The pandemic forced people to stay home from work and school and limit their social interactions, spurring many of them to turn to online gaming for entertainment and as a way to connect with others. The result is that the online gaming industry, which already had a healthy growth rate, has entered a new level of expansion.
Specifically, the Limelight State of Online Gaming 2021 survey finds that the average number of hours that gamers around the world play weekly climbed 14 percent to 8.45 hours (China was the highest with 12.39 hours, with the U.S. posting 7.71 hours). Some 34.2 percent say the longest gaming period was five or more hours, with the U.S. reporting 5.9 hours, up from 5.1 hours last year.
Still, not all gamers are happy with what they’re experiencing online. Reddit comments show frustration with new games unable to handle a rush of new users, or poor-quality graphics or too much lag time for multi-player games. Since the gaming industry is so highly competitive, such dissatisfaction can damage the ability to attract new customers and retain current ones. In fact, the most significant customer churn often takes place in the initial minutes and hours of a gaming. A Limelight survey finds that cost and performance are the top issues for all gamers. Price has become much less of an issue for global gamers this year for those who subscribe to a live streaming console-less gaming service, ticking down to 48 percent from 57 percent a year earlier.
For online gaming companies that want to take advantage of the skyrocketing marketplace, there are critical factors they must address if they want to compete effectively and satisfy users:
- Scaling capacity. Gaming tends to be event driven, and millions worldwide may flock to a site in the minutes after a new game is released. But that excitement can quickly turn to frustration and disappointment with sluggish system performance and latency issues. Aerospike is designed from the ground up to achieve unrivaled speed at scale through a broad set of capabilities and unique innovations. For example, leading game company Playtika used to have a NoSQL solution, which wasn’t helping it reach its goal of 150,000 reads and 50,000 writes per second. Its architectural limitations meant that Playtika had to implement multiple clusters of nodes per it’s six gaming studios, with different workloads on different clusters. That made it difficult to scale out such a configuration. But by using Aerospike in a phased operation, its results for the first studio cut the server footprint by six times; boosted performance 300 percent; grew data 70 percent; simplified clustering; and slashed the total cost of ownership to a projected $4.2 million over three years.
- Dependable performance. Major betting events, multi-player promotions and social media buzz can create unforeseen spikes in gaming activity. Aerospike’s distributed NoSQL architecture features the ability to scale up and scale out across servers, clusters and data centers. Sony Interactive Entertainment’s PlayStation has been able to use Aerospike to realize latency under 10 milliseconds to its 103 million active users; deliver greater personalization and recommendation capabilities; and have greater scalability, consistency and availability. “Given the personalization scale and the low latency requirements we had, we felt Aerospike’s design – that is based on flash optimized hybrid memory database technology – is really a good thing for us based on the use cases that we have,” says Suresh Bathini, former vice president of software engineering for PlayStation.
- High availability. Servers crashing, networks going down and power outages can prompt a quick exit by gamers who have dozens of other options. They will move to games with reliable 24/7 performance – and take their friends with them. Such departures not only hurt in the short run, but availability problems can quickly damage a brand and have long-term consequences. Say goodbye to such common failures with Aerospike’s distributed shared-nothing architecture and patented algorithms that reliably store data with automatic failover and provide replication at the server level to handle failures. With no one point of failure, game providers can be assured there are no unplanned outages and don’t need to worry about sites being unavailable to users.
- More cost effective. Development teams are moving to distributed database systems that can run on low cost, cloud-based commodity servers, but that advantage is offset by the need to constantly add more servers and more memory per server (server sprawl). As mentioned earlier, Aerospike enabled Sony Networks to deploy its gaming application using one-tenth the number of servers that would have been necessary with an alternative database. Dramatic reductions in hardware expenses are supplemented with similar savings in staffing costs associated with Aerospike’s simplified architecture and built-in automation. DevOps teams won’t have to deal with the common challenges of maintaining separate tiers for cache and persistent storage, and from separate databases for reads and writes.
- Real-time data platform. In-app advertising, fraud prevention, in-game social feeds, personalization and real-time event tracking mean greater security for users, a better customized experience and tracking of gaming and user trends.
It’s estimated that $159.3 billion will be spent by the world’s 2.7 billion gamers in 2020. By 2023, the game market will surpass $200 billion and it’s estimated there will be more than 3 billion active video gamers. With billions of dollars on the line, no gaming company can afford to lose customers who are frustrated with unreliable service, poor performance or crashes during big promotional events.