The most successful online games on the market today are focused on quality of experience. If your players have a great experience each and every time they log on, they'll keep coming back—and keep spending.
The backbone of creating a great experience?
Quality of connection.
No matter how much fun a game may be, if gamers are constantly fighting through lag, packet loss, and endless matchmaking, the experience will be poor.
Before we talk specifics on how game publishers can tackle these common connection challenges, let’s zoom out for a minute to talk about the gaming industry overall.
To keep it brief—it’s booming right now.
Not only is the industry growing as a whole, but it’s also growing rapidly. In 2020 alone, the gaming industry generated over $159 billion globally, and it's on track to hit $200+ billion by 2023.
What’s driving this growth?
The massive popularity of online multiplayer games like PUBG, League of Legends, and Call of Duty has drawn in new gamers around the globe. And in 2020, COVID-19 lockdown restrictions have driven up time spent gaming.
As the popularity of these multiplayer games continues to grow, online matchmaking will only become more important overall.
To maximize each player’s experience (which in turn can maximize their spending), game publishers need to focus heavily on improving the overall experience for their players—which extends far beyond merely creating a game that’s fun to play.
Creating a great overall experience for players means having a matchmaking system that doesn’t take ages to find players of a similar skill level and doesn't strand players in groups plagued by awful connections. It means having your game run so smoothly that not a single player has to deal with lag.
If you want your game to create amazing experiences for your players and grow revenue—it has to start with your network.
In this article, we’re going to break down why the future of gaming is tied directly to quality network connectivity and highlight the best solution for game publishers in 2021 and beyond.
The importance of network for revenue in gaming
Picture this—you wake up Saturday morning ready to hop on a gaming session on a newly-released, free-to-play battle royale game with a group of your friends. A few of your friends are local, and a few live across the world. You all log in, team up, and start to look for a game.
Three minutes into matchmaking and still loading.
Two minutes later, you find a game. Awesome. It took a lot longer than you’d hoped, but no problem—sometimes it just happens, right?
This is it. You’ve all had your eye on this game’s release date for months now, and you’re loading into your first round. There’s a buzz of excitement in your party chat, and this may become your new go-to game of choice.
Your friend from New York gets booted from the game—you’re in California.
“Poor connection,” it tells them. Not a great first experience with the game, but no matter—they can get re-connected and jump in for the next round. The rest of the group is still stoked to test out this new game.
The lag is unbearable.
You can’t aim properly, the world is jumping in and out of focus, and you keep running in place.
And just like that, the new free-to-play game you and your friends were more than ready to invest countless hours (and dollars) into has been deleted, and you’re onto the next. And worse, those players are not going to support the community of players who may have had a better connection experience, but now suffer from less players to match make with, less players to add content, and less players that can’t drive viral game growth.
To put it simply, if your game’s network is bad, the player’s experience will be poor.
And if the player’s experience is poor, the likelihood of them spending anything on in-game purchases or merchandise is close to zero.
Quality of Experience (QoE) and latency are directly related, as the Handbook of Digital Games and Entertainment Technologies reported back in 2015.
The games that successfully generate regular revenue are the games that focus on more than just game mechanics and marketing. They invest in their network so that every interaction a player has with their game is positive. The more positive experiences a player has, the more likely they are to continue playing with their friends and talking about your game.
This is the power of community building in gaming.
To back this all up with a real-world example, consider this:
League of Legends has 115 million monthly active players. Every year, hundreds of millions of players are spending billions of hours playing free-to-play games.
Each game relies on a high-quality network to create great experiences for its players.
These great experiences mean players keep coming back, talking about the game with their friends, logging in to Twitch to watch their favorite creators and the big tournaments, and yes, making purchases. Skins, merchandise, dances—because the community elements are so vital to each game, they’re able to drive regular in-game purchases, in some cases just so players can show off what they’ve unlocked to their friends.
A great network has not only reduced the amount of lag players experience, it’s also allowed the publishers to reduce the total number of regions since their networks can support high-quality gameplay across greater distances. Fewer total regions means more players online in each, making larger pools available for matchmaking.
To bring it all full circle...
A better network leads to better experiences for your players.
Better experiences for your players lead to community building, more hours played, and higher overall engagement.
Higher engagement and an established community lead to revenue growth.
2021 gaming trends tied to network quality
Network connectivity is going to be central to the future of gaming for years to come. But what trends can you expect to be heavily influenced by network quality this year?
In this section, we’re going to break down three key trends to watch in 2021.
- Continued lockdown restrictions & quarantine time
Although vaccines are already being rolled out around the world, it’s still going to take time before the rollout is wide enough to warrant pre-pandemic levels of community activity. Lockdown restrictions will remain in place for most of the year, and quarantine periods will be common.
What does this mean for gaming?
More time spent in lockdown at home means more time spent gaming in general.
It also means more eSports tournaments and professional gaming events will happen virtually. If your network isn’t ahead of the curve, you run the risk of lag and poor connection seriously swaying these events’ results.
Considering that the 2020 League of Legends World Championship averaged 1.1 million viewers, the impact of poor network quality during the tournament can extend far beyond the games played during the tournament.
- A shift away from region-restricted gaming and eSports tournaments
Since the virus forced many eSports tournaments to go virtual, some game publishers are using this opportunity to do away with region-restricted gaming and tournaments.
With varying levels of travel restrictions in place, coordinating in-person tournaments across multiple continents just isn’t possible right now.
One eSports league, in particular, is taking this approach—The Overwatch League. Since the pandemic forced the league to essentially split in two last year, they’re planning to run four stand-alone tournaments involving teams from all regions throughout the 2021 season.
Naturally, this creates network challenges.
When a team from China is playing a team from the United States, the ping will be higher, which can lead to lag issues. If those issues aren’t solved by having a high-quality network in place, lag may significantly impact the final results of tournaments and the players’ overall experience.
It’s unlikely that The Overwatch League is the only professional gaming league that decides to go down this path. If you want your game to be playable cross-regionally—whether in tournaments or just with friends—make sure you have the right network in place.
- Players wanting to play with their friends (all of them)
Once again, as more people are staying home in 2021, more games will be played.
And since physical distancing and lockdown restrictions are limiting the amount of face-to-face time many gamers are getting with their friends, they’re going to continue finding new channels for interaction—games being a main one.
The truth is, gaming for younger generations is becoming a new go-to form of social interaction. It’s no longer just about the mechanics of the game or the storylines. Your players are often playing the game with their friends just to spend time together.
Even more—as multiplayer games continue to grow, gamers are getting the chance to make new friends around the world. This means larger parties and more extensive gaming sessions with more friends than ever.
If your network is poor, this experience for your players and their friends will be poor as well, and they very well may choose to switch games.
One recent example of this problem coming to life was the Monster Hunter Rise demo. Players experienced serious lag while playing with friends. As it turns out, the lag was mainly due to players having too many friends on their accounts.
If you’d prefer to avoid telling your players the solution to their lag problems within your game is to make fewer friends, upgrading your network isn’t something you can put off and justify with the standard ‘our network is good enough’ rationale.
The solution for game publishers
At this point, it’s clear—if you’re serious about improving your players’ overall experience and increasing revenue from your game, a high-quality network matters.
What makes Subspace different?
- We’re making sure packets travel along the shortest possible paths by running our own optical network around the world.
- We’ve built a network stack tailored to the specific needs of gaming on a global scale.
- We use the software we’ve developed to build internet weather maps—a method for finding the fastest paths in real-time to pull game traffic through.
- We’re deploying new infrastructure in hundreds of cities around the world, not just piggybacking on what’s already been built.
When your game traffic is on Subspace, our PacketAccelerator reduces latency and accelerates packets, while Subspace GlobalTURN allows you to run TURN globally, without having to deploy or manage servers of your own.
Want to start building on Subspace today? Sign up here.