A big challenge facing online gaming is controlling the user experience.
When subject to the unpredictability of the internet, there is little ability to control game performance.
This is the underlying theme to many online gaming performance concerns.
We are going to look at 10 and how they affect gameplay, the online gaming funnel, and the user experience.
The Online Gaming Funnel
Moving customers through a funnel, whether Sales, Marketing, or Gaming, is not easy. With digital products, web performance is a significant piece to converting prospects into customers. This is no different with the online gaming funnel.
Optimizing the online gaming funnel means optimizing network speed. In the marketing stage, landing pages need to load within 2 seconds. In the install stage, the download of the game requires low network latency so improve the download time. The retention stage of the funnel is optimizing gameplay. Ensuring lag due to network performance is not an issue.
These all contribute to the user experience of your online game.
The User Experience
Controlling the user experience is not enough through game development. Anticipating a specific outcome when a user plays your online game can become disrupted by poor network performance. Controlling your network connection, through the use of a CDN, web accelerator, and network optimizers, can provide user experience control.
With the internet falling prey to network congestion, jitter, and packet loss, a user of your online game could go from believing they have a victory to a loss. In retaining a user, this can cause undue frustration.
Network performance is directly correlated with the user experience.
Content Delivery Networks May Not Be Enough
Your content delivery network (CDN) may not be enough for optimizing gameplay. As more games move away from downloaded installs, there becomes more communication between the user and the server. This can result in potential packet loss or network congestion.
Also, as online gaming experiences real-time gaming, a CDN will struggle to perform with the necessary user generated updates. That is why there is the need for a dynamic CDN, web accelerator, or network optimizers.
Realizing your CDN may not be enough is the first step to improving online gaming performance.
Online Gaming Distribution
Physical distribution of games is becoming less prominent as gaming marketplaces take over. Whether this is the PlayStation Marketplace, Wii Marketplace, or the Apple App Store, installing games and downloading updates occurs over the internet.
As downloading will be subject to the sliding window protocol, a poor network connection can cause timeouts. Unfortunately, the need to restart the downloading process. This would occur from network congestion and packet loss. Both of which will cause users frustration in the second stage of the online gaming funnel. The install stage.
For apps and free games, about 95% of them are abandoned due to slow install times.
Ensuring a smooth download from a healthy network can increase the possibility of a completed install.
Mobile gaming is overtaking console gaming in every way. The concern with mobile gaming is the quality of the network connections. This means games have to be developed light weight, as well as ensuring you have access to the best networks.
Mobile gamers have more options, so they have little tolerance to poor gameplay experience from network speed. Also, online gaming over mobile means devices will need to connect to servers for updates more frequently. This is due to the lower storage capacity of the device. Thus, leaving the game developer with more uncertainty by relying on mobile network connectivity.
Real-Time Online Game Play
Online gaming in real-time requires updates instantly based on user actions. This means network health is crucial to the gaming experience. When a user experiences packet loss in real-time gaming, the result can go from thinking there is a victory to a loss. As more games move to this format, ensuring low latency network connections is essential.
Real-time gaming deals with not only console gaming where players are playing online, but also connecting to live gaming servers. Live gaming servers provide the setup necessary for real-time gaming. The network performance becomes a large concern.
Low network latency for real-time gaming is more than using a CDN.
As with time to load in websites, time-to-play in online gaming is the time that it takes for a game to become playable. With downloading or buffering an online game, there are multiple passes that data packets will need to make before the game is playable. There are two ways to improve this time.
- Decrease the number of data packets transferring
- Increase the speed at which each data packet transfers
By impacting one or both of these factors, the time-to-play can be minimized. Minimizing this time can improve the conversion rate from just an install to an active user.
Addressing both factors is ideal, but it might be worth looking at one at a time.
The performance of your online gaming network effects gameplay. As we have discussed in many of the concerns for online gaming, network performance is a theme. Network performance relates to everything in online gaming. As more data in gaming is being transferred over the internet, if you can control this connection, or at least provide predictability, you can control more of the user experience.
There are tools that help control your network connection. Whether on a public cloud provider, AWS, or a Bare Metal server, your network performance may not be optimized.
Datapath.io provides network optimization for each of these cases. Thus, improving your network performance. Providing predictable control over your network.
Network Availability and Uptime
If there is a network outage, this can cause lost users and revenue. The occurrence of a network outage can be as simple as too much network congestion, or as significant as an entire server going down. Preventing an outage comes from load balancing network traffic and finding low latency network routes.
Maximizing network availability and uptime is being proactive. Design your network to be able to adjust when there are spikes in gaming usage.
Network Failover Protection
If a server or cloud region goes down, which has happened before, recovery is the only solution. The current solutions for a failed region are based on DNS failover. Unfortunately, these solutions can take from 1 to 30 minutes to recover. With each minute costing you $9,000, this is a costly solution to your business.
Taking the necessary precautions for protecting a failover scenario are crucial. Datapath.io provides a failover solution based on Anycast, which will bring you back online in under 10 seconds.
Online gaming is going to need to address many concerns in the future. Most of which are inherent with the unpredictability of the internet. Taking precautions and ensuring optimal network performance can help control and improve the user experience.
To learn more about how Datapath.io can help online gaming, download the Online Gaming Network Performance Solutions Whitepaper.