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Making live online gaming a reality

Sunday, 29 July 2018 22:09
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Latency has long been the ultimate challenge for online gaming operators in their quest to provide a quality product, but a new open framework technology could prove to be a game-changer.

By Jaheer Abbas | Senior Director, SEA & India at Limelight Networks

 

It’s hard to imagine that online gaming has been around for almost as long as the internet itself. The online gaming industry has come a long way since its humble beginnings and has evolved rapidly into one of the world’s most rapidly growing industries.

Fuelled by the proliferation of smart devices and digital technologies, prospects for the online gaming industry have skyrocketed, with Asia Pacific slated to become the largest growing market globally. This is owing largely to the implementation of cutting-edge technologies to enhance its platforms. Online casinos are a classic example of how the industry has been quick to adopt technologies. Now, no online casino is complete without a fast and interactive platform – a feat made possible by live streaming technology.

Live streaming has kicked into high gear in Asia, including in the form of online gaming. However, as gaming operators seek to adopt live streaming for time-critical content for gameplay, the issue of latency has emerged as a significant challenge.

Essential to the online gaming experience today is the delivery of content at ultra-low latency so players can experience the game in near real-time on any device. Latency is the time between when the camera captures the video until it is played back on another device.

Any delays in streaming will likely have a major impact on player satisfaction.

 

THE LATENCY CHALLENGE IN GAMING

Delivering content at low latency is key for a great online gaming experience, yet it remains one of the biggest challenges faced by online gaming operators the world over. Online casinos have the added requirement of low latency to speed up gameplay in order to facilitate more dealing rounds and, thus, increase revenue for the operator. This requires latency that is much lower than most live streaming delivery today.

While this challenge may be mitigated by Adobe Flash, streaming on mobile devices and major web browsers is either not supported adequately or is being phased out. As a result, some operators have turned to HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) – a HTTP-based media streaming communications protocol – to overcome this challenge. However, HLS still causes high latencies and is thus not a viable option for gaming operators, resulting in a fundamental disconnect between technologies and use cases in the industry.

On average, players experience a delay of approximately 40 seconds to over a  minute. This greatly disrupts players’ game experience and even results in a loss of revenue for the gaming operator. Therefore, gaming operators need a streaming solution that is able to deliver predictable and consistent low latencies to players in order for them to see the action in near real-time on virtually any device and from anywhere in the world.

How then can operators overcome this daunting challenge?

 

OVERCOMING LATENCY WITH WEBRTC

Speed remains at the core of the gaming experience. For an industry which requires as close to zero latency as possible, a different approach needs to be taken as HLS is challenging for latency of less than one second.

A new solution to this pervasive issue is Web Real-Time Communication (WebRTC) technology, an open framework that enables scalable, real-time delivery of on-demand content for web browsers and mobile applications. WebRTC offers much lower latency as it runs over User Datagram Protocol (UDP) – a protocol which eliminates the need to create discrete media segments, delivering consistently low latency to all players.

WebRTC is ideal for applications in which perceived latency is critical – such as online gaming – as it creates a point-to- point connection with the player, so content can stream continuously with little communications overhead, eliminating the time needed for acknowledgements back and forth.

The revolutionary technology is also natively supported by all major browsers and was designed to be flexible in its implementation. This allows operators to experiment with solutions geared toward one to one, one to few and even one to millions.

With WebRTC, gaming operators will be able to easily implement scalable live video streaming workflows. This not only results in a better quality gaming experience for players, but also encourages continued gameplay, which will ultimately benefit game operators’ bottom lines.

 

THE FUTURE OF LIVE STREAMING

For many dedicated players, the online gaming experience is more than just a game. Many players have built global communities, forged new friendships and brought the games to life. To this group of players, the gaming experience is of utmost importance. As such, the onus is on gaming operators to provide the best gaming experiences to millions of players globally by ensuring the delivery of low latency streams.

As the online gaming industry continues to flourish, many technology solution providers are considering how best to address the latency challenge, investing heavily in the further development of WebRTC-based solutions. In particular, solution providers are keen to develop two areas of focus: increasing its capacity and making more features available.

WebRTC technology has the potential to provide endless opportunities for gaming operators to deliver content at near real-time, in broadcast quality and to virtually any device, anywhere.

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