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Why gaming belongs in the cloud

Games developers need the cloud to maximise their revenues

Gaming is big business today, it's tilting further every year towards mobile platforms, and the cloud is an increasingly essential tool for both gamers and developers, a tool that games developers need to remain competitive.

Gaming is growing

According to gaming analytics company newzoo: "Gamers worldwide will generate a total of $99.6 billion in revenues in 2016, up 8.5% compared to 2015. For the first time, mobile gaming will take a larger share than PC with $36.9 billion, up 21.3% globally."[1] Games companies Konami's CEO Hideki Hayakawa is not alone in agreeing that mobile is the future of gaming.[2] You cannot have failed to notice the numbers of people in public glued, eyes down, to mobile screens playing Pokemon Go.

Mobile games have never been so rich in content or visual stimulation as they are today. The good news for mobile games players however is that the processing power required to drive a modern, high-powered game is unlikely to be crammed inside the slim form factor of the mobile device itself. Instead, images are generated by and fed from a back-end server in the cloud, enabling many of the limitations of mobile devices to be circumvented, for the benefit of battery life.

Connectivity and data are key

By the same token, modern games on high-powered PCs and consoles are increasingly connected, enabling richer forms of gameplay, as players communicate while they play in a single world. Electronic Arts Games label president Frank Gibeau says: "I firmly believe that the way the products we have are going they, need to be connected online. Multiplayer is [only] one form of that."[3]

So the future of gaming revolves around increased connectivity between players, and between the gaming software and the gaming server. It can be streaming video to low-powered mobile devices or leaving frame generation to higher-powered desktop devices or consoles, while running gameplay in the background.

This can be for a number of reasons. Not only do many games - whether cloud-hosted or not - require low latency, transactions are often highly data-intensive, making the gaming experience highly sensitive to the quality of the network connection. Deploying gaming servers on an international cloud infrastructure brings the data closer to the players, so helping to lower latency.

For the future, virtual reality creates a fully immersive gaming experience, whether on the move or yoked to a powerful desktop machine. And VR, together with augmented reality, are big trends in the gaming world, although these remain early days, with many consumers unsure what VR brings them, nor whether it is worth the expense.[4]

If and when VR takes off however, it will require even more data, and the cloud will need to provide the infrastructure required to deliver high volumes of data at low latencies.

Cloud solutions

Cloud services are not limited purely to gameplay delivery: organisations can also take advantage of cloud-based data to quickly make business decisions. The Halo franchise - a collection of global entertainment properties - used a Spark and Hadoop service to process and analyse raw cloud-based data to feed game statistics to the tournament's operator, which then used the data to rank players based on game play. They could update Halo 4 every week and support a daily email campaign designed to increase player retention.

So for many if not most games, the cloud provides an essential infrastructure layer that allows game development houses to deliver a richer and more reliable experience for players. The days when players themselves would be expected to provide their own physical servers for other players are fading out, to be replaced by cloud-based servers, whether bought by the gaming houses or by players.

So the cloud not only allows games to be more global in scope, as well as enhancing gameplay, it also lifts the burden of acquiring and maintaining infrastructure, allowing developers to get on with the task they do best: the creation of stimulating and immersive entertainment.

[1] Newzoo: The Global Games Market Reaches $99.6 Billion in 2016, Mobile Generating 37%. https://newzoo.com/insights/articles/global-games-market-reaches-99-6-billion-2016-mobile-generating-37/

[2] Polygon.com - Konami CEO: 'Mobile is where the future of gaming lies'. http://www.polygon.com/2015/5/14/8605313/konami-interview-mobile-is-where-the-future-of-gaming-lies

[3] Geforce: Are Offline Single-player Games Becoming Extinct? http://www.geforce.co.uk/whats-new/articles/singleplayer

[4] Superdata: Virtual Reality Industry Report 2016. https://www.superdataresearch.com/market-data/virtual-reality-industry-report/