The Rise of Gaming in the Cloud
Guest Written by Rob Callaghan
While many adults have fond memories of playing video games as children, gaming is for more than just kids.
Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) gaming—a type of online game where large groups of people play on the same server—is big business. How big? In 2017, an estimated $30 billion USD was spent on MMO gaming. That number is projected to grow even further.
From players using their own computers and game consoles in the United States, to internet cafes in Seoul, South Korea filled with die-hard players playing around-the-clock, to friends gathered around their television sets in São Paolo, Brazil playing on their mobile devices during the intermission of live sports events, the worldwide appeal of gaming is undeniable.
The One Problem That Can Ruin a Great Video Game
There is one big issue, however: lag. Gamers know that lag, the time delay between when a user takes an action and that action is reflected on-screen, can create a slow and frustrating gaming experience. To solve this problem of lag, gamers spend small fortunes building their gaming rigs—which function as dedicated gaming systems—with the fastest CPUs, graphics cards, and drives. But, their rigs are only processing a small amount of data for the game world.
The majority of gaming is actually handled in the MMO cloud. It’s not a surprise that this cloud also has to deal with lag while trying to deliver the best user experience. Running behind the scenes is a cloud infrastructure that handles the “Massive” part of MMO gaming. This backend needs to have the latest generation of servers and storage to keep the lag as small as possible during the operation of a game.
If a single gamer has a rig with severe lag, then only that gamer suffers. But, if the cloud running the game suffers from lag, the entire game community suffers.
Bringing Gaming to the Cloud
Even under heavy use, the MMO cloud has to hold up for the sake of gamers. This is especially true when online games become viral. With dramatic spikes in game usage, new issues such as scalability and performance arise in cloud environments that run MMO gaming.
For example, one of the largest MMORPGs—Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games— uses the computing and processing power of more than a dozen different datacenters worldwide and tens of thousands of servers to support its growing player base. This video game publisher also utilizes a large network operation center (NOC), which monitors all gaming activity worldwide and quickly address any issues that come up.
Outside of the fun that games bring are certain protections that gamers expect. After all, sensitive information such as names, emails, passwords, and bank accounts could be exposed. Companies that run MMO gaming in the cloud use layered security to help protect everything from players’ accounts and personal information to backend systems where their payment information is stored. In-game fraud and cheating, which can ruin the experience for players, are challenges that video game publishers are looking to address in real-time.
Creating the next, big-hit MMO game isn’t cheap. The biggest MMO games can now cost hundreds of millions of dollars to develop, produce, and maintain. Producers need to maximize the revenue they generate per customer and minimize the cost of the cloud backend to sustain these productions. Off-setting these costs take creative ways of thinking.
It’s a Business, After All
One recent development is the ability to purchase in-game items. Known as “micro-transactions”, these purchases help players do everything from outfitting their characters with exclusive apparel, to purchasing items that can help beat an opponent or finish a challenging level. These small transactions add up quickly. In 2015 alone, in-game purchases resulted in $1.3 billion USD in revenue for one MMO game developer. This number represents billions of transactions, which challenges MMO clouds to optimize the lag of each micro-transaction, without sacrificing security or agility.
The future is bright for MMO games. New technologies such as virtual reality, augmented reality, and other technologies may create more immersive gaming experiences. In the backend, the MMO cloud will need to stay focused on reducing lag to keep up.
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