Leveling up: Challenges and opportunities of infrastructure strategy in gaming

The gaming industry rarely stands still for long, and it is currently going through another phase of major change and innovation. A flurry of major studio acquisitions made by Microsoft, Sony and Take-Two in recent months, for instance, is worth over $80 billion combined, contributing to the view that the industry has entered a period of consolidation.

At the same time, consumer expectations have risen to the point where 4K quality with 60 or even 120 frames per second are becoming must-haves for gamers who want the best experiences. Developers also are continuing to push the boundaries of technical innovation and excellence with VR gaming becoming more compelling and AI taking a bigger role in game mechanics.

Cloud gaming-as-a-service

The nature of the way consumers play games is also changing. Microsoft’s cloud gaming solution, for instance, enables people to stream their gaming experiences “as-a-service” rather than the traditional method of downloading large game files from the internet or disk in order to play.

From Xbox Cloud Gaming and Playstation Now to Google Stadia (along with an increasing range of alternatives), the future of gaming is increasingly in the cloud. The growth of these subscription-based services clearly shows the direction of travel within the industry and also increases the reliance of publishers on high-performance, reliable infrastructure.

Gaming market: big and volatile

It’s an industry supported by a huge ecosystem of content creators, live streamers and professional gamers who are playing an important role in fueling a market expected to grow to over $300 billion in value globally by 2027. Even funding models have changed over the years, with space game Star Citizen being the most dramatic example of crowdfunding success, having raised over $440 million to date.

The gaming market is also volatile, and it’s hard to predict with certainty which new game will be a success, or which publisher will create a new gaming franchise that will deliver sustained interest over the long term. Whether it’s success stories like Candy Crush or Fortnite, there is always something new out there to grab the attention of gamers.

However, the average lifespan of a game is not fixed, and there have been huge controversies in the past few years as publishers released games before they were fully developed. The likes of Falllout 76, No Man’s Sky, Cyberbunk 2077 and Star Wars: Battlefront 2 are among many notorious examples of the huge media and consumer backlash that can occur when games are released for sale too early.

Despite a variety of challenges, it’s a hugely successful global industry. While the Asia-Pacific region still generates the most revenue, followed by the United States, to deliver a “AAA” success story with massive player uptake, publishers need to be in a position to go global in a fast, cost-effective way.

Winning with infrastructure

What all this innovation has in common is the thirst for computing power — for both users and gaming platforms alike. This constantly changing and volatile market brings a range of challenges for both developers and platforms. Gamers are a demanding demographic and expect a great deal in terms of speed and quality, alongside a consistently great gameplay experience.

This requires a tailored game platform with scalable game servers and high clock CPUs/GPUs, as well as a global infrastructure for in-game traffic and a Content Delivery Network (CDN) for fast delivery. This is necessary in order to maximize service uptime, player retention, the potential for growth and, ultimately, increase game revenues.

A CDN, for instance, is scaled to take the strain off peak traffic today, with room to grow for tomorrow. They also help game platforms achieve cost-effective, secure delivery of patches and updates while providing the ease and speed of deployment in a new region without the need for major infrastructure investment in the new region itself.

This is important because cost-effective expansion can be both risky and difficult, not least because predicting game popularity and traffic patterns in a new region can be challenging. As a result, game developers and platforms are increasingly turning to specialist infrastructure partners who can help them cost-effectively tap focus on growth whilst keeping investments low.

What’s more, game hosting in secure data centers will prevent disruption to game servers and protect both business and customer data. And, by using redundant scalable game servers, businesses can maintain the user gaming experience and prevent downtime – ultimately protecting both revenue and reputation.

Gaming IT leaders have a choice: uplevel their infrastructure or game over.

Chris Cheng is manager of business development at Leaseweb USA.

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