Contrary to popular belief among mobile game developers, the recent Parse announcement that it’s shutting its services down is not the end of the world.
Yes, you heard me. A few days ago, Parse announced that it is retiring, sending out ripples of disbelief and discontent across the development world. No need to panic, though, keep reading.
First of all, Parse will have a year-long cooldown period – the final shutdown is scheduled for January 28, 2017, so you have plenty of time. Second of all, the company released a database migration tool (you can find it here), as well as an open-source Parse Server, which lets you run most of the Parse API from your own Node.js server.
Third of all, we’ve created a list of the best Parse alternatives for your mobile game you can find.
Why should you care?
Parse is a mobile backend as a service (MBaaS). That is a model that has grown to become an essential part of (almost) any game, even though it is a fairly new product category, one that’s been around for roughly five years. Its services might vary to some degree, from company to company, but the basics are the same – every MBaaS will offer a cloud storage solution, push notifications, file sharing and social integrations (Facebook, Twitter), as well as messaging and communications options. In today’s world of mobile and (quite often) social gaming, you can see why these features are essential to a mobile game’s success. It removes the burden of building in-app purchase item ownership data, building player progression storage or in-game communications, to name a few, and allows the developer to focus on more pressing matters like art, game design, innovation and monetization.
This is why we can’t have nice things
Parse was an important figure in the chain – it was loved by developers for having tons of features, good documentations and quality customer support. And after it got acquired by Facebook back in 2013 for $85 million, game developers were certain the company would have a bright future ahead – flocking to use its service.
Now, panic and fear has crept up on hearts and souls of mobile developers everywhere, as they raise their hands in despair and wonder why bad things always happen to good people </drama>.
But seriously, don’t worry. While the Parse announcement spawned a lot of lists with alternatives, those mostly revolve around general apps, with little to no focus on gaming. And with gaming being a specific industry in its own right, we feel a specific list is needed. We’ve got you covered. Below you will find the top 10 Parse alternatives for your game backend (listed in no particular order).
GameSparks, which launched in 2013 and now has over 72 million players using their platform, is a good mobile backend as a service option, and one of the more popular ones. It is flexible and has a good set of features such as analytics, a management dashboard, leaderboards, and real-time and turn-based muliplayer. It runs a MAU (Monthly Active Users) cost which can be confusing, leading people to think it’s too expensive when, in fact, it offers quite a competitive price. GameSparks isn’t a prescriptive service. They provide a highly flexible, configurable and extensible platform that allows developers to build and manage their own projects.
PlayFab launched in September 2014, though behind the veil the’ve been in business for 3 years as the in-house backend for Uber Entertainment. Some will say it is the most complete backend platform, especially after it partnered with Photon, the multiplayer cloud service. With 20M players on their system and a top game holding 1 million DAU (confirmed with their team), PlayFab is no stranger to scale. Features include player accounts, virtual goods management, in-game messaging, and game data storage. Another unique PlayFab aspect is their recently launched marketplace, which makes it easy to integrate with key 3rd party services beyond Photon, such as attribution-tracking, advanced analytics, community tools, and more.
The key selling point of HeroicLabs is the API which allows game developers to easily integrate multiplayer and social elements without needing a server backend. It focuses and optimizes mostly for massive games, games of high volume. HeroicLabs also has a code sample with SOOMLA in our knowledge base.
Gamedonia is another complete backend solution for mobile games. The cloud platform for game developers does not require a server and offers many social games and real-time elements such as PvP (player versus player) modules, in-game chat or social sharing. Gamedonia was founded in 2012 and besides offering mobile support, also works in the browser.
Kii is another developer sweetheart and a Unity partner, making its community support quite strong. Its key selling point is a burst limit of 150 API calls per second, which is quite important. On the other hand, it does not allow anonymous users. Other features include server extensions, push notifications, leaderboards and achievements. It supports iOS, Android and Windows 8.
Kinvey is one of the pioneers in the MBaaS game, which by default makes it a strong contestant for the best service out there. Compared to Parse, I’d say the two are quite similar in features: it offers cloud storage and push notifications. There’s also an easy way to integrate Facebook Open Graph for all those apps without websites. However, like Parse, it’s a general purpose MBaaS for all mobile apps, not just games.
brainCloud might make your brain hurt of all the features it offers. It calls itself “backend in a box.” It is a ready-made, cloud-based backend designed for game developers, allowing them to jumpstart their game creation with various pre-built features. Its features include Cloud Data, including user and global statistics, shared data and custom files, Multiplayer, with support for turn-by-turn and one-way offline (clash-style) multiplayer. Other features include Achievements, Leaderboards and Monetization features.
Flox is a scalable and lightweight cloud backend for mobile games built by Gamua. It runs on all mobile devices supported by Adobe AIR, and also allows offline play. Players can be authenticated through Google+, Facebook, email or the iOS GameCenter API. It comes with rich documentation and a powerful customer support. If you’re developing with AIR, or specifically the Starling framework, this is the backend for you.
App42 is another popular solution. It has many features, including all the usual ones like leaderboards, cloud storage or social sharing. It used to be cheaper than Parse (now it definitely is), while offering the same burst limit. A great solution for any mobile game developer.
Photon is a cross-platform multiplayer game backend – a service tailored especially for game developers. It allows you to easily add multiplayer to your games and run them in the Global Photon Cloud. You can also host your own Photon servers, if that kind of hybrid is your thing. It is a good choice for game developers of all sizes, from indies to AAA studios.
Basic pricing plans
|Company||Free Tier?||Minimum Price|
|GameSparks||Yes||$0.02/player (MAU – applies when a game has reached 10,000 users)|
|PlayFab||Yes||Free. (Support + Enterprise are paid)|
|HeroicLabs||Yes||$69 / Month / $0.02 (MAU)|
|Gamedonia||Yes||89€ / Month|
|Kii||Yes||$1,200 / Month|
|Kinvey||No||$2,000 / Month|
|brainCloud||Yes||$30 / Month|
|Gamua Flox||No||$29 / Month|
|App42||Yes||$99 / Month|
|Photon||Yes||$95 / Month|