When gamers sit down to engage in their favorite activity, they probably don't think about the data centers that make the experiences possible.
Because data centers are instrumental in reducing the latency — or lag time — that people experience while interacting with content, it's arguable that without data centers, gamers would be continually frustrated and placed at competitive disadvantages.
Even people who aren't into video games know about "Fortnite," a game that boasts 200 million registered players worldwide. Epic Games, the company behind the title, has an impressive arrangement with data centers, too.
"Fortnite" depends on 12 AWS data centers that offer 24 availability zones. Plus, each AWS data center has to tolerate extreme differences in loads. For example, the peak load is 10 times larger than the smallest one. That's because certain events set the gaming community abuzz and make more people interact with the game than usual.
Things also change within the gaming environment depending on the actions players take. "Fortnite" generates an astounding 92 million events per minute or 54 billion events daily, and the total amount of data grows by 2 petabytes per month. An analytics database called the Unreal Engine helps Epic Games analyze the data and use it to adjust the game as needed.
"Fortnite" has the benefit of celebrity endorsements, and those also cause spikes in gameplay. According to a Brandwatch study, when rapper Drake played the game, Twitter mentions about "Fortnite" went up by 143 percent in the week afterward compared to before he got associated with the game. A recent report from Netflix confirmed "Fortnite" was a bigger competitor to the streaming service than HBO.
The massive success of "Fortnite" wouldn't be possible without the data center reliability provided by Amazon Web Services (AWS). After all, the game wouldn't have reached the heights it has if it weren't so immersive. The high uptime afforded by data centers helps people get consumed by the game and the content it offers because it lets them play without disruptions.
"World of Warcraft" is another wildly popular video game, and it's also heavily dependent on data centers. There's even a YouTube documentary that goes in depth about the data center specifics. According to that content, there are 17 data centers around the world, and the game usually pushes 100 gigabytes per second.
Additionally, part of the YouTube video shows a global map that indicates real-time attempts to break through the "World of Warcraft" infrastructure and disrupt those data centers.
Blizzard Entertainment, the company behind "World of Warcraft," stopped publishing its subscriber numbers in 2015 — although an alleged leak occurred recently. However, the second-quarter earnings 2018 earnings for the game were over $1.1 billion.
Coverage of the data amounts required to play "World of Warcraft" and some other popular games indicated that it usually needs 10-40 MB per hour to play, but that those numbers can rise quickly. For example, taking part in a raid within a game needs 25 MB more, and a battle inside its virtual Alterac Valley requires 160 MB.
Those statistics show how, like the data centers used for "Fortnite," the ones that handle "World of Warcraft" must handle regular load fluctuations without problems. The choices players make, and the things they do inside the game, dictate the data center demand.
Something that likely propelled the growth of "Fortnite" is that it has cross-platform functionality. People felt compelled to give it a try, especially considering they didn't have to invest in a console to do it.
Microsoft made headlines recently when it announced a game streaming service to cater to gamers who wanted to play titles on their phones, for example. The company reportedly wants to eventually make all Xbox games available for streaming instead of only releasing new ones as they come out. The streaming service doesn't require investing in a console and allows gaming on demand from anywhere.
Experts clarify that a game streaming service is much more resource-intensive than a streaming video or audio service. That's because the feedback from the controller has to sync with what happens on screen with virtually no delays or decreased graphics quality.
Microsoft's entry into the world of streaming is called Project xCloud for now. The company says it'll depend on Azure servers to power the gameplay. There are currently 54 Azure data center regions and services available in 140 countries. Tests happen at 10 megabits per second now, and the streaming service supports the 4G network, as well as 5G when available.
It's probable that other companies will venture into streaming gaming too, especially if Microsoft's effort gains momentum and reach. Once that happens, data centers will continue to play a defining role in how people enjoy video games.
Gamers count on seamless delivery. If the speed and latency levels varied from day to day or even hour by hour as more or fewer people logged onto a system to join the fun, players would quickly get fed up.
Powerful and consistent data centers work in the background to ensure people have satisfying experiences that increase the love of a game and the trust in a brand.
Kayla Matthews writes about data centers and big data for several industry publications, including The Data Center Journal, Data Center Frontier and insideBIGDATA. To read more posts from Kayla, you can follower her personal tech blog at ProductivityBytes.com.