Even just a decade ago, many game developers distributed content using DVDs. Users bought the DVDs and installed expansions and gaming content on their computers. No web servers and Internet data transfers were necessary, but now with large communities such as Steam or Battle.net gamers expect fast downloads from vendors instead of going to the store. Slow ping times and high latency is the result should a game developer launch content and thousands of users download it at the same time. Latency is a game killer, but with a CDN you can save it from a slow and painful death.
Losing Customers Due to Latency
Just a 50-millisecond delay can have an impact on your user experience. A two-second delay on your web store can have an astounding 87% shopping cart abandonment, and 81% of users leave a page when a video doesn’t load immediately. Even Google bakes site speed into their algorithms. There’s no doubt that speed is a factor from search engine ranking to customer retention, and it plays a huge role in gamer attrition rates.
Latency is a networking term, but in the gaming world it’s described as the time it takes for a gamer to perform an action and have it register with the game’s mechanics. It’s also considered the delay when a game displays a change in the environment to the player. Slow speeds mean that the player sees a change slower than other gamers, which can be frustrating with fast-paced games.
Take a game like Call of Duty. It’s a first person shooter that requires quick reactions to beat other players. Poor ping times and high latency could mean the player’s character is dead before they are able to react. It leaves the player frustrated and there is a high possibility that he will no longer keep playing the game. For a gaming developer, it can be a loss of players unless their own bandwidth and computer speed can overcome the gaming server’s insufficient resources. Just a 100 millisecond delay can affect a game’s user experience.
Not every game relies on speed. Turn-based games or single player ones that run mainly on the user’s computer don’t have the same requirements for user experience, but the game developer must still leverage fast speeds during the initial launch and for any expansions and updates.
Leveraging a Game CDN
A gaming CDN takes care of speed issues from the developer’s servers. Each data center hosted by the CDN pulls content from the developer’s server (called the origin server) and caches it. When gamers request content, the game CDN has edge servers located across the globe that handle each gamer’s request. The edge server closest to the gamer delivers content, so the developer has several servers caching and delivering content during peak seasonal traffic spikes.
Whether it’s an MMO or a simple game requiring downloads, it’s important that game developers test the load on their servers. Failed downloads, poor user experience and slow loading video are just a few reasons why users will bail from a game to the next big thing. What’s worse is that they bring their gaming friends with them, so it can have a massive domino effect especially when latency remains an issue.