Interview with bitHeads: Creating game backend with BrainCloud
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Interview with bitHeads: Creating game backend with BrainCloud
16 March, 2015
Interview

We had chat with Paul Winterhalder from bitHeads. In this exclusive interview we talked about innovative middleware technologies for games, brainCloud solution, and GDC 2015.

Please introduce yourself.

My name is Paul Winterhalder, I’m the Chief Development Officer of bitHeads and our brainCloud product.

Can you tell us a little bit about brainCloud?

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BrainCloud is a backend as a service for games. Instead of building your own backend for multiplayer and social connectivity between players in a game, you can use our service. Just download our SDK to configure things and have your game work across IOS, Android, Windows Phone, Blackberry, Steam and many others.

What do you think makes brainCloud standout among other SaaS providers?

There are a few things I guess that makes us stand out. First of all we have great platform support so we’re available on all the mobile platforms, also Facebook. We have Flash ActionScript 3 support, web support JavaScript SDK, we also work on Windows and Mac, and we have Steam support so if you’re building a Steam game you can connect with us as well. In the future we plan to support the consoles: PS3, PS4, Xbox, Xbox One.

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Another thing that we have that certainly is a differentiator between us and our competitors is that our pricing model is very flexible so you pay us in terms of API calls: the number of requests you make to our system is what you’re paying for. The more you cost us in terms of server usage, the more we cost you but we don’t break things down to DAU (Daily Average Users) or MAU (Monthly Average Users) .

The problem with doing that is that it doesn’t allow people to lightly use your service. It makes assumptions and unfortunately the developers end up paying more. So if someone wants to just use the monetization features of our system they might only make a few API calls to our backend per user of the system and therefore they’d be maybe able to get 20,000 users a day on our system for $25 bucks a month as opposed to our competitors where you’d be spending probably thousands of dollars a month for that same usage.

It allows people to try portions of our feature set and if they like it they can use more.

How did brainCloud come to be?

Bitheads is a 20-year-old company. We actually turn 20 in October this year. We’re based in Ottawa Canada and we’ve been building very scalable and secure client-server platforms.

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Back about 7 or 8 years ago we got into gaming and built an online casino scalable secure backend. In the last few years many customers have come to us asking for a backend for their game. We find ourselves building the same stuff over and over again. That’s when we decided there’s a place in the market and that folks shouldn’t have to build a custom solution, that they should just be able to connect to a backend service that’s already for them. So about 3 years ago we started building this product and we are happy to have soft launched it.

Do you do anything else except cloud-based solutions?

We make games as well, we’ve also got a small development studio and we’ve got friends in the industry (folks who are building mobile multiplayer games like Сlash of Сlans type games and Words with Friends type games and what have you and those folks are getting maybe a million dollars to kind of build their first version of their game and setting aside a couple hundred thousand dollars to build their backend and it just makes no sense).

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Every dollar that you spend building your own backend is a dollar not spent making the gameplay better, making the graphics better, making the user experience better. Nobody has ever played a game and said, “You know, the gameplay was okay but that player management system THAT’S awesome!” So spend your money where people will appreciate it. So the idea is to save the money in the development of the backend portion of things, you do want to have a backend because it better helps you monetize your games, there’s things you can do in terms of push notifications, and pricing controls, and promotions that can really increase your revenues of your game over its lifespan. But you don’t want to spend time building that, it’s much better to spend your time on the gameplay and graphics.

How did you like GDC 2015?

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It’s probably my 10th year here at GDC. This is the first year I’m not getting to go to sessions and everything because we have the booth and the new product and everything. I’m missing that but normally I go see my favorite designers give presentations. A few of the folks that have made games that I like have come here and are talking to us about our backend. They’re interested in using our backend for their game and of course I’m distracted because I want to just ask them about when they made a game. I still got that little bit of excitement from talking to the people who are looking to use our platform. I love GDC.

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Paul Winterhalder, Chief Development Officer, bitHeads

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