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Get Your Game On in the Cloud

June 11th, 2013 by - 8,245 views

Do you play mobile games on your smartphone or tablet? What about on your computer? And do you still put in a CD or DVD to play them? Or do you download an app to play? Have you ever tried an online game within Facebook? And what about on your game console? As bandwidth has increased and technology has evolved, more and more of these gaming experiences are being served from the cloud. Online gaming has transcended physical media like CDs, DVDs, and installed applications and moved to virtual environments based on Flash, HTML5, or other streamed or in-browser technologies.

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According to investment bank Digi-Capital, mobile games account for 42 percent of all new game investments. If money trails are any indication of success, we should watch to see where the banks are investing. In December 2012, Forbes reported that US video game sales dropped 25 percent in the month of October 2012, falling from $1 billion to $775.5 million. Conversely, general spending on mobile and social games rose 7 percent to $7.24 billion in 2011…and that was a few years ago!

Just take a look at some of the games listed in this .NET article, “The top 10 HTML5 games of 2012.” It’s very impressive that the underlying technology is completely browser-based and that these games are absolutely interactive and full-featured. Just for fun, I decided to see how many of these HTML5 games are cloud-hosted. (Remember though, because HTML5 is in-browser code, it doesn’t matter that much if it is cloud or traditionally hosted.) Here’s what I discovered:

  • “A Grain of Truth” – shared hosting
  • “Dune 2 Online” – colocation
  • “Cut the Rope” – cloud/dedicated/custom hosting
  • “Hex GL” – shared/dedicated hosting
  • “Lux Ahoy” – cloud/dedicated hosting
  • “D.E.M.O.” – cloud hosting
  • “BananaBread” – telco hosting
  • “Save the Day” – cloud hosting
  • “Bombermine” – shared hosting
  • “BrowserQuest” – ISP/VPS/Web hosting

As you can see, there’s quite a mixture of hosting provider types, ranging from shared to large-scale ISP/telco to cloud. The physical requirements for these types of HTML5 games rely mainly on the end user and the capabilities of the specific device. However, if any of these HTML5 games were to take off in popularity, the game owner would need to scale its infrastructure to handle the increased demand.

When it comes to online gaming, however, you don’t need to simply deliver a game. You could also serve the advertising players might see within a game or between levels. After all, online gaming companies want to make money, and the proven way to do so is to charge for the game, offer in-app purchases, or run advertising within or surrounding the game.

Because we’re back on the topic of revenue, another Forbes article estimates worldwide revenue from online gaming will reach $35 billion by 2017, up from $19 billion in 2011. Yes, that’s right, $35 billion. And guess what? That staggering amount is almost identical to the revenue Gartner estimates Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), cloud management and security devices, and Platform as a Service (PaaS) will hit by 2016: $35.5 billion (up from $7.6 billion in 2011).

Of course, all this gaming code and infrastructure and associated advertising revenue fabric needs to be hosted and managed somewhere. Although HTML5 is a great example of the potential capabilities of this technology, the money is really in those Facebook games or in interactive mobile gaming apps that are ad-supported. And when it comes to multiplayer games, you need a tremendous amount of high-end infrastructure to ensure the game-play experience is unbeatable…literally.

This is where cloud hosting and choosing a partner that can support your innovative gaming code or application or ad network is critical. By using the cloud, you can be ready to easily scale with an application front end of cloud servers. And with GoGrid, you can host complex back-end database environments on physical or cloud servers—the choice is yours. The worst decision you can make when setting up your online game environment is not having a high-performing, resilient cloud architecture.

But if you can only customize 1 or 2 things on your gaming avatar, it really isn’t that much fun. Similarly, if your cloud provider is restrictive, a poor performer, or offers limited cloud services, your experience (and your games) won’t be that much fun, either. Be sure to choose a cloud partner that provides the options, the unique services, the hand-holding, the ease of use, and the know-how to make your games and infrastructure wildly successful.

Just as gamers are moving from boxed software to downloads or online gaming, hosting providers are evolving from physical boxes to cloud offerings. The union here promises that online gaming will become more and more cloud-based as both technologies evolve. With cloud computing starting to power the online and mobile gaming market, expect huge gains in both marketplaces, especially as the union becomes the de facto standard.

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Michael Sheehan

Michael Sheehan, formerly the Technology Evangelist for GoGrid, is a recognized technology, social media, and cloud computing pundit and blogger who writes regularly about technology news and trends.

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