According to NewZoo, global gaming spend reached nearly $135 billion in 2018, but competition in this industry is relentless, the customer base is notoriously demanding, and cyber criminals are attacking game platforms from multiple perspectives. Game developers must rapidly deliver new titles and enhancements to market as well as ensure that their games are always available, secure and performant.
These goals can be achieved by choosing the right host gaming platform. Here are five reasons why game developers should choose Google Cloud Platform (GCP):
1. Accelerate App Development
To keep players engaged, game companies must not only develop and publish new titles, but also add new features and enhancements to existing titles while making these games available at scale. Empowering developers to focus on game innovation and development as opposed to infrastructure management is a win-win for developers and gamers.
Google App Engine, GCP’s fully managed development platform, allows developers to create and deploy applications rapidly, with no configuration required and automatic scaling. Mobile game developer FUN-GI saw production speed up once the company migrated to GCP, and their developers were no longer bogged down in backend configuration and maintenance. “A lot of larger companies have DevOps engineers. We’re still small and don’t have the resources to hire those types of engineers, so it’s great that GCP handles all of that for us,” says FUN-GI CEO Alfred Fung.
2. Scale Horizontally Without Sacrificing Performance
Developers building modern, worldwide games have no idea where their user load will come from or how heavy it will be. The trickiest part is trying to figure out how to handle all of the in-app purchases, user identities, and metadata. Most databases require trade-offs between scale and consistency, which are completely unacceptable in the game industry.
Google Cloud Spanner was built for big. Really big. By combining the benefits of relational databases with non-relational horizontal scalability and performance, Cloud Spanner serves data with low latency while maintaining transactional consistency and industry-leading 99.999% availability SLA, no planned downtime, and enterprise-grade security.
Bandai Namco Entertainment (BNE), developers of the Dragon Ball Z franchise, chose Cloud Spanner when they needed “extreme scalability” for a new title that was expected to attract millions of players worldwide. Two closed beta tests to validate the backend didn’t reveal a single issue with the database, and even though more than three million players worldwide pre-registered for the new game, the official release went off without a hitch.
3. Enjoy Built-In DDoS Protection
The online game industry has long struggled with DDoS attacks, and they’re getting larger, more complex, and harder to manage. Security firm Akamai recently discovered a new and insidious DDoS vector that specifically targets the game industry; WS-Discovery (WSD) can reach a whopping 35/Gbps at peak bandwidth.
Google Cloud Armor, in conjunction with Cloud Load Balancing, provides built-in defenses against infrastructure DDoS attacks by leveraging Google’s global infrastructure and security systems. When game developer FlowPlay was using a data center, a significant portion of their budget went towards DDoS protection. Since migrating to GCP, FlowPlay has had no need to purchase additional DDoS protection. “Google Cloud takes care of that for us,” says Douglas Pearson, Flowplay’s Co-Founder and CTO. “They take security very seriously.”
4. Keep Your Game Online, All the Time, and Running at Peak Performance
The gaming industry is extremely competitive, gamers are among the most demanding and fickle customers in the world, and there are no slow seasons or downtimes; game play goes on 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. “In this industry, there is no such thing as ‘down for maintenance,’” notes FlowPlay’s Pearson. “There is no ‘off-season.’ There is no window where we can be offline, not ever.”
GCP Cloud Load Balancing places your resources behind a single anycast IP and intelligently autoscales them up or down. As opposed to DNS-based global load balancing solutions, Cloud Load Balancing reacts instantaneously to changes in factors such as users, traffic, network, and backend health, handling very large, unexpected, and instantaneous spikes by diverting traffic to other regions in the world that can handle it.
Between May 2018 and May 2019, FlowPlay experienced a 50% increase in traffic, but the system response speed on the GCP platform was literally double what they had achieved while using a data center. Pearson says he was astounded. “That’s a huge boost in performance, especially since we have significantly more players. When I looked at the numbers, they seemed too good to be true, so I rechecked them! The performance boost means our end users will be delighted with faster performance, and we are, too.”
5. Leverage Advanced Machine Learning & Data Analytics
The best way to optimize game design for player retention and growth is to analyze the vast amount of data that current players generate in-game. GCP’s leading machine learning and analytics solutions allow developers to store, manage, and analyze petabytes of data with minimal overhead. This helps developers improve player engagement as well as employ strategies including segmentation and monetization.
King, the developers of Candy Crush Saga, chose GCP for its stability at scale, advanced analytics capabilities, and focus on machine learning and AI. While running on-prem, King was forced to split its data across different platforms. Using BigQuery as a data warehousing solution, the company was able to unify all its data in one place, as well as experiment with new data structures. After using BigQuery to build “virtual players” for game testing purposes, King used Google Cloud ML models to train them. The virtual players allow King to rapidly gather solid data that they can use to optimize their games.