by August 8, 2013 0 comments

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What are some of the new game development trends taking shape in 2013?
In our view, the most important trend we see is towards social and multi-player games across platforms including mobiles, tablets and desktops. Today, the most successful apps and games in the App Stores take active measures to leverage social graphs to aid discovery and continued engagement via social recommendations and in-game interaction with friends. This trend is leading to the development of new Game Mechanics, as was seen in the case of successful titles like Draw Something, which used an Asynchronous multi-player mechanic with a very well executed yet simple idea which in-turn led to a hugely successful game. Such features lead to higher retention as well as higher frequency of use. Both these factors are very critical to the eventual success and profitability of a game in the increasingly viable freemium model that depends on either advertising or in-game purchases of virtual items.
Online and mobile games, particularly games that feature social and multi-player features are going to drive the bulk of the games Industry growth which is projected to increase from approximately $50 billion currently to over $80 billion over the next 5 years. Facebook and smartphones (iOS & Android) are the two key drivers for the games industry; with over one billion monthly active players each. Games need to leverage this large available market with Gameplay that drives more interaction between consumers.

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Packaged games like those meant for PCs & Consoles like PS3 & Xbox were mostly single player games, with a retail distribution channel. Online and mobile games require complex and significant infrastructure to support social and multi-player features, primarily because the success of a game remains unpredictable. It can be very challenging for studios to provision and maintain scalable infrastructure due to such uncertainty.
Zynga is an example of how Social Gameplay can be leveraged to retain users for long periods of time. Zynga also benefits greatly while rolling out new games, as they can promote new games to millions of strong users across existing titles. Zynga also has shown how cross-game goals and benefits can improve acquisition and retention.
In addition, the advent of App Stores has also created a new and unfettered method of rapid distribution of content and applications across connected devices. This rapidly accelerating trend also means that content discovery; trials and purchase cycles have all shortened significantly – to periods of less than 2-3 weeks for any product on the app stores, thereby also impacting adversely the shelf life.
Apps and Games need the network effects triggered by Social Mechanics to quickly acquire users. Good games can reach a scale of a million DAU (Daily Active Users) in a matter of a week or two. AWS provides us the building blocks to easily build a gaming specific solution and scales rapidly at a very low cost to overcome these challenges.

What are some of the quantifiable benefits obtained by moving to
the cloud?
Game development is generally very complex and difficult, especially in terms of scale and concurrency requirements. This coupled with the creative requirements makes it even more challenging.
In addition, the potential scale of success of the game also tends to be unpredictable and unexpected, making budgeting for game development quite difficult, and the provisioning of scalable infrastructure for social and multi-player games even more difficult. Most often, only very large studios can afford the infrastructure CapEx. Thus, the larger studios become larger with scale and the smaller studios remain small due to lack of investment. PlayBlazer helps game developers to tide over this disparity by providing scalable infrastructure that not only scales up with demand, but also scales down automatically when not required. This ability is only possible through a cloud based infrastructure.
Another feature that we are able to offer thanks to the cloud is ‘Multi-tenancy’, which means that each game does not need to be run on a separate server (though it is possible to do so if a particular game gets too big). Instead, we provision multiple tenant games on the same infrastructure at the same time, while providing each game its own secure area, invisible to other games co-existing in the same space. This ability lets us dramatically bring down the cost of infrastructure for tenant games. This efficiency of infrastructure is only possible in the cloud.
In fact, using a cloud based infrastructure has helped to significantly shorten our time-to-market -from idea conception to implementation and delivery to customers in less than 5 months. The same benefits are also passed on to Game Studios that can now rapidly develop fully functional Game Servers in a matter of minutes.

What have been the other benefits of moving to the cloud?
Deploying large-scale infrastructure typically also means the addition of significant human resources that go into monitoring and administering such infrastructure. This challenge is compounded to data-center scale operational processes in a multi-tenanted environment.
However in the Cloud, the deployment, management and monitoring of very large infrastructure can be handled and maintained by just a fraction of the human resources required as compared to a traditional ‘box & wire’ data center-based infrastructure. This is possible due to the significant amount of automation, using monitoring services to build auto-scaling triggers into the application layer itself.
There are other benefits to developers that work on the platform feature set itself. They can now focus on building in infrastructure and capacity scalability into the application itself.
In fact, the cloud has enabled us to provide the simplest means of building a game server with high capacity for data storage coupled with finely tuned, high-speed read and write operations over a web service.

What are some of the criteria for choosing a cloud services provider for game development?
Key factors would be geographical reach of the platform, quality of management tools, ease of integration, flexibility, granularity of pricing & billing, security, proven scalability, etc. PlayBlazer is my second entrepreneurial venture using Amazon Web Services after Dialify, but over the past few years, a number of other options have emerged –Softlayer, Rackspace or even building your own virtualization platform using tools like OpenStack or Eucalyptus.

 

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