Gaming is one of the entertainment industry’s great success stories, and also one where the business model has changed radically. Just a few years ago, gaming involved large one-off purchases for both games and the devices on which to play. While that model still exists, the near-ubiquitous proliferation of highly powerful smartphones has seen a fundamental shift in how users interact with games.
And it isn’t just the devices that are changing. Instead of two-hour sessions on a PC or console, mobile gaming typically involves shorter, more numerous sessions throughout the day. Monetization has also evolved, with large up-front payments now replaced by usually smaller but more frequent in-game purchases. A critical part of the game development process has therefore become the tracking of player IDs, progress in the form of analytics, social systems like leaderboards, and inventory systems to power rich item economies.
This is the area in which Beamable specializes. It focuses on the development of a full-stack, live operations platform that allows developers to both build and operate live games. Its modular systems for commerce, social, engagement, and interaction are quick and easy for developers to integrate, enabling them to drive engagement and revenue. With 35+ games currently live, 60+ in active development, and another 100+ going through tech evaluation, it’s a popular solution that’s rapidly gained adoption since launching in 2020.
Trapper Markelz, Co-Founder and COO, Beamable
“Game developers didn't become game developers to work on tools. They became game developers to work on games,” explains Trapper Markelz, Co-Founder and COO at Beamable. “Our job is to provide tools to manage things like player support and leaderboards so non-programmers can orchestrate and operate their games, and focus on setting up new content, offers, and monetization strategies.”
While removing the need to develop ‘glue code’ may be its headline benefit, the power behind Beamable’s offering is data. When Beamable CTO Ali El Rhermoul was developing the foundational technology, he had a clear understanding of what they needed in terms of data-management capability.
“Different customers need different things, but there is a set of consistent features,” says El Rhermoul. “We provide ready-to-use, out-of-the box identity services, and those all have databases backing them up.”
What Beamable needed first and foremost was horizontal scalability. Beamable offers both multi-tenant and single-tenant cloud offerings, so a flexible document model approach with the ability to share data horizontally quickly was critical.
“Games are very sensitive to performance, especially multiplayer games, so having a response time in single or low double-digit milliseconds is super important,” El Rhermoul notes. “That was a primary requirement.”
There were other important criteria, too. Vertical scalability was a key factor, as was Beamable’s cloud code suite, which allows customers to write custom code and run it on Beamable infrastructure, and also necessitates database capacity.
“That's super important for multiplayer functionality in terms of cheat proofing and making sure that sensitive logic is executed on the server side, which can't be tampered with,” El Rhermoul adds. “It’s also data that we don't have control over, so giving developers a database functionality without them having to understand the database operations aspect is vital for us.”
Ali El Rhermoul, CTO, Beamable
Beamable’s close relationship with AWS was a critical factor in developing an effective solution. As a top-tier AWS ISV Accelerate partner, Beamable began to work closely with AWS teams to build and develop its platform. A critical requirement was the ability to carry this out in an entirely managed way using MongoDB Atlas and AWS Fargate, AWS’s serverless compute engine.
“AWS provides foundational game infrastructure and we provide critical tooling on top of that to make developers productive,” says Markelz. “It's also one of the reasons why we decided to partner with MongoDB.”
Prior to launching Beamable, both Markelz and El Rhermoul had long histories with SQL and relational databases. “The first thing that drew us to MongoDB was the performance of document insertions and the high throughput it enabled,” says El Rhermoul. “Beyond that, the multi-master sharded data paradigm is not something you see all the time, and that ability was also very attractive.”
However, it was their previous experience of operating MongoDB clusters and being accepted into the MongoDB for Startups program in 2022 that led them to realize it was the solution they needed for Beamable. Joining the MongoDB for Startups program connected Beamable with sales and marketing teams at MongoDB, which provided the full spectrum of technical and go-to-market support needed to scale their offerings.
“MongoDB Atlas gives us the ability to scale vertically and horizontally with relatively little effort and without huge operational overheads,” El Rhermoul continues. “It also allows us to not have to go through painful or difficult database migrations, especially when we're dealing with data from a large number of customers.”
Trapper Markelz, Co-Founder and COO, Beamable
As its all-purpose developer data platform, MongoDB is now a fundamental component of what Beamable offers to developers. Its speed of operation provides the critical response times that developers crave, while its flexibility and scalability mean prices can be adapted to match large fluctuations in demand.
“Games can have very spiky usage patterns,” says El Rhermoul. “At launch they can reach anywhere in the neighborhood of 14,000 requests per second, which is high. That translates to billions of API calls per month, and the data sizes are in the terabytes. It's not a small scale, but MongoDB is on top of it.”
The advantages for developers are huge. Markelz explains that Beamable can save some development teams USD $300,000-400,000 each year, and cut up to four months from a standard one-year development cycle. El Rhermoul adds that Beamable enables teams to be smaller and, consequently, more agile and better able to collaborate and innovate.
Perhaps even more exciting is that for Beamable, this is just the beginning. The business is collaborating with MongoDB product teams to explore the new serverless offering, and plans to position MongoDB as a vital aspect of gaming’s future.
“The gaming industry is on track to be worth over USD $350 billion worldwide, bigger than every other form of entertainment combined,” notes Markelz. “The majority of all revenue generated by gaming is through live-connected experiences, so there is going to be pressure on developers to not have to build those features from scratch every time. We’ll continue to take that off their plate.”
El Rhermoul concludes: “We're entering an era of creativity that is making game development accessible to a whole new segment of the human population. Beamable is part of that, and Atlas remains a critical part of the product for Beamable SaaS and private cloud customers. Every Beamable customer is a MongoDB customer, and there are lots of exciting days ahead.”