“The speed of gaming growth is not restricted to hardware complexities”

Sandeep Bhargava, Managing Director, Asia Pacific and Japan at Rackspace Technology

With a shift in gaming habits, game creators, publishers and distributors alike are seeking to cater to the serious gaming audience by leveraging the inventive benefits of the cloud. US-based Rackspace Technology is one such cloud computing company that offers an array of gaming solutions for everyone from the largest gaming companies to rising startups. It provides effective optimisation with fully managed application services handled by a team of experts. Ramesh Kumar Raja caught up with Sandeep Bhargava, Managing Director, Asia Pacific and Japan at Rackspace Technology, to discuss the growing phenomenon of cloud gaming and the services it provides to bring about a massive change in the gaming industry. Excerpts:

The gaming industry in India has significantly boomed during the pandemic. How has the cloud influenced the acceleration of gaming growth?

The requirement for people to mostly stay indoors during the pandemic acted as a catalyst for the growth phase of the gaming sector. According to a report by EY on India’s Media & Entertainment sector reboots in 2020, the gaming industry witnessed a boost as online gamers grew 20% from 300 million in 2019 to 360 million in 2020. The esports segment is expected to grow at a 46% CAGR over the next four years with most of the revenue mainly generated through popular streaming platforms.

From being purely local during the 2000s, console and mobile games have come a long way to become a connected commonplace for account sign-in, purchases, progress sync and dynamic game-world interaction. The forthcoming generation of conventional consoles may be the last, before the gaming future shifts to a ‘no specific hardware’ model, where devices act as terminals for streaming content. The cloud has been a key factor in this gaming evolution by allowing engines and analytics to function with enhanced efficiency, and enabling companies to keep players entertained with dynamic content inflow.

With a shift in gaming habits, game creators, publishers and distributors alike are seeking to cater to the serious gaming audience by leveraging the inventive benefits of the cloud. Earlier, a traditional data centre setup might have been sufficient, but with complex games created today and will continue to be the case in the near future, there is a need for increased scalability and reliability brought by hyperscale clouds and global content delivery networks.

“Earlier, a traditional data centre setup might have been sufficient, but with complex games created today and will continue to be the case in the near future, there is a need for increased scalability and reliability brought by hyperscale clouds and global content delivery networks”

Why is infinite scalability important for game creators and publishers?

Disruptive mobile innovation is at the doorstep of game developers, as the global advent of 5G promises greater connectivity and powerful video game streaming services, poised to change how people access console-quality content, for good. Recently, tech giants are redefining the Indian gaming landscape by hosting transformational cloud gaming demos over a hi-speed live 5G test network. This showcases the potential of enhanced connectivity and scalability for innovative gaming companies.

Limitless scalability can empower developers to expand intelligently with lean costs and resources. It gives them the freedom to connect dedicated servers to the public cloud of their choice, enabling on-demand, pay-as-you-go scalability without sacrificing performance or security. Gaming companies can branch out from local operations to establishing large ventures by accessing an international level playing field and infinite scalability of technology and analytics, paired with simple smartphone devices, to deliver record speeds and reduce response delays.

How can publishers rise up to the challenges of gaming in the cloud?

One of the core challenges of the gaming market is its volatile nature owing to the ‘low attention span’ of players. To navigate dynamic player demands with cloud, while effectively meeting business, regulatory and technical requirements simultaneously are the favourable outcomes publishers seek with the transition to serverless game computing. When leveraged effectively, the cloud can enable publishers to focus on what is crucial; the progression of game development. Reliable cloud computing services partners can empower them to be fully adept with the technicalities surrounding new tools, data and connectivity, improved sync, lower latency and complex legal conditions.

It is critical to monitor the various growth stages of game development right from the pre-launch complexity, to identifying the right tools and infrastructure for game-creator efficiency, and have continuous access to user preferences and trends. Only with a well-planned cloud-enabling strategy, publishers can accelerate the initial development of the game and ensure the game storyline is more relevant and responsive to industry trends. During the post-launch phase, smart analytics can outline rapid marketing iterations and ensure increased player engagement during the all-important monetisation window of increasing conversions.

With game development increasingly moving to the cloud, how will it empower creators to be more efficient and maximise income?

With the gaming industry exploring new highs, there is an inevitable need to innovate and monetise constantly. Having access to the tools is one thing; but game creators need to build the operational agility and flexibility within their business to roll out new, trending content and updates constantly with high speed to market, to consistently stay ahead of the competition.

Since the first eight weeks of game development are most critical with the highest number of game downloads occurring during this span, it mandates creators to develop strategic monetisation plans, ensuring the creation of reliable, customised and cutting edge content that guarantees stickiness and user-retention, thereby increasing revenue.

Although raw computing power is successfully enabling creators to deliver image-rich content to gamers globally, with new-generation servers and GPUs, and the rise in AI, machine learning, big data and analytics, creators can do more with existing data; decode their user base and convert insights into innovation faster. As devices become terminals, the speed of gaming growth is not restricted to hardware complexities and can unlock limitless scale with the cloud and the tools that cloud providers offer.

Collaborating with an experienced, fully-managed hosting environment provider enables creators to save significant costs on designing, building and operating a similar environment independently. They can effectively align business environments to address business demands, accelerate testing, optimise capacity planning and cloud spending to reduce downtime, affordably.

How will embracing the cloud encourage good governance in gaming?

As games grow in popularity, they become preferred ransomware targets for cybercriminals to steal data. It is important to safeguard user data on these gaming platforms as compromised consumer data privacy can cause companies to fall foul of governance and compliance legislation. To ensure that data infrastructures are secure, developers must have a complete understanding of the diverse data points and data sources handled by the company along with the inclusions and purpose of the data being stored and shared. In certain regions or states, regulators are insistent on having physical server and data infrastructure within highly specialised geo-locations.

Inventive cloud providers are geared up to fulfill these compliance requirements by allowing game developers to cascade public cloud infrastructure into private cloud infrastructure, that they can own, manage and deploy anywhere in the world. A cloud-based infrastructure with such flexibility can be managed with usual consoles and existing tools used on a day-to-day basis; therefore, complying with regulators without hindering one’s technical operating strategy.

“The growing engagement and interest in the gaming sector is here to stay with noteworthy growth in creation, deployment and consumption. Empowered by the cloud, creators can simplify gaming complexity considerably and offer enhanced gaming experience to players by bringing more convenience, engaging content and immediacy to game platforms over the long term”

What are the key solutions that Rackspace offers to help address gaming complexities such as latency issues, the player waiting times and cost savings?

The gaming industry is emerging as one of the most innovative and exciting sectors for entertainment in India and globally. To meet the growing needs of the gaming segment and consumers, companies need to build a sustainable gaming business model. With an array of gaming solutions for everyone from the largest gaming companies to rising startups, Rackspace offers effective optimisation with fully managed application services handled by a team of experts. An advanced monitoring and 24x7x365 eyes-on support system anticipate upcoming events that could impact the application’s performance, in advance. This plays an important role in enhancing player experience, minimising waiting times and reducing the risk of losing them to competitors.

The platform enables fast and seamless gaming delivery with new-generation servers and the Intel Xeon Scalable Processors, creating a globally distributed data centre presence and Graphical Processing Units (GPUs) for maximum performance. Delivering rich content and media experience requires transcoding, image rendering and other data visualizations that demand heavy GPU computing resources and high throughput local storage. Rackspace Technology improves time-to-delivery drastically with low latency by offering ingenious GPU computing, bare metal compute resources and blazing fast local storage capabilities for game developers.

This enables them to process large amounts of data quickly, as well as accelerate data analytics and visualisation. Empowered with a global data centre footprint and high-availability customer data network, gaming companies can deliver a seamless experience to their users and scale by reaching out to millions of viewers globally across desktop, mobile and connected TV.

The growing engagement and interest in the gaming sector is here to stay with noteworthy growth in creation, deployment and consumption. Empowered by the cloud, creators can simplify gaming complexity considerably and offer enhanced gaming experience to players by bringing more convenience, engaging content and immediacy to game platforms over the long term.

Ramesh has over 12 years of experience in different departments of journalism. Having a strong nose for news, he has worked with The Times of India, Hindustan Times, Delhi Press, News Wire Service and Governance Today in different capacities. He is a Delhi University graduate and an alumnus of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Delhi, and St. Xavier's School, Muzaffarpur. He loves writing over issues of social relevance. His craving for smart technology brought him to My Mobile where he has grown up to be a tech journo.

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