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How data centres are supporting the gaming industry

Alex Breary

Alex Breary

Head of Marketing at Custodian Data Centres
Image credit: Custodian Data Centres

The gaming industry has been in a period of significant transformation for the last decade. In fact, Microsoft’s recent purchase of Activision, Sony’s purchase of Bungie and Nintendo buying Capcom, speaks volumes about the massive upward trajectory of the gaming industry.

The sector has a long history of creative, independent minds, those using boundary-pushing technologies to develop innovative gaming experiences and immersive stories that capture the imagination and drive community engagement. This level of creativity, however, should not be limited by access to data and application availability, the need for on-demand servers and storage or the need for superfast, low-latency connectivity.

Today, where developers may begin with obsolete software, as their businesses and projects expand, it quickly becomes clear they need to take a quantum leap with the infrastructure that supports their players. Even short periods of downtime can mean loss of player progress, loss of interest and the potential for a huge impact to a game’s player-base, and low latency connectivity is fundamentally critical to delivering the best player experience.

Underpinning the sector is a complex digital ecosystem, combining data centres, networks and in some instances, peer-to-peer connected gaming. For most gaming providers, moving to a partner with the technical capabilities to support these components is not only vital for business growth but allows the players to fully immerse themselves into the gameplay without any interruptions.

Gaming industry dynamics

As software DNA becomes increasingly more complicated and technical, many developers with ambitions to create unique and immersive experiences, quickly understand they need mission-critical infrastructure to support fluxes in gaming traffic and deliver real-time updates throughout the game lifespan. Whether hosting a platform independently or through a larger company, the infrastructure within the gaming industry needs to be customisable to suit each business need – from bare metal servers in data centres, which offer space for growth, scalability and dark fibre connectivity, to community hosting and dedicated OVH boxes for the more independent communities starting their journey into the world of gaming.

An example of how different gaming infrastructures are used and implemented can be seen through the emerging video game, Rust, which is a popular game that has achieved a lot of success and buzz within recent years. Today it boasts a global user base and in January 2022, it achieved ‘Peak Player’ numbers of 154,747. Frankly, Rust is growing at an exponential rate. Being that Rust is a game played ‘online’ in its entirety, the requirement for high quality infrastructure is amplified as during periods of downtime, the game is completely unplayable.

However, since official servers may have limited connectivity, may be insecure or operated from facilities which encounter long periods of downtime, gaming performance can be frequently impacted. Gamers have been known to support community hosted servers to cut through some of these challenges. These small and intricate communities also allow users to better connect and play with friends, allow for better moderation and cater to a wider range of Rust players through server modification.

It’s clear that for any gaming platform, low latency network connectivity, security and accessibility are key for keeping players from moving over to competitor software. So as a developer, a dynamic gaming experience, or consistent gameplay, needs to remain a key priority when exploring data and server options.

Emerging tech

As the gaming market develops, as does the need for additional power and network connectivity. The latest games, which feature VR and AI technology, process an incredible amount of data, all of which needs to be supported with agile, mission-critical infrastructure. For businesses like Microsoft and Nintendo, data centre partnerships are incredibly important to support end-user demand. Collaborating with suppliers that have scalable facilities for growth, dedicated dark fibre connectivity and a passion for the latest gaming developments, allows application developers to benefit from secure, reliable infrastructure and a technical support team that can deliver a great gaming experience time and time again.

Data centres are in fact helping to shape the next-generation of games, which will see the industry utilise the processing power of mission-critical facilities as the hub around which game development and game delivery to end-users now orbit. In-house technical expertise is essential, and gaming businesses with the right supply chain partners can lean on the technical expertise of passionate data centre gaming professionals to gain insight into how to offer their players the best possible experience. This removes the technical barriers many developers face and allows gaming developments to reach new levels.

Resilient power and uptime are also critical to maintaining seamless gaming experiences across multiple devices, which is why so many big and emerging players are reliant on data centres to provide unrivalled service.

Future-proofed support and connectivity

Right now, gaming is one of the most fast-paced and innovative global industries that continues to thrive. In 2020, the US video game industry grew about 27% to almost $57 billion in revenue, which, according to NPD Group, surpassed movies and music combined. As game creators continue to evolve their art, they must have the support of a data centre that understands their challenges and has comprehensive solutions to solve gameplay challenges. Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President of Cloud Gaming Kareem Choudhry recently said, “We live in a culture of ‘instant’ when it comes to any kind of electronic media.” This certainly applies to gaming.

The gaming community is ultimately about passion, so in turn companies need their suppliers and vendors to understand speak the language of every game developer. That passion combined with in-house technical expertise, allows fully bespoke services and infrastructure systems of all size and scale to be delivered unique to the needs of the business.

This, for example, could be bare metal servers, or single rack gaming towers, and whichever form they take, having the right dynamic service partner can mean gaming innovators can ensure their facilities are completely built to suit, taking into account gameplay traffic, high spec game upgrades, local connectivity requirements and more.

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