Why you should consider traffic into your game development cycle

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13 April 2021

Interest in online gaming continues to grow, with the medium becoming more popular than ever during our socially-distanced times. Arguably, the pandemic will leave a lasting impact on the make-up of games with more multiplayer and online aspects in the pipeline.

With this in mind, game developers should take a closer look at how their design and game hosting decisions impact the game (and the bottom line!) in the long run. In my opinion, five elements factor in heavily on those calculations. These include the following decisions you make during game development as influenced by your intended global reach and latency constraints:

In this part of the written version of our webinar, we will discuss traffic and bandwidth in more detail. You can also watch the recording of our webinar above and click on the traffic & bandwidth chapter for more details on this subject. Please remember to accept all cookies, otherwise the video might not show up for you.

“The more server-side needs of your game, the heavier this server instance needs to be, and thus, the higher the cost per player of your game.”

Stefan Ideler, CTO i3D.net

Traffic and Bandwidth

The third thing which often gets overlooked is the amount of bandwidth required between your server application and the player, and server application and your backend. As I’ll cover later, the most common model we see nowadays is a hybrid approach to hosting. In this approach, one part oversees controlled fixed costs (bare metal) and once bandwidth becomes an issue it bursts flexible loads onto one or multiple cloud providers.

However, people generally compare the cloud prices per CPU core pricing / instance, but often forget to think about the bandwidth costs. The biggest secret of the cloud provider is that bandwidth is the true money maker of the game.

Therefore, it really pays off in the long term to think about your bandwidth consumption during development. If you are developing a game, I would encourage you to think about how to optimize player to server traffic and only send what is needed. Especially for global live games this makes a big difference, because bandwidth prices vary wildly across the globe. In some regions it can be 100 times more expensive per megabit of traffic, compared to Europe or US. At best, this will greatly impact your cost and profit calculations for these markets. In the worst case, you have forgotten about this and you are suddenly are stuck with a massive bill that you did not anticipate.

A real-life example of this is a popular battle royale game. The game had garnered a huge following in China and was hosted by local VPN providers and data centers. At the same time, the game was running on a hyperscaler in Japan and bandwidth costs started to become very painful for the developer. We assisted in transitioning that game to a hybrid model for that region, which greatly reduced the costs for them to keep that game running in an optimal way for the players.

Main Take-Aways

While developing your game, you should seriously consider what type of server authority you want for your game. For most live-games, I would not recommend a simple peer-to-peer model since it can heavily affect the player experience and potential income of your game.