When milliseconds mean the difference between victory and defeat to millions of gamers, it’s no longer just a battle for bandwidth – it’s a competition for the ‘fittest and fastest network. With the rise of advanced multi-player online gaming coupled with the arrival of cloud gaming and a surge of gamers simultaneously live streaming every day, it’s time for networks to level up. This has been further accelerated by the pandemic forcing indoor stays with limited alternative sources of entertainment, giving online games an even faster rise to popularity. From Fortnite to PUBG’s Battleground Mobile India to Grand Theft Auto, the experiences young gamers have depends on a network that can adapt.

India’s online gaming will grow at a CAGR of 40% to reach a multi-billion-dollar market by next year, with 85% of online gaming on mobile devices and the rest on gaming laptops/PCs or fixed gaming consoles like PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo, according to Deloitte.

Let the games begin – at the Edge

Online games involve continuous interaction and almost real-time feedback, which requires low latency. ‘The game’ responds to the player’s actions or commands, which must travel back and forth over the network to be processed quickly by gaming servers at the nearest data center. This sense of real-time immersion is what makes a game engaging while a few milliseconds of additional delay can lead to frustration among players.

A big challenge of streaming a game from the cloud is latency. If a data center is located too far away, as in the case of traditional network architecture with a few centralized locations, or the network connection is patchy, the user experience suffers.

That’s why the gaming industry and service providers are shifting to newer architectures with Edge Computing to bring this processing much closer to players for minimum possible distance and lower latency experiences. Edge Computing further enhances multiplayer gaming which is even more latency sensitive and bandwidth-intensive. Also, for a consistent and real-time gaming experience, networks need to be able to dynamically scale – leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) and automation to reach new levels of agility so the network can instantaneously allocate capacity where and when it’s needed most.

With 5G making headway in India, and mobile devices being the primary channel used for gaming, Mobile Edge Computing (MEC) with 5G will provide even lower latency for games and an overall improved mobile gaming experience. In fact, it can be said that online gaming will be one of the key applications requiring MEC for 5G in India.

Rise of cloud gaming

Another emerging trend in online gaming is cloud gaming wherein all gaming software along with computing and storage is moved to the cloud, making end devices very simple (no specialized hardware/gaming console required) with reduced battery strain especially for mobile devices. Cloud gaming with a subscription model offers many benefits to users and the ability to play from any location with a broadband/mobile connection; easy access to a score of the latest games, and no headache of upgrades. Imagine playing Clash Royale while on the bus to work rather than buying an expensive console and downloading the latest version of the game – it’s much easier, thanks to the cloud.

Edge cloud can help service providers in addressing the growing demand for new services, applications and content, without compromising on network quality experience.

Taking games to the next level

Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are increasingly being used for building gaming content to deliver even more high-quality visual and immersive experiences where the user feels they are truly part of the game. Consider Pokémon games or 3-D gaming headsets – AR and VR create exciting images to stimulate a gamer’s presence within the game’s environment. To make this work, these technologies need even lower latency to avoid motion sickness for the player.

How the network adapts to online gaming

Online gaming is a perfect marriage of content and technology. However, the real-time nature of content places stringent requirements on networks to provide seamless ‘on-demand and a consistent gaming experience with low latency through peaks and troughs of usage. Service providers, globally, are modernizing their networks to overcome this challenge.

By leveraging a highly programmable and scalable network infrastructure with data-driven analytics and intelligent automation software, service providers can respond rapidly to a sudden surge in traffic. This avoids network congestion by dynamically scaling network resources to deliver the best possible online gaming experience. An automated network allows service providers to enhance operational efficiency and agility.

Further, edge cloud can help service providers in addressing the growing demand for new services, applications, and content, without compromising on network quality experience. As consumers play to win, edge cloud helps to deliver gaming experiences faster and with higher performance to ensure lively and fulfilling digital experiences. By overcoming the technical challenges of cloud gaming, by leveraging analytics and network intelligence to identify network congestion and latency during peak periods, one can ensure that the edge cloud gaming model can scale to meet the demand of India’s booming gaming market.

Edge computing is what makes the future of online gaming possible. As millions of data-hungry Indians compete in virtual tournaments, matches, and playoffs, service providers have an incredible opportunity to transform their networks and deliver winning digital experiences.