You might believe that any CDN will be adequate for your game content delivery. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Technically speaking, any CDN will be able to deliver your game content from one point to another, however, the devil is in the details. A good game experience can live and die based on the quality of the download. Here’s why:
Game downloads are big. The average size of a game download has increased significantly over the past ten years and it continues to grow with the addition of 4K and Ultra HD resolution games.
And it’s not just the downloadable versions that are getting larger. Many boxed PC games also come with a large post-installation download. For example, it took seven DVDs to install the boxed version of Grand Theft Auto 5, which then required an additional 5GB day-one patch that needed to be downloaded in order to play. Batman Arkham Knight came with five discs and a surprising 30GB post-installation download before the player could get into the game. So even after spending all that time installing the games from discs, boxed PC games still face the same delivery hurdles as their digital counterparts.
This is why having a solid plan in place to handle your game’s delivery needs is crucial to your overall success. It’s not enough just to have a CDN—you need to have the right CDN. You need to have a game friendly CDN.
So you say you’re fast…
Every CDN will boast about their delivery speed, but speed is not the only benchmark for the success of your deployment strategy. The key thing is to learn‘where’ your CDN is fast. This is a question of immeasurable importance to the overall success of your deployment strategy.
For instance, your CDN provider may deliver exceptionally well in North America, but can barely lift the needle in South America or Asia. Alternatively, you could have a CDN that delivers exceptionally well in Europe but not so well in North America. Either situation leaves you with huge potential problems.
That’s why it’s so important to understand the details behind CDN speed claims. Failure to do so can leave you with abandonment rates that spiral out of control.
“Global delivery” does not mean “global caching"
Delivery origin relative to the location of your players is also very important to the success of your deployment strategy. How close your players are to the content edge servers is critical to delivering a good player experience. Ideally, there should never be more than one network hop between your player and the closest CDN edge server.
So if your CDN claims to provide ‘global’ delivery, make sure they have a true global footprint. It may be that the great rate you received is because all delivery is originating from either North America or Europe, regardless of the location of your players.
If you have a global player base, make sure your CDN is a true global delivery pro, too.
CDNs can deliver content, but can they scale with you as you develop your game? Games can generate rabid interest with a global player community even before a launch. Players sometimes wait years to get their hands on the next hot game.
When that game is released, the floodgates open and you have the potential for hundreds of thousands of players requesting a 30GB game all at one time. The most popular games can have millions of players downloading the latest patch simultaneously. It’s imperative that your choice of CDN has the ability to handle the high-demand nature of the online game world for the benefit of everyone on their network.
How well suited is a CDN for your game? Consider these questions:
- Can the CDN handle a huge surge on patch day?
- Will a surge in volume from another customer impact your performance?
- How 'game friendly' is their pricing?
- Can the CDN be used during the early development stages without a minimum monthly commitment?
In the years preceding a game’s launch, game developers should use a quality CDN network for testing and betas. During this time, the delivery volume will be small and the CDN will be only used intermittently. Developers may test various builds and require a tiny amount of monthly bandwidth, but as they add alphas and their initial beta releases, the need for more CDN grows. This is where it pays to have a CDN that understands the lifecycle of games and can grow with you. Many CDNs want to rope you into early contracts or high monthly minimum charges before it makes financial sense to enter into a commitment. Find a CDN that truly understands your needs and offers flexible pricing plans to meet them.
Brace for an Attack
This year, online games represent the most highly targeted industry for distributed denial-of-service attacks (DDoS attacks). That’s a pretty amazing statistic. A leading CDN stated that over 33% of their total attacks are against online game companies. DDoS attacks wreak havoc on your game, your bottom line, as well as your reputation among players.
As a developer or publisher, you hope that your game will be the next hot success, but with success, you should expect to become a target for attackers. Multi-layer protection is available and should be researched to find out exactly what you need, preferably before you will need it.
From web mitigation protection to application layer, origin and DNS protection, if your CDN is not able to discuss these options with you you need to find one who can. Don’t wait until your game operations come to a screaming halt to look into this.
Start off right. Make sure you select a CDN that knows what it takes to deliver your game successfully to a global audience.