Blog | Content & Streaming Providers
August 26, 2019

CDN: Media Delivery for Gaming and Virtual Reality

Mike DiFerdinando

virtual reality

Developers spend years crafting the newest games. When the next big release date comes, the last thing creators and consumers want are slow speeds and long download times.

Worldwide online gaming traffic reached 915 petabytes per month in 2016 and is expected to increase by 79% in 2019, according to Cisco Systems. As the scale of online traffic grows, the need for delivery networks to carry the content does as well. The Cisco Visual Networking Index (VNI) forecasts a 36% compound annual growth rate in Content Delivery Network (CDN) traffic per month from 2017 to 2022. As file sizes grow exponentially, the need for CDNs to provide continuous, reliable and fast access become ever more critical. The number of end-users downloading content is also expanding quickly, making localized delivery that much more important as geographical demographics expands.

In addition, the appetite for gaming is expanding to eSports, virtual reality, and other new forms of media and entertainment, changing the way many think about these offerings. According to a 2018 survey by the Entertainment Software Association, 79% of gamers report video games provide mental stimulation, as well as relaxation and stress relief (78%). The role of video games in the American family is also changing, with 74% of parents believing they can be educational for children, and 57% indicating they enjoy playing with their child weekly.

The economics of eSports and VR

Esports is already big business. Thanks to advertising, sponsorship and media rights, eSports revenue is expected to reach $1.49 billion by 2020, according to Newzoo, a gaming industry analytics firm. North America will generate $409 million in 2019, the most of any region, the report found. China will generate 19% and South Korea 6%, with the rest of the world comprising the remaining 38%.

In July 2019, 16-year-old Kyle 'Bugha' Giersdorf, from Pennsylvania, was crowned king of Fortnite and took home the $3-million-dollar grand prize. The tournament, held in New York's Arthur Ashe tennis stadium, had a total payout for all levels and ranks of $30 million dollars. 

Earlier this year Comcast announced it would be building a $50 million eSports stadium in Philadelphia, and would be partnering with Korean phone company SK Telecom to create an new eSports organization called T1 Entertainment & Sports, which will field teams in a number of different video games, including League of Legends, Fortnite, and Super Smash Brothers.

The global VR gaming market is expected to be worth $22.9 billion by the end of 2020, according to Statista. VR is expected to generate $150 billion in revenue by 2020, according to Fortune, and 500 million VR headsets are expected to be sold by 2025, according to Piper Jaffrey.

When the true VR tipping point comes is the object of much speculation, but one way it could penetrate the consumer market more deeply is by starting with public venues that allow users feel comfortable with the technology. A recent article in Variety discussed how Las Vegas is transforming into a kind of virtual reality hub, with VR arcades and location-based VR entertainment centers opening up in casinos and shopping centers. One of the first casinos to embrace VR was the MGM Grand, which opened a free-roam VR arena in cooperation with VR startup Zero Latency in September of 2017.

A 4K video can consume up to 10 GB of data per hour. A 4K VR experience will require several times that bandwidth. While transporting vast amounts of data, VR content providers, like game developers, need to solve the challenges of latency, quality and speed.

CDN, interactivity, and media delivery

The streaming of interactive content like games and VR differs from video streaming in one major way. While video streaming is a one-way delivery from servers to your device, games and VR are a two-way street. Every time a button is pressed, the signal must travel to the server where the experience is being run. Then, the signal from the server has to go back to represent the result of pressing the button.  

A multi-CDN media delivery strategy ensures this process is seamless and downtime is not a concern. If one server goes down, the next is ready to compensate and deliver cached content to those users by caching content nearest to your destination. This improves performance and reduces errors by offloading bandwidth from the origin.

The more servers, the better the odds a consumer is going to get the highest-quality speeds without lag.

Thanks to this two-way street, viewers and gamers can provide feedback in real time, join interactive events that coincide with live media, and unlock rewards within content.

While interactivity might have started in gaming, the tactic will likely carry over into nearly every kind of media audience. The interactivity of advanced advertising, where viewers can feed back in real time, or possibly join an interactive event, becomes increasingly attractive.

 A 2017 report from Magna found interactive video ads drive 47% more time viewing a message compared to a non-interactive ad. Even if viewers don’t click, simply having the option to interact makes the ad 32% more memorable than non-interactive ads, the report found. 

Learn more about how Comcast Technology Solutions global media delivery innovations can help reimagine your strategy, and prepare your business for what comes next.