In the last year alone, online video gaming saw a boom like never before. For those confined at home due to quarantine or lockdowns, it was an accessible means of escape from the realities of a pandemic-stricken world. According to ‘The State of Online Gaming 2021’ report commissioned by Limelight Networks, the global average number of gaming hours per week jumped by 14% to 8.5 hours in 2020, simultaneously causing a shift in the way people interacted and built connections with each other.
Amid an evolving entertainment and social landscape, the role of content delivery network (CDN) has become more crucial than ever. Coupled with the growing popularity of e-sports and global e-sports tournaments as mainstream culture, the ability to not only accommodate, but also accelerate the transfer of huge amount of data is now more important than ever in the gaming industry.
Why CDNs are no longer ‘nice-to-have’
Even without substantial prize money to fight for, amateur gamers find performance to be a top priority when it comes to online video games. In fact, based on the report, it trumped simplicity of gameplay, offline capabilities, storylines and the ability to interact with other players as the foundation for optimal gaming experiences.
Unfortunately, due to the limitations of existing infrastructure in keeping up with the rapid speed of innovation – and the exponential increase in download sizes that go along with it – gamers are not happy. In India, 94% of the respondents found the download process to be frustrating, with 38% of global respondents noting that constant interruptions, such as the need for constant ‘restarts’, posed a major challenge for them.
According to the report, watching gamers play online has also become far more popular than traditional sports-viewing for people aged between 18 and 35. India, in particular, recorded the highest number of weekly hours spent on gaming channels like Twitch and YouTube Gaming, as well as e-sports tournaments like The International or League of Legends World Championships compared to the global average.
Edge is the New Cloud For Gaming
In this regard, CDN services with edge compute options have been a game-changer in facilitating the compute-intensive and performance demands of online gaming. By combiningcached content with low-latency compute in edge points-of-presence (PoPs) across the globe, players and e-sports spectators are able to benefit from faster performance from content served closer to them.
For the gaming providers, this can meaningfully improve user experiences, reduce bandwidth cost and open the door to enable exciting new real time interactive applications.
Although it may be a while before cloud gaming overtakes consoles completely, edge computing is giving gamers the confidence needed to make the shift by placing processing power closer to where they are. With the rising amount of over-the-top (OTT) streaming services evaluating cloud computing at the edge, the quality of online video game streams is set to level up rapidly in the near future.
At The Cutting-Edge Of the Gaming Industry
All these findings simply emphasize the significance of CDNs and edge computing in enabling disruption-free gaming for the benefit of both players, viewers, and developers. With the dense architecture of CDNs as well as their direct peering with ISPs and low-latency computing capabilities, gamers will be able to enjoy direct, speedy downloads from a local PoP.
Besides minimizing in-game lag time regardless of the player’s geographical location or quality of connection, CDNs with edge computing are also more cost-efficient than having to deploy or maintain huge servers and provide multiple layers of security.
To stay ahead of the curve and maximize revenue opportunities, gaming providers must ensure that their content distribution and computing platforms utilize a secure infrastructure that safeguards customer data while delivering a consistently fast and reliable user experience.
(The author Ashwin Rao is country director, Limelight Networks India and the views expressed in the article are his own)