GungHo upgrades the player experience through advanced matchmaking with Amazon GameLift


GungHo Online Entertainment, Inc. (“Gungho”), a Japanese video game developer and publisher known for Puzzle & Dragons, has been using Amazon Web Services (AWS) for their infrastructure since the game’s initial release. Then, in June 2020, GungHo turned to Amazon GameLift to deploy and manage their multiplayer game servers for their latest action title, Ninjala. Amazon GameLift enhances the matchmaking experience for players around the world by reducing implementation and operating costs for developers.

AWS Case Study:GungHo Online Entertainment, Inc.

The server side and matching system portion has been able to be left to AWS. This allows us to focus on providing a superior gaming experience for our customers. Compared to the method of providing our own servers, the construction cost is only about half. We have also been able to reduce operating costs by 4 man-months per month."

Mr. Takanori Kikuchi
GungHo Online Entertainment, Inc.

Selecting a matchmaking system for an online multiplayer game

Many of the games developed by GungHo fall under the free-to-play category; players are only charged for premium features and services. This model makes predicting the number of concurrent player challenging, so the infrastructure needs to be flexible enough to expand or contract accordingly.

“Compared to on-premise servers, the decision to adopt AWS was based on its flexibility, scalability, and overall cost efficiency,” says Takanori Kikuchi, CTO of GungHo Online Entertainment, Inc.

To remain an industry leader in infrastructure utilization, GungHo recognized the need to upgrade its multiplayer matchmaking system and the game servers around 2018. After careful consideration of whether to build an in-house matchmaking system or use an external service, they concluded that each title has unique matching requirements. They decided to adopt a matchmaking system that aligns with the characteristics of each title.

Selecting a matchmaking system posed a challenge for Ninjala, which was under development at the time. Ninjala was inspired by chambira (sword fighting), where players control 3D avatars in battle royales and team competitions, accommodating up to eight players. Besides offering exhilarating action, effective matchmaking is crucial to ensure a good player experience. But after initial testing, user feedback indicated the game’s architecture, including the matchmaking system, needed to be reevaluated. After much consideration, GungHo decided to implement Amazon GameLift FlexMatch.

“Since the game engine uses Unreal Engine, which has a readily available and well-updated SDK, we determined that it would significantly reduce the development man-hours required for the communication aspect of the game,” said Kikuchi on the rationale to use Amazon GameLift FlexMatch.

Refining Ninjala with the Amazon GameLift development team

Optimizing Amazon GameLift for Ninjala required approximately six months of coordination, during which Kikuchi maintained close communication with the Amazon GameLift development team and requested updates to align with the latest trends in the gaming industry.

Ninjala is a fast-paced game where matches conclude quickly and players are matched up as soon as a match is over. During this period, first-person shooter (FPS) games with similarly frequent matchmaking gained popularity. Kikuchi asked the Amazon GameLift development team to enhance the game’s matchmaking capabilities to handle larger requests and keep pace with the evolving gaming landscape.

GungHo uses AWS not only as a computing environment and systems infrastructure but also for AWS Enterprise Support, which provides 24 hours and 365 days of technology support. AWS Enterprise Support assisted in the development and deployment of Ninjala, which was released simultaneously worldwide in June 2020. Ninjala was downloaded 1 million times within 16 hours of its release.

During gameplay, Ninjala aims for a 60 frames per second screen rendering rate and automatically connects users to servers in the best geographical positions to minimize gameplay latency. As a result, latency issues did not arise in countries where the service was available upon release.

“Although the release day was a bit hectic, I sincerely appreciate the comprehensive support system provided by AWS members,” said Kikuchi. “They proved invaluable in promptly addressing emerging issues and monitoring various metrics that were not visible to the users.”

Adopting Amazon GameLift for new titles based on the success of Ninjala

In the three months that followed the release of Ninjala, Amazon GameLift released several updates to enhance matchmaking and improve the overall user experience. By October 2021, the game reached 8 million downloads worldwide.

“We can leave the server-side and matching system parts to AWS now. This allows us to focus on providing a superior gaming experience for our customers,” said Kikuchi. “Compared to the method of providing our own servers, the construction cost is only about half. We have also been able to reduce operating costs equivalent to four people per month.”

Looking towards the future, Mr. Kikuchi says GungHo is focused on harnessing the on-demand scaling capabilities of Amazon Aurora Serverless v2. In online gaming, where player demand can fluctuate unpredictably, the cost of infrastructure required to support peak times is a significant concern. They view Amazon Aurora Serverless v2 as a solution to address that problem.

Kikuchi anticipates that AWS will continue expanding the functionality of their services to align with emerging trends, such as game planning and changes in user behavior. “Working with AWS, we are firmly committed to Amazon’s customer-centric culture. I feel that they genuinely listen to our thoughts and take them into account when providing their services. I hope we can continue our fruitful collaboration moving forward.”

Mr. Takanori Kikuchi

Customer Profile:

GungHo Online Entertainment, Inc.

  • Date of Established: July 1, 1998
  • Capital: JPY 5,338 million
  • Number of employees: 1,335 (consolidated)
  • Business description: Planning, development, and operation of smartphone games, console games, and PC online games

Benefits of adopting AWS and future prospects

  • Reduction of development and operation costs
  • Maintaining Service Levels
  • Utilization for multiple titles

Key Services Currently In Use

Amazon GameLift

Amazon GameLift is a dedicated game server hosting solution to deploy, operate and scale cloud servers for multiplayer games.

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AWS Enterprise Support

AWS Enterprise Support is a concierge-type service dedicated to helping customers achieve their goals and succeed in the cloud.

Learn more »