Gamers’ glitches are major hitches

Joe Bloggs is poised; on the verge of completing a truly legendary 30-man raid on his favourite multiplayer online role-playing game. The loot – the spoils of war – is in his sights, until…the dreaded crash. Not only has this wonderful moment been spoilt, but Joe can never get it back – short of going through the whole process again. In fact, 93 per cent of online gamers experience stalling during gaming sessions, and over a third of this group encounter the problem at least once an hour, according to new research from WHIPTAIL.

Gamers’ and gamblers’ frustrations with their online experience stem largely from constant stalling and glitching that afflicts their performance-hungry pastime. 72 per cent of gamers resort to playing only outside the conventional peak Internet hours of 6pm-9pm, and with nearly three quarters having quit during an online game as a result of a frustrating experience, it’s clear to see that speed is a hot topic for users.

The gaming industry is facing a huge challenge as sales of console games continue to decline by 25 per cent year on year, and many developers focus their efforts on games for online environments. With the massive improvements in graphics and the ultra-fine detail of popular online games such as ‘Call of Duty’ and ‘World of Warcraft’, performance is critical.

Performance is the number one expectation of gamers. As individuals fight for leisure time, especially during a recession, people are increasingly unable to allocate large periods to online gaming sessions. Our research revealed that 67 per cent of gamers couldn’t play for more than two hours a day, and around half of this group were unable to allocate more than one hour on a daily basis. As time becomes a factor, gamers are demanding ever-higher levels of performance during these restricted sessions.

However, these issues actually span two distinct markets. On the one hand there are the gamers who experience interruptions half way through a game, but on the other, there are also gamblers. With so many bookmakers now offering ‘real-time’ (or ‘in-play’) betting, there is even more pressure for sites to deliver constant availability of their services. The fast pace and rapidly fluctuating odds are major attractions of this new form of gambling that has become so synonymous with both sport and the financial markets. But these attractions become redundant if you encounter online performance issues – particularly during periods of increased demand for high profile events.

The data centres that host online games and gambling sites are putting huge pressure on their servers and storage systems, meaning that crashes and glitches are inevitable – but they are unacceptable to users. In addition to this, games that were once offline are now increasingly integrating online options in the form of co-operative play or DRM. With millions of players utilising multiple servers, the industry-standard spinning disk arrays are expanding into vast server farms, requiring large amounts of energy and incurring huge climate control expenses. The industry is balancing on a tipping point.

This will help trigger a move towards newer technologies to improve performance and cope with the huge influx of data caused by the growing popularity of online gaming and gambling, as well as potentially reducing the cost of downloading gaming content for consumers.

All-flash storage is leading the charge in this new progression. Flash has the performance characteristics to consolidate those multiple servers into a single Flash array. This produces a smaller footprint, reduces energy costs, and generates less heat – going a long way towards solving the spiralling climate control issues. For the consumer, this directly impacts the amount of time spent on the dreaded loading screens, virtually eliminating the wait when moving between continents.

Internet usage has more than doubled in the last year alone, and many project that data traffic will jump up to tenfold within the next five years. New technologies have the ability to bring the speed back to online gaming and are crucial to improving the consumer experience, and thus Delorfind Belithraldur will finally unearth the Belt of Crystalline Tears from the treasure chest buried deep in the hills of Northern Stranglehorn.

WHIPTAL are a silver sponsor at this year’s Whitehall Media Enterprise Cloud Computing & Virtualization conference, to be held at the Hotel Russell, London, on 7th March.