Data Centers Power the Growth of eSports for Gamers, Streamers

Jan. 2, 2019
The rapid growth of eSports has gaming companies investing in network infrastructure, including the acquisition of low-latency hosting specialists. Data centers play a pivotal role in the growth of the competitive gaming ecosystem.

eSports is a booming industry, and competitive gaming is positioned to become even more popular in the future. Millions of people around the world are eSports enthusiasts, and those devoted players and fans create an ecosystem that is generating huge amounts of data. People become extremely dedicated to sharpening their skills or eagerly watching as their favorite gamers face off with each other on livestream platforms.

In a testament to eSports’ pull with consumers, the recent 2018 League of Legends World Championship Finals was broadcast to 99.6 million viewers in 19 different languages across 30 platforms. More than 44 million viewers tuned in to watch the peak of the gaming finals, held in November in South Korea.

Infrastructure is a growing part of this story, as many of the leading gaming esports and gaming companies partner with data centers to deliver online experiences maximally for players and fans. Low latency (“lag”) is crucial in multiplayer games, where a slow connection can leave a player at a competitive disadvantage. A key strategy in addressing latency is moving streaming video closer to the edge of the network, which has huge implications for Internet infrastructure.

Ubisoft Acquires Major Hosting Company

The importance of data centers for gaming and eSports is illustrated by French gaming company Ubisoft’s recent acquisition of high-performance hosting specialist ii3D.net for an undisclosed amount. i3D.net operates33 data centers around the globe, allowing Ubisoft to instantly increase the reach of its owned infrastructure.Ubisoft has its sights set on ramping up the connectivity and services for its players, thereby bolstering the user experience.

When i3D.net users connect to the brand’s platform, they enjoy low-latency access to their favorite content, making gameplay highly immersive. Ubisoft’s expansion demonstrates the importance of network and compute capacity to reach millions of people across the globe. Rising to the challenge of providing dependable service means having the servers that can offer it, so the i3D.net acquisition makes sense for Ubisoft’s future.

Twitch, which Amazon acquired for over $1 billion in 2014, is a platform for all kinds of live-streamed content, but it’s primarily a haven for gamers. No matter where they are in the world, people can log onto the site and watch participants go head to head in live matches.

Cloud Data Centers Bring Gamers Together

Sometimes, the competitions feature celebrity guests, like the cameo by the musician Drake in “Fortnite Battle Royale.” The viewership for that match peaked at about 667,000 people, setting a record for a non-tournament livestream. Even more impressively, that record has since been broken, emphasizing how popular a platform Twitch is for bringing people together.

Streamlabs is a company that developed technology so that people can give financial tips to those who broadcast their gaming attempts on Twitch. Data published in August 2018 by that brand found that Twitch surpassed 1 million concurrent viewers, putting it on a par with audience for television networks like CNN and MSNBC. Twitch’s live chat system delivers more than 1 million messages per second.

Thanks to platforms like Twitch – and the Amazon Web Services computing infrastructure that helps to support it – gaming has become a spectator sport, thrilling people around the globe and allowing viewers to give financial support to the gamers they love.

Since the content isn’t scripted or prerecorded, viewers never know what to expect when they tune in — and that’s part of the fun. Twitch isn’t alone in the way it brings game lovers together though. Xbox Live and Steam do the same, and they need data centers as well.

The eSports Industry Needs Data Centers to Thrive

Statistics from Newzoo show that although the eSports sector is doing well, it won’t reach full maturity for five to 10 years. The firm indicates that brand investment in eSports, active users and global reach is climbing. For example, there will be 380 eSports viewers this year, but most will only be “occasional viewers” as opposed to “enthusiasts.”

Such a finding shows that there’s room for growth. If the eSports sector continues on its current path, analysts from Newzoo project the total worth of the industry to reach $1.4 billion by 2020. Also, although North America is the largest eSports market, there’s especially abundant interest in Western Europe and China.

Chinese viewers gravitate toward mobile gaming, but people also like to show up in person to watch as gamers compete. One tournament attracted 13,000 in-person attendees and 5 million people watching online.

There are even on-site casinos that make online gaming available to any adult in the respective state that has a mobile phone and Internet connection. Those options give people more ways to try their luck, requiring providers to also partner with data centers or have on-site setups to handle the traffic.

How Amazon Web Services Bolsters the Success of “Fortnite”

“Fortnite” is a massively successful release from Epic Games. It’s a survival game where most of humanity has disappeared, and the remaining people have to figure out how to survive by building fortifications with supplies offered in the game’s world — some of which can be bought with real money. People rapidly got behind “Fortnite” when Epic Games offered its Battle Royale mode — including when Drake played it on Twitch.

It’s free to play the Battle Royale segment of “Fortnite,” which puts 100 players head to head in a fight for survival with the last person standing crowned as the winner. “Fortnite” has more than 100 million players around the world, and representatives from Epic Games knew the best bet to ensure smooth performance was to partner with Amazon Web Services (AWS) for its cloud and data center needs.

One of the challenging elements of ensuring a consistent gaming experience for the players is managing event-driven spikes, which create a surge of players at particular times. One event involving a gigantic rocketship launched in the game saw 124 million people playing at once. According to Chris Dyl, Epic Games’ Director of Platform, there can be 10 times the number of players during a time of peak demand versus low demand.

One of the challenges for Fortnite is managing event-driven spikes, which create a surge of players at particular times. One event involving a gigantic rocketship launched in the game saw 124 million people playing at once.

But AWS provides 25 availability zones for the game, meaning that no matter where they are in the world, players can enjoy uninterrupted performance that helps them get engrossed in the “Fortnite” world. And AWS offers an analytics component too. Other people looking at the statistics can tweak elements of the game based on what the data shows.

The analytics platform processes 92 million game events every minute, with the total data amount growing by two petabytes per month. And with the popularity of the game showing no signs of slowing, Epic Games representatives can feel confident that the AWS architecture is well able to handle the data generated by seasoned players as well as new ones.

Data Centers and Esports Giving Cities Competitive Advantages

Due to the extraordinary interest in eSports, some city officials recognize that building data centers to meet eSports demand could make their destinations more competitive. For example, in Atlantic City, NJ, there’s a project to convert part of the Atlantic City Convention Center into a $5 million data center with the help of a company called Continent 8 Technologies.

Atlantic City does not have the infrastructure to support the eSports industry now, but the city intends to change that. Officials in the area see the new project as something that could boost revenue in a number of ways, whether by enticing gaming companies to relocate to the city or flying players in from all over the world to compete in live tournaments.

In another example of how a city embraced the eSports boom, Lakewood, CO, is now the home of the first eSports arena in the state, at the site of what was once an indoor batting cage. The 18,000-square-foot space includes 125 computer monitors and enough space and equipment for 200 people to play games simultaneously. Those players can also watch feeds of games happening elsewhere. Between all the on-site action and what’s occurring in other places, it’s evident that even physical facilities like this one need assistance from capable data centers.

There are also plans to host tournaments where people could win up to $50,000. When there’s prize money at stake, it’ll be even more crucial to have robust data centers supporting the gameplay.

This repurposed Colorado venue could attract people from all over the state as well as tourists and people who fly in specifically to compete for winnings. Such revenue streams benefit the local community and the state.

Uptime Is Essential for Memorable Gaming Experiences

Most people have firsthand experience with how frustrating it is when websites go down — even for a couple of minutes.

The need for seamless performance is arguably even more crucial when there’s the possibility of millions of people playing games at once, potentially to earn prizes or at least bragging rights.

The eSports industry seems likely to continue soaring, but only when data centers can guarantee consistent uptime.

About the Author

Kayla Matthews

Kayla Matthews is a tech journalist and blogger, whose work has appeared on websites such as VentureBeat, MakeUseOf, VICE’s Motherboard, Gear Diary, Inc.com, The Huffington Post, CloudTweaks, and others. Drawing from her interests in technology and its applications to daily life, Matthews writes about the intersection of technology and productivity.

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