Taking gaming up a level with edge

By Mark Turner, Chief Commercial Officer, Pulsant.

  • Wednesday, 3rd July 2024 Posted 2 weeks ago in by Phil Alsop
Gaming is an extremely competitive market. In the UK, revised 2023 figures saw gaming worth more than £7.8 billion per year, as people spent an average of seven and a half hours, per week, playing online.

User experience has become the battleground for these billions. Games that lag or crash, will fail. As a result, edge computing infrastructure has caught the eye of a gaming industry hungry to impress.

Level 1: Localised edge caching

Even before a new release or update is played, gamers can face hours of download delay. 

Updates are often large and put a significant strain on the network. For example, the release of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III resulted in Virgin Media O2 seeing its busiest spike on record for network traffic.

And as more gamers play bigger, more graphically-intense games, the amount of data associated with updates is only going to increase. 

To ease the pressure on the networks and reduce download times, publishers are caching video game updates in localised points of presence (PoPS) within their target markets. This mandates secure servers in edge locations across the country.

Level 2: Optimising multiplayer gaming 

Multiplayer gaming is becoming more prevalent, illustrated by the popularity of titles like Fortnite or Roblox. Gaming companies face the challenge of optimising multiple game experiences, whilst handling the unpredictability of gamers interaction. 

In these games, parity is critical. Gamers do not enjoy it when they feel that an opponent or teammate was able to react to something, before they even had a chance.

Technically, this depends on the location of the server in relation to the gamer, and how the network is routed to connect them.

Because gaming companies cannot control individual gamers’ internet connections, they leverage specialised servers that match players with similar performing connections. 

Companies such as Edgegap, deploy a highly distributed architecture of more than 550 gaming servers in edge datacentres to ensure consistent response and availability.

Level 3: The rise of cloud gaming

Cloud gaming uses the compute and storage power of the cloud, rather than a device or console. This offers high-end games on-demand and on-the-go, without having to buy expensive consoles. This accessibility is driving global cloud gaming market set to hit 80 million paying users by 2025.

But cloud gaming must deliver a user experience on par with a console. That means high-resolution, reliable experiences, and low latency.

Low latency is vital to ensuring that the interaction between the player's input and the game's response feels instantaneous and fluid. The slightest delay can disrupt immersion and lead to frustration.

To deliver this, the games should be hosted in an edge cloud environment as close to the gamer as possible. This reduces network hops (which increase latency and decrease reliability) and minimises the physical distance the data must travel between the game server and player.

Level 4: Esports 

Viewership for esports tournaments and competitions is increasing. Gaming specialists Newzoo reports that ‘esports enthusiasts’ will grow to 318 million in 2025, as part of a total audience in excess of 640 million.

The 2022 Commonwealth Games saw esports included as a pilot event, with the possibility of it being included as a medal event by 2026. 

To provide the best experience for both these professional gamers and the audience, connectivity to - and within - the venues must be excellent. Purpose-built stadia have such infrastructure, but pre-existing venues often need upgrading.

Additional network overlays and edge datacentres can scale up compute resources ‘on demand’ to deliver this excellence, for both tournament players and the viewers sharing the experience.

Level 5: New devices 

The evolution of gaming cannot ignore the rise of virtual reality (VR). 

Industry experts believe that by 2024, VR game revenue will hit $3.2bn. But, to make the experience enjoyable on VR headsets, immersive games must eliminate lag, enabling the game to react almost instantly as the user interacts with the environment. If the games are not completely responsive, players experience a feeling similar to motion sickness and stop play. 

Edge computing infrastructure, can ensure the lowest latencies possible. They can also help to make these types of experiences more accessible, by offloading some of the compute power, from the headset to the edge. This makes the headsets cheaper, lighter and more comfortable to wear.

The end of level boss: driving gaming as part of the UK creative economy

In the UK, the gaming industry is a multi-billion-pound success story. It continues to innovate, driven by end users that are willing to pay for an augmented experience. As one of the fastest-growing components of the £108bn creative sector in the UK, gaming is set to drive real economic value. But to capitalise on this, the infrastructure across the UK must reflect the increased demands of this market. 
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