The gaming market continues to enjoy strong growth with surging demand expected until at least 2015, according to recent research. Online gaming is forecast to make a significant – and growing – contribution to the total. In fact, it’s predicted that online gaming will surpass the sales of physical units by 2013.
While that’s excellent news for the gaming industry – online models have significant cost benefits in terms of distribution and can generate recurring subscription revenues – it also presents challenges. Online gamers need to have sufficient bandwidth to enjoy an optimal experience – and this applies in both the downstream and upstream direction. They need guarantees of service to ensure that they really can obtain an experience equivalent to a localised version.
Some operators have already addressed this by developing enhanced broadband service packages that specifically address the gaming market and provide guarantees of delay, ping time, round trip and so on. The theory is that users will pay a marginal premium to enjoy an optimised quality of service. While that’s yet to be proven, the challenge is likely to continue to grow, as the devices through which players access games proliferate. A gamer might use a PC for a shared WiFi connection to a fixed DSL link for some of the time, move to a tablet or pad and then continue to play via a mobile device. They will come to expect the same service across all of these, but the network performance may vary considerably. They will also be competing with family members or users within the same cell for the available bandwidth.
That’s why operators need to think about how to account for the specific devices that users will access. They need to consider how to deliver an optimised experience across all devices. It’s one thing to offer such services and capabilities if you own the network, but how can such services be optimised if the user is accessing the same service across a different network?
This raises interesting questions about the ability of operators to offer enhanced services on a wholesale basis – and the importance of working hand-in-hand with the gaming industry to ensure that such optimised services can be made available. To achieve this will require some thought about how to deliver services across different networks but also how to deploy localised software on devices that enable applications to perform as required. The gaming industry is set to boom, but it’s clear that there are challenges ahead to provide the service that will ensure expectations are met.