 
Last edited:
That's why I never bothered buying digital version unless the said game does not have physical release and I'm desperately wanting to play that particular game
 
That's why I never bothered buying digital version unless the said game does not have physical release and I'm desperately wanting to play that particular game
This does not make sense. If a game requires a online check it does not matter if you have the physical version of it.
 
Keeping a product in use/circulation isn't preservation.

Ironically preservation typically involves keeping things "safe" from the market/public etc.
I dunno about the market/public but often big corp. can actually be anti-preservation, for various reasons/pretenses, and only a PR backlash is what's keeping them from outright saying so. Source: I once met a film collector who had a rather dreadful story about a certain studio wanting to buy his Wizard of Oz reel specifically to destroy it.
 

Poplin

Member
Army of Two :(

Game is on EA Play/Game Pass, but without servers its limited to local co-op only. Game literally is built for co-op, kills me its lost forever.
 
Top Bottom