The Digital Infrastructure Underpinning The Global Gaming Boom

Matt George, Senior Manager, Enterprise Solution Marketing, Equinix

In the lead up to this year’s Fortnite World Cup, over forty million players attempted to qualify for the grand final, which took place in-front of over 20,000 screaming fans – with millions more tuning in online – at the Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York City. The total prize fund was £24m, with the winner alone receiving £2.4m – a figure almost 50% more than Tiger Woods got for winning the Masters.

There is no disputing the power of the ever-expanding video game market. This year it was revealed that the segment is estimated to be worth a staggering £3.86bn – more than both video and music combined – with the UK ranking as the fifth largest video game market in the world. In fact, Netflix recently stated that is sees gaming as their biggest competitor, as opposed to other TV platforms.

With the advent of new subscription services and online only models, gaming is witnessing a massive digital transformation. This is being accelerated by the changing tactics of game developers who are removing the need for a physical product, by giving people the opportunity to download games directly to their console, or in the case of Google’s Stadia removing the need for a console entirely and streaming games to virtually any internet connected screen .

A critical need for speed

The tectonic shift in interactive, experiential gaming taking place around the world, is drastically increasing the need for online gaming network bandwidth.

In its 2018 Visual Networking Index, Cisco predicted that the global online gaming growth is set to progress nine-fold between 2017 to 2022, totalling 4% of global IP traffic by 2022 and representing 15 extabytes (EB) per month of global consumer traffic.

It should come as little surprise that online gaming and Esports require high speed, ultra-low latency internet connections between gaming systems, ISP’s and cloud computing.

This is necessary to keep pace with the huge advances that have taken place in processing and graphics power, and the Artificial Intelligence (AI)/Machine Leaning (ML) and Virtual Reality (VR)/Augmented Reality (AR) systems that power users’ real-time gaming experiences.

As is clear from the money at stake in the Fortnite World Cup, any latency between the reaction speed of the player, the gaming system and the supporting networks and cloud, can mean the difference between the multi-million-pound top prize and being knocked out of the competition.

Gaming at the edge

It’s one thing ensuring latency doesn’t impact the everyday gaming experience, but an additional challenge lies in making sure the user experience isn’t hindered during event driven surges, new games releases and regular software updates.

To tackle this issue, it’s becoming increasingly important for online gaming providers to position gaming servers and access nodes in data centres at the digital edge, close to major gaming hubs where there are vast populations of both game players and gaming providers. By establishing direct private interconnection with gaming networks, gaming ecosystems, and network and cloud providers at the digital edge, companies can reduce latency and manage traffic costs more effectively.

This is something that will become business-critical when 5G is launched, as gamers take advantage of the great leaps forward that are being made in AR/VR, and the increased opportunity to game anywhere at any time.