Game developers all around the world are struggling to deliver high quality game experiences. These issues are even more challenging in booming “mobile first” markets where the potential to monetize game titles hasn’t been fully unlocked.
Take for example Southeast Asia - the fastest growing mobile market (per Venturebeat), followed by Latin America. In 2017, its total game revenue (Mobile, PC and Console) reached $2.2 billion and could rise to $4.4 billion by 2021. In Latin America current revenues are closer to $5 billion. In both regions the mobile game segment is expected to surpass PC and console in 2018.
Unfortunately, despite the high appetite for mobile services, networks in these regions are not exhibiting great performance. Highly populated countries such as India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brazil, Russia and Argentina suffer from the highest mobile network latency (> 100 milliseconds) and the highest number of connection errors (>7% of the sessions suffers from some type of disconnect)
High latency networks are common in Southeast Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe
Another unique characteristic of the Southeast Asian market is that initial game download is done directly from the game makers sites and local third-party Android markets as opposed to Google and Apple app stores. This introduces an operational challenge for game developers who are now responsible for fast and reliable initial app download.
In order to address these issues, developers of successful game titles are seeking solutions to support their growth and help maximize revenue in these markets.
Technically speaking, any game should be able to support three types of content delivery:
- Real time message delivery (between app users; upload, download, broadcast)
- Dynamic content (i.e. API calls)
- Large static file download
Each content type has its own issues and solutions, when used over mobile networks:
Real Time Message Delivery
3rd generation of mobile games enable multiple players to play against each other. To enable an interactive multiplayer game experience, each player should have the ability to share information such as availability/presence, game position and game statistics. These short messages should be delivered in high frequency and ideally in real time. When one or multiple players have poor connectivity, it is likely to impact everyone else in the “playroom”. Common symptoms of poor multiplayer experiences are lags in player matching, delays in player presence updates, out of sync player position, etc. Large game developers are familiar with these issues and often times develop custom solutions in-house. This is a major undertake as they need to hire a team of expensive network engineers, develop a low latency (non-TCP) protocol and lastly build a distributed real time messaging solution that the Ops team will operate globally. Such a project represents a high-risk, high-cost investment. Some vendors such as Photon offer a limited SaaS deployment and focus mostly on licensing their messaging stack. Other vendors such as PubNub offer a SaaS solution but are still relying on TCP as a transport protocol. No one seems to offer a turnkey non-TCP solution that is available globally.
Dynamic Content (API Calls)
Dynamic content is typically personalized content that is streamed back to the user a result of an API call. A common search operation (for people, products etc.) is customized per user profile (location, age, search words etc.). Since personalized content cannot be pre-cached, the only way to accelerate it would require using protocol optimization. In the absence of true mobile solutions, many developers adopted web technologies that focus on middle mile (between CDN edge servers) content acceleration via protocol optimization. This solution lost its competitive edge over the past few years when the middle mile became super fast. In addition, when speaking about mobile apps, dynamic content is mostly delayed in the last mile where middle mile acceleration technology cannot help. To read more about dynamic content over mobile networks, check out this post.
Large Static File Download
Large file download typically takes place during game launch or as the user advances between game stages. The App downloads game bundles and assets that are necessary for visual purposes and in order to operate its basic functionality. A common technology for large static file acceleration is called CDN (Content Delivery Networks) where the static files are cached in a regional server closer to the end user. Unfortunately, static content caching only partially solves the problem, since the file has to be downloaded over the last mobile mile - an operation that would take multiple round-trips (e.g. about 20 round-trips for a 300 kb file and 40 round-trips for a 1mb file). Multiplying the high number of round-trips over high latency networks (>100 milliseconds are typical to the regions), yields a very long download time.
Is there a better way to handle Mobile Game Networking?
In a world of cloud services that help developers expedite time to market and simplify product operation, what should a Mobile Game Performance Solution look like? Here are some basic requirements:
- Abstraction of hundreds of mobile networks so developers can focus on building an engaging game and not worry about different mobile networks (e.g. AT&T LTE vs. Vodafone India).
- Capable of sending real time messages from player to server and from player to other players
- Keep players informed in real time about other players presence
- Effectively share player game statistics
- Offer faster download time for game bundle and assetson high-latency mobile networks
- Ensure reliable API calls over mobile networks
- Compatible with thousands of device models and OS combinations
- Globally distributed and easy to scale
- Leverage fast non TCP protocol (vs. dated internet protocols such as TCP)
- Leverage the know-how and support of mobile network experts
PacketZoom was founded to help mobile apps and mobile game developers increase their app performance and reliability using a modern networking stack. PacketZoom offers three mobile networking solutions for mobile games:
- Mobile IQ is a free mobile app solution focused on network analytics
- Mobile Expresslane is a mobile app acceleration solution, which allows for faster downloads and more reliable API calls while preventing connection drops
- The new Mobile Connect enables real time player communication in multiplayer games.
To learn more about a solution that meets your requirements, please contact PacketZoom