Any multiplayer game would mean a lot of players being online at the same time. On any given occasion, this might mean millions for a popular gaming platform.
Imagine this: Steam – which distributes Dota 2, Counter Strike: Global Offensive, and Team Fortress 2, among other games – reported that at least 9 million players are online in one single day. On a daily basis, GameSpot reports that League of Legends counts 27 million players online every day.
Gartner forecasts that gaming will represent a $55 billion industry in 2015. The firm’s analysts also expect the revenues for companies in the video game market will top $111.1 billion in 2015, steadily increasing from $78.9 billion in 2012, $93.3 billion in 2013, and $101.6 billion in 2014.
The Importance of Reliability
With stakes high and on the rise, gaming companies will need to ensure their users are adequately serviced. Paying gamers would get turned off if they cannot log into the network to play when they want. Sadly, a lot of things happen to even the biggest gaming networks. For instance, just last December 2014 hackers identifying themselves as the Lizard Squad successfully took down Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network. Gamers were not able to log into both networks because of the Lizard Squad’s DDoS attacks. PSN was offline for three days. Xbox Live, on the other hand, was able to recover but its services were limited for a number of days.
In addition, a report from Neustar has revealed that around eight out of every ten companies are hit by DDoS attacks every year. The negative effect of hacking includes lost revenues, which could be substantial. Around 75% of companies report a loss of up to $10,000 per hour, with the remaining saying that going offline costs them $50,000 to $100,000 per hour. Downtimes will drain manpower, with IT staff being required to counter DDoS attacks. That’s lost productivity right there.
The biggest negative effect of being offline involves the company’s customers. More than 63% say that a DDoS attack had the most impact in customer support, while more than 56% said that they are worried about their brand image and customer confidence.
High Availability Management
High availability is very important for a gaming company to succeed. For game developers, this aspect of the gaming infrastructure is very important in ensuring a seamless gaming experience for their players. High availability management will involve continuous monitoring, adequate infrastructure, as well as reliable failovers whenever the unwanted arises. This can be achieved through a combination of platforms like load balancing, failovers and disaster recovery. “Load balancing ensures that servers perform consistently and continuously even across data centers,” says Marc Gaffan, CEO of Incapsula. “This helps you make sure that there is no server saturation and bottlenecks, which could easily result in downtime or lags,”.
Gaffan adds that not all load balancers are built the same, “If you want high availability, you need to implement layer 7 load balancing, which takes into consideration the high-level application layer that deals with the content of each message. This is unlike OSI layer 4, which deals with traffic on a per-packet or TCP basis. Layer 7 load balancing involves smarter decisions on how to route and deliver traffic to your server and can optimize and change the content (for instance, encryption and compression). It also uses buffering to offload the slower connections from upstream servers, making it perform better. You might know this as a reverse proxy server.”
Distributing traffic based on geography is also a solution to ensure better access and higher availability. “If you use a solution that recognizes the location of the requester, you can make use of algorithms to make sure that it is routed to the nearest data center almost in real-time,” adds Gaffan. This will help you reduce latency, and ultimately, faster gameplay.
“Deploying on distributed infrastructure, such as the cloud, is also one means of ensuring high availability,” says Lior Div, CEO at Cybereason, which protects infrastructure against network-based attacks. Cloud computing is, at its very essence, a form of load balancing, being able to transfer loads over the Internet without sacrificing load times. Getting on the cloud allows you to ignore outdated DNS caches and databases. And it could easily help you become more available.
According to top game review site IGN, “experience is what makes the perfect game.” You certainly cannot do achieve this if the game is always changing, or worse, it kicks the player out and is always inaccessible. A gamer can only get frustrated so much before he or she moves on to another game from another company.
High availability and a seamless customer experience are very important in mission critical systems. In the gaming industry, the games ARE the most mission critical component of the business. Halo was able to solve its performance and high latency problems by getting on Azure and Project Orleans. Wooga chose to get on Amazon Web Services to make sure that they are able to handle 15,000 requests per second during peak times for their games. And League of Legends underwent a massive infrastructure change to solve their server problems.
If these companies are any indication, it simply means that the gaming industry no longer has any excuse to deliver poor gaming experience and bad gameplay.