AWS for Games Blog

EA’s Metalhead launches ‘Super Mega Baseball 4’ with cross-play for six platforms using Amazon GameLift

EA’s Metalhead launches ‘Super Mega Baseball 4’ with cross-play for six platforms using Amazon GameLift

Metalhead knows a thing or two about big swings. As the developer behind popular video game franchise “Super Mega Baseball,” the studio has taken each installment to new heights, growing its own capabilities and talent base in tandem. Now part of EA SPORTS, Metalhead has aimed for the fences with “Super Mega Baseball 4” (SMB 4), a new version of the arcade-inspired sports game featuring more than 200 playable baseball legends – from Babe Ruth to David Ortiz. With Amazon Web Services (AWS) as its backend, the Metalhead team accelerate and optimized its development and deployment of “SMB 4,” ultimately launching the game simultaneously on PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and Steam, with global support for cross-platform play.

Early adopters of Amazon GameLift for cloud-based server management and deployment, Metalhead went all-in on AWS for the 2020 release of “SMB 3.” Building on key learnings, the team continued to fine-tune its cloud-based pipeline, including integrating AWS CloudFormation, which allows users to model, provision, and manage AWS and third-party resources by treating infrastructure as code.

Christian Zuger, who co-founded Metalhead with Scott Drader, noted, “We didn’t have CloudFormation last go around, and it’s made our deployment much easier. We have a master fleet, and our QA team can deploy and maintain regional server fleets with the push of a button; it’s entirely automated, with guardrails, and removed a big headache for us.”

Centralized development on AWS has also made it easier for the team to deploy the game across platforms and facilitate cross-platform play. They use a single multiplayer protocol that all clients can access. Then, AWS services like Amazon GameLift FlexMatch matchmaking service take over and provide experience parity.

“We want to be platform agnostic, so players have a great experience on whatever device they’re using,” said Zuger. “With AWS, we have a common central point and fewer complexities. This means players can be fairly matched by ability and geography so they experience the same latency, with the goal to keep it as low as possible.”

Another key upgrade for “SMB 4” is integration with AWS Game Analytics, which the team uses for real-time signal and backend health monitoring. When a pattern of drop-off is detected, they’re prompted to check for possible errors that could impact the player experience. They’re also able to capture and analyze game play metrics to inform feature development.

Drader explained, “Batting is the key mechanic in ‘SMB,’ and we are conducting extensive analysis on pitch locations and outcomes, then tweaking the gameplay as needed. We track performance and compare that to our expectations, as well as statistical models, so we can ensure our results closely match real-world gameplay. We’re also looking at the multiplayer experience for our online competitive mode: pennant race. We want to make certain the game is making quality, balanced matches, and pairing players of similar abilities to create exciting outcomes.”

“We’ve found the ability to decouple the recorded data and how to ask questions to be very powerful,” added Zuger. “Our previous solutions were more rigid, but our current approach helps our gameplay engineers better determine the most important areas of focus.”

Metalhead also shifted its scripting language from Python to CDC C# and started using a single AWS Lamba request to call its tech stack, instead of running every REST end point as a separate function. The new streamlined approach allows the team to replicate the “SMB 4” development environment locally, enabling junior developers to safely debug and work on new features.

“From a software perspective, developers can treat the environment like other applications and that’s been a huge productivity win,” Zuger explained. “Also, since it’s a replicated environment, but not live, developers of all experience levels can interact with and test the code, without affecting the live build, and when a feature is ready to deploy, we’re confident it will work.”

With the game now available worldwide, the team is continuing to capture and analyze data to further enhance the player experience.

For details on “SMB 4,” visit: or follow @supmegbaseball on Twitter.

To learn more about accelerating and streamlining game development with Amazon GameLift and other AWS for Games services, check out: