How Game CDNs Support Changes in the Gaming Industry

The gaming industry is changing. Games that could fit on a floppy disk have evolved to high-resolution, large files that need several DVDs to store them. The alternative route of delivery from a developer is a download stored on the host server. Games that compile to an executable that contains several hundred gigabytes of data can take hours to download for a user with slow Internet connectivity. Add the issue of thousands of user accessing these download files at the same time, and a popular large gaming service could struggle to stay accessible. This issue can be avoided with a game CDN.

Blizzard World of Warcraft Launch Day Failure

In 2004, Blizzard released its MMO World of Warcraft and set up its servers that allowed users to download the game and any patches and expansions in future releases. What Blizzard didn’t expect was the massive amount of users that wanted to download on release day, and the result was poor performance and crashes when thousands of players attempted to download the installation files at once.

Most developers would love to hear that their game was too popular for servers to handle, but for gamers it’s extremely frustrating to download a game from a server that can’t handle the spike in traffic. User experience is affected, and it can even reduce revenue from users that get frustrated and give up.

Blizzard continued to have this issue with most of its expansions, and most World of Warcraft users knew that downloading content on release day would be a hassle. Some bought the DVDs instead, and others just waited for the bugs to get fixed. Blizzard now has millions of subscribers and has moved content to better content servers including a CDN.

How a CDN Changed Blizzard’s Game Performance

Any gamer who loved WoW knew that expansion days were when the game would slow, and many of them avoided playing the first day of a release. This poor user experience has been alleviated using a CDN. Blizzard integrated a CDN into its infrastructure, and what was once a disaster for gamers is now relatively fast. Downloads are fast, and gamers can access the game even when it’s busy from new players.

Blizzard does this by deploying content to a CDN. Gamers download content from a data center that’s in close proximity of their location. They no longer access one origin server at one Blizzard data center. By distributing the content across a CDN, the bandwidth and resources are separated instead of having thousands of users connecting to one origin server.

The change in Blizzard’s infrastructure can be seen by any gamer who downloads the executables and plays the game. Compared to years ago before WoW developers incorporated a CDN, the reliability and speed for gamers has severely improved.

Pay-As-You-Go Service at

Blizzard’s World of Warcraft isn’t the only game that’s improved performance of content delivery. The gaming industry has moved to CDNs to create a better user experience for gamers who expect fast ping times.

Adding a CDN to gaming infrastructure seems expensive, but you can pay as you go and save costs based on scalability. As your game increases in popularity, you pay more for bandwidth but you start with a low cost until the business grows.  It’s one piece of the puzzle that improves user experience from the very beginning instead of allowing a game server to crash on release day.

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