Apr 4, 2013

Back to GDC: Trends in the online gaming industry


stock-mobile-gaming_devices_300x150We were back at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco last week! It was an interesting and educative journey; GDC is a great opportunity to experience the many facets of the gaming world, from developers and publishers with big household names to indie developers and the different tools that enable them to enter the market. Throughout the sessions and while walking and talking on the expo floor, there was a lot to be experienced, including big reveals like Battlefield 4 and the impressive Unreal Engine 4 demo.

I noticed a few big takeaways:

CDN is still king
In our current era of patching and DLC (downloadable content), having a reliable and efficient content delivery network (CDN) has become a necessity due to the frequency and large file size needed for patching. Since delivery via a CDN is at least 5x faster than no cache and origin delivery, this is a no brainer for the gaming industry. One can’t expect to have a newly-released patch take too long or keep a significant portion of your players out because they don’t have the latest version without bracing for significant backlash.

This was very evident after attending Arenanet’s session about their successful MMO Guild Wars 2 (MMOs are notorious for their reliance on patching both to apply critical fixes and to add new content). Arenanet needed a custom CDN solution (something our CDN ops team regularly provides to gaming customers) to ease their patching woes and enable players to obtain the latest patch from either Arenanet or the CDN as soon as the patch went live.

Time for indie?
Even though the rise of the indie developer has been a long time coming, this year’s GDC heavily showcased a number of new SDKs (software development kits) specifically tailored to lower the barrier of entry for them. These tools were focused mostly on HTML5 and JavaScript, allowing developers to easily import their web-ready content or games to new platforms.

Also interesting is that this new direction is apparent on consoles, too. Nintendo showcased their Web Development kit that allows developers to transfer content to the Wii U, which isn’t surprising given the rise of sales in the online store for each of the three consoles. Another development in this area was the strong showing of the Unity game engine, given their Indie support community and lower cost (free for the basic version). What does this all mean? There’s already an increased demand for hosting services across the industry, and these tools help not only to continue but to increase that trend.

What about cloud?
There was a lot of talk about cloud as well, from recent offerings to new improvements and updates from cloud providers. One recurring theme, however, was that developers were looking for smoother and easier ways to spin up cloud instances globally depending on peak game times. We agree that automation is key for the gaming vertical – rapid game development cycles and notoriously fickle players demand infrastructure agility. Our Hosting API allows developers to spin up instances as peak times occur throughout the day and through different geographical regions, and our monitoring tools allow developers to keep track of when and where new instances should be spun up.

See you next time at GDC! In the meantime, check out our online gaming success kit.

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