What Closing the Gap in Edge Locations will Mean for Cloud Gaming

Edge computing has been anticipated to change the gaming industry, but will it actually make a difference?

A recent test by Ubisoft confirmed that edge computing has a notable impact on gaming performance. This test showed that edge computing provides a significant reduction in latency, jitter and dropped packages for live gaming experiences. Along with the positives, the test discovered areas of improvement for edge – highlighting the gap in edge computing locations. Eliminating these gaps in edge computing locations is foundational if cloud gaming is to become a viable competitor to the console-based solution.

This is because the growth of cloud gaming is contingent on building a reliable reputation among gamers. A new survey by Limelight Networks gauged gamers’ opinions around the launches of cloud gaming platforms. It found that gamers are planning to stick to consoles with 72% of people stating in the next six months they’d be more likely to purchase a gaming console than cloud gaming. When asked why they were unwilling to subscribe to Stadia, almost half (47%) of gamers said they wanted to avoid initial performance issues. These performance concerns spawn from the fact that quality of experience is vital in gaming and can even be the deciding factor of winning or losing. 

Low Latency and Minimizing Jitter is Important for a Consistent Stream

Latency and jitter are more than a frustration when it comes to gaming. In fact, lagging behind for even a fraction of a second puts gamers at a significant disadvantage to their competitors. Current edge computing infrastructures begin to close the gap on latency and minimize jitter by putting processing power in closer geographical relations to the end-user – enabling the quick and efficient transfer of data. The Stadia launch showed that utilizing edge will cut down on technical worries plaguing the industry, but the current infrastructure is not perfect due to lack of consistent coverage.

Stadia reviews were mixed with some gamers raving about the quality of their stream, while others cited an inferior streaming experience. The inconsistency in the reviews didn’t come from a variety of gaming standards but the “incomplete” edge computing infrastructure Stadia is employing. When an edge infrastructure does not have a sufficient amount of resources deployed or the edge is not local to the gamer, the efficiency of its data transfer decreases – a major issue when device usage comes into play with cloud gaming. 

Cloud gaming allows users to stream anywhere on any device. For multi-device streaming, a solid edge infrastructure is vital. Mobile devices use different ‘last mile’ networks that have different performance characteristics and capabilities. To minimize jitter and create a consistent stream across all devices, edge locations need to be near the end-users and have excellent connectivity with the ‘last mile ’providers (whether they be fixed, wireless or cellular). Someone gaming on their home WiFi needs to have the exact same experience as someone playing on the go with their mobile device. Pushing content to the edge of the network not only helps solves latency issues, it creates a more scalable and flexible platform and gives gamers the freedom to move seamlessly between locations and games on various devices. 

Deploying More Edge Locations Means Higher Quality and Higher Adoption

Putting processing power closer to where it’s needed can transform cloud gaming into a full-blown success. This is because edge can provide a high-quality interactive gaming experience across all devices and all locations, increasing gamer appetite and adoption. According to Limelight Network’s State of Online Gaming, gamers cited fast performance as the most critical aspect of playing online video games. This means gamers hold a high standard for their quality of play. By creating a uniform experience, gamers will see cloud gaming as a reliable option and make the switch to use its unique capabilities like device streaming and instant access to a curated library of gaming titles.

With more cloud gaming platforms such as Microsoft’s xCloud and Steam’s Valve entering the market in 2020, the next area of focus will be global expansion. Edge computing can aid in this expansion while providing a consistent experience. The global gaming industry is growing rapidly, with more than two billion gamers across the world. To capitalize on this $120 billion industry, cloud gaming platforms need a technology infrastructure that is scalable on the global level.

Since edge is comprised of numerous data servers, rather than a centralized system, platforms can expand their network reach through the added deployment of edge locations. Similar to the implications of additional edge locations in the U.S., global data centers will enable a gamer in China to stream alongside someone in America – expanding platforms’ reach but also ensuring the same streaming quality.

About the Author

Neil Glazebrook is Senior Director of Product Management for Edge Compute and IoT at Limelight Networks. Limelight Networks, a leading provider of digital content delivery, video, cloud security, and edge computing services, empowers customers to provide exceptional digital experiences.

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