If the future of gaming is always-online, those providing the foundations are going to benefit

Credit: Epic Games

Back when MMORPGs like World of Warcraft were at the height of their popularity, many expected that the future of gaming might consist entirely of these sprawling, online multiplayer environments.

A decade and change later, that prophecy is beginning to play out  - but in a slightly different way that many expected. Not every game is an MMORPG but most AAA modern games do boast an immediately-comparable always-online component to them. Though the rapid growth in the games industry has often seen it compared to Hollywood, games aren’t films. They aren’t launched out to the world in a finished ready-to-consume form, they’re living creations that change, evolve and adapt over time.

These days, it’s not just about drawing a huge turnout at launch. Success in the AAA game’s business is about creating (and monetizing) recurrent users who stick with a game over the long haul.

In 2017, Activision-Blizzard made $4 billion dollars in revenue on microtransactions alone. 

Executives of major publishers like Ubisoft have already indicated that this shift is changing the way that they approach the market in significant ways. In the company’s Q4 2017 fiscal call, CEO Yves Guillemot said that “with more live games generating very profitable recurring sales, the need for quickly offering up sequels is less relevant.”

If you look at the biggest and most-popular success stories in the gaming space in recent years, the pattern is easy to see. Whether we’re talking about mainstream gaming hits like Overwatch. League of Legends and Fortnite or mobile-based success stories like Pokemon Go and Fallout Shelter, these games are always-online and always-changing - giving players a reason to keep coming back to them. The more they play, the more they become invested in the experience, and the more likely they are to spend money on it.

Credit: Blizzard

However, for these business model and these online experience to be possible, the developers behind them need stable and secure server infrastructure. That’s where companies like OVH enter the picture.

We spoke to Maxime Hurtrel, Product Marketing Director at OVH, about the ways that growth in online gaming experiences - and the corresponding growth in demand for server infrastructure - mean for one another.

Maxine says that “If we put aside game studios using our infrastructure to host their dev environment and some of their rendering jobs, we see 2 major case studies around gaming at OVH”

“The first one concerns the hosting of backend servers of legacy gaming hits such as Counter Strikes and Minecraft - we have a myriad of end-user gathering and agreeing on paying for an affordable server to host their regular parties together. But the industry has also mature, and OVH has also become the go to “hoster of hosters” in that industry, where we see dozens of specialized SMB, offering a layer of services (game server templates and add-ons, audio and video chatting services) on top of our infrastructure. We optimized and bundle a specific range of “Game” bare-metal servers for them.”

“The second is about mobile and social gaming studios. Their backend infrastructures looks a lot like other mobiles apps and web backends, where OVH is already identified as a leader, and they can benefit from our different flavours of cloud: bare metal servers, public cloud instances or even their own virtual datacenter with our private cloud offerings.”

While OVH is far from the only company playing in this space, Maxine is confident that they’ve got more than enough experience when it comes to dealing with the challenges that gaming infrastructure faces to keeps them competitive.

According to her, “OVH spotted years ago that one key need for the industry is to protect itself from distributed denial of service DDoS attacks. Our services have always been recognized for our capacity to mitigates the largest attacks observed on the Net, and include that service without any additional charge, in all of our servers.”

“For the gaming industry we went even further, or multiple layers above if I could say so, reverse engineering the specific protocols of the majors games, offering a tailored solution and allowing only the legitimate traffic on a given gaming server. We include these custom anti-DDoS service in all our “Game “ Dedicated Servers. Those servers also offer a great power/price ratio, for example including the highest frequency range of Intel CPUs. With the Dedicated Servers, we also offer a predictable pricing of the solutions, to offer the best costs management possible.”

Credit: OVH

Then, “if we now consider our services for mobile and web gaming developers,” he says “they can benefit from our different IaaS offering in our multiple Datacentre through the world (North America, Europe, APAC, etc), to address their customer base with the best latency possible.”

“All our products are currently Infrastructure oriented (offering root access to a machine, be it virtual or physical) and stay agnostic of the technical software stack the customer has chosen to work with.”

He adds that “for both of them, it is worth noting that OVH owns its worldwide fiber networks, and negotiated the best ping deals with all major local ISP in the country where we operate commercially, to offer the best performances, in term of bandwidth and also latencies, key to performance of the gamers. We also offer a solution for a private network interconnection technology, the vRack, to isolate servers and increase the security of infrastructures.”

Just as Amazon is reaping enormous financial benefits from being the go-to server infrastructure company for media content platforms like Netflix and social players like Snap, companies like OVH are uniquely positioned to benefit from this latest shift in the gaming space. As more and more players and developers tilt towards games that exist on always-on live infrastructure, those providing that infrastructure are inevitably going to be enriched as a result.

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Tags gaminggamesOVHOVH ServersAlways-Online

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Fergus Halliday
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