Splitgate: How a 30 Person Team Is Coping With This 'Portal Meets Halo' Shooter's Unexpected Success

1047 Games expected to learn a lot about Splitgate and its development as it approached open beta last month. But there was no way to know how big or popular it would become until Splitgate was in people’s hands. As it turned out, it was big — so big that Splitgate’s servers were completely overwhelmed.

When Splitgate launched on PS4, Xbox One, and PC in mid-July, its servers could hold 65,000 players, a capacity that was reached in almost no time at all. 1047 Games was soon forced to increase its server capacity to 160,000, then 175,000.

For a team with just 30 members, it was overwhelming — so much so that Splitgate’s launch had to be delayed in order to better prepare for the expected influx of players.

IGN spoke with 1047 Games CEO and Co-Founder Ian Proulx. Photo Credit: 1047 Games

IGN spoke with 1047 Games CEO and Co-Founder Ian Proulx. Photo Credit: 1047 Games

“I think I can go on record and say that I think we’re the only game in the history of gaming that’s delayed a game the day before launch and have pretty much a 100% positive response to it,” 1047 CEO and co-founder Ian Proulx tells IGN. “I mean, genuinely, like we announced that and our community was so supportive. It’s been so awesome to see and I think that’s the beauty of being a small independent studio. We are fans and our community has rallied behind that, behind us. They’ve stuck with us for two and a half years and now (that community has) obviously grown.”

Lessons Learned From Humble Portals and Even Humbler Beginnings

There was little to suggest that Splitgate would grow as much as it did when it first arrived two years ago. When Splitgate first launched in 2019, it quickly garnered a lot of attention, bringing in about 11,900 concurrent players. Splitgate is often characterized as Halo-meets-Portal and it’s a fair description. The team isn’t necessarily trying to dodge that comparison either — Proulx says a three-word description like that does a lot for getting players in or out — but 1047 Games does feel that Splitgate is its own unique thing, and they’re right.

Still, Splitgate wasn’t a massive success out of the gate. Momentum dwindled during its initial launch as players disappeared and the “dead game” comments began to roll in. But Proulx says he and the team knew they were on to something.

“[W]hat I mean by that is, with a multiplayer game, we constantly faced these issues that all stem from the same problem which was having a small player base,” Proulx says. “It didn’t matter what kind of improvements we made, we could never get growth because people would eventually get to the point where it’s like, they’re tired of the long queue times, they’re tired of getting poorly balanced games, and they’re tired of playing on high ping.”

Proulx says they basically had a game where it’s like, “yeah, it’s really fun, but you’re going to wait 10 minutes to get into a game and then you’re probably going to have a LeBron James playing against the JV kid kind of situation.” On top of that, if you were a player outside of America, you were almost certainly playing on a 150-plus ping server. All of those things sucked, Proulx says, and the team knew that.

However, Proulx figured that if Splitgate could get to 2000 concurrent players, it could grow a lot.

“If you do a bell curve with 2000 players, that means you’ve got 200 in the top 10% and the bottom 10%, which means you’ve got plenty of players at every single skill range on every single server,” Proulx says. “That’s all we needed… for this to take off.”

In between the 2019 Early Access launch and the Beta launch last month, the game changed in many ways. The “arena FPS with portals” gameplay largely remained the same, but Splitgate received a big glow-up in the form of better visuals, additional weapons and maps, new game modes, and more. An item shop was added, as was a Battle Pass to give something for players to work towards besides raking up the kills and increasing their own personal teabag counter (yes, that’s a real statistic the game tracks).

With Great Success Comes Great Server Stress

Fast-forward to last month’s open beta, and the first day saw 4000 concurrent players. Success. But then it kept growing. And growing.

“All of our theories over the last two and a half years came true,” Proulx says. “It was like all of a sudden, the games are good, there’s low ping for everybody, load times are fast, and overnight, it went from this thing where it’s like, ‘yeah, it’s a cool game,’ to all of a sudden, ‘it’s a cool game that works like every other game where you expect to have a fast queue and a great time.’”

Just a few days into the Beta, Splitgate hit a new high with 12,000 players. That number was extremely emotional for Proulx. He remembers tearing up when he learned of Splitgate’s new record. For him, it was a massive weight off of his shoulders, a weight that had sat there for two and a half years. It was also a moment of personal reflection for him — for all the disgruntled comments over years past, their game was not dead.

The team quickly set to work expanding server capacity, which hasn’t been easy given the number of interrelated features to manage.

“The backend has to handle authentication, matchmaking, tracking user stats, coordinating parties, banning cheaters, reporting metrics, calculating challenges, displaying the store, processing payments, and much much more,” 1047 Games vice president of engineering Olly Freeman recently told Inverse. “The interrelated nature of many of these actions means that the more players that you have, the more complex the interaction and computations, which means that you need increasingly intricate, optimized, and resilient algorithms as your player base grows.”

The team likened it in that interview to turning a five-table restaurant into a 2000-table restaurant. All of it builds on itself because more tables means you need a larger kitchen, and a larger kitchen needs more chefs and more ingredients.

To accommodate these changes, 1047 Games ultimately made the decision to delay Splitgate’s full release.

“Our team has been blown away by the incredible reception the Splitgate community has shown us. With the steep and sudden increase in players trying to access servers, we’re having to sort out a myriad of technical issues that come with this level of insane growth,” Proulx said in a statement the day of the delay. “We’ve worked hard to provide a high-quality game and experience, and our biggest challenge is simply to have enough capacity to serve the entire community.”

Looking Through a Portal Into the Future

Fans, for their part, seem content to wait for Splitgate’s impending release. A quick scroll through the replies to the Splitgate tweet announcing the delay reveals an overwhelming amount of support.

AbsolutelyTTV, who also streams the game on Twitch, questioned why the team even called the delay “bad news,” alluding to it being a mark of success and said congrats on garnering such a large player base. Twitter user Jordan_5o2 said this unique delay shows how 1047 Games’ hard work is paying off and another user, Yasyszcjosh, said the studio’s delay messaging is the definition of “true transparency” and “hard work and dedication to your fans and user base.”

Further fueling positive responses was the news that the beta was being extended. Since then, the team has kept players updated on what’s being fixed, new settings being added, additional customization options, and more. They’re aware of server issues and constantly tweeting about how they’re addressing it, which typically comes with the announcement that the server capacities have been increased alongside a playful meme.

For now, Proulx says the community remains a “huge strength.”

“They’ve rallied behind us, they’ve stuck with us for two and a half years, and now they’ve obviously grown,” he says. We really don’t take that for granted. I think it is a huge, huge advantage we have over a lot of other games. We want to make sure that we maintain that and maintain that open dialogue with them.”

“We’re making the game for them at the end of the day so it doesn’t make sense to not listen to them. Otherwise, what’s the point?”

Splitgate launches this month on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S versions are in the works Proulx said on a recent developer stream, but the team’s focus has been devoted to Splitgate’s servers. For now, the Splitgate Beta is playable on those consoles via backwards compatibility. Proulx also recently stated that the team wants to bring the game to “everything,” including mobile and the Nintendo Switch, with cross-play too, as reported by GameSpot.

For more Splitgate, check out our thoughts on the game in IGN’s Splitgate Review-in-Progress and then watch this video showcasing the game’s new visual overhaul compared to its original 2019 graphics. Watch the game running on console here after that and then check out this Open Beta trailer recently released.

Wesley LeBlanc is a freelance news writer and guide maker for IGN. He’s also really good at Splitgate and welcomes you to challenge him via his Twitter @LeBlancWes.

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