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Best DNS Practices for Gaming Industry Domains

September 9, 2021
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Tanya Valdez is a Technical Writer at Constellix. She makes the information-transfer material digestible through her own transfer of information to our customers and readers. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

http://www.linkedin.com/in/tanya-valdez

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The video game business is a multibillion-dollar industry. The market was projected to be worth over 90 billion by the end of 2020 and is forecasted to be worth $256.97 billion by 2025. This form of entertainment has paved the way for crossover inspirations for movie adaptations, cartoons, theme parks, merchandise, apparel, and soundtracks, just to name a few. 

The Gaming Industry is Worth Billions of Dollars

Money is passing virtual hands every second in this close-knit ecosystem, opening the doors for industry-related jobs and company expansions and acquisitions. Coming a long way from Computer Space and Pong, the first arcade games that reached commercial status, to a variety of platforms to play on, including the mobile games market that reached $109.5 billion in revenue in 2019. Many gaming organizations also made their mark on the first-ever 2021 TIME100 Most Influential Companies list (a new list to its TIME100 franchise) including Sony Group Corporation, Microsoft, Nintendo, and Epic Games listed under the Leaders, Titans, and Innovators sections of the list respectively. 

Why DNS is Considered Mission Critical for Gaming

Gaming has become a household hobby that’s not just for children. A study done by Entertainment Software Association (ESA) shows that 65% of adults play video games regularly. Three-quarters of Americans alone have at least one gamer in the household. 

With the ever-growing need for network stability, video game-related websites need to secure a strong DNS strategy. Not only do companies rely on their websites to maintain accessibility to visitors for sales and product information, but some even provide online services to customers for a fee, such as Xbox Live Gold and PlayStation Plus. Even free-to-play games make revenue off of in-game purchases. 

Online gaming has reached a data volume of 15 exabytes (EB) per month for 2021, which is 4 EB per month more than 2020 and we are only four months into the year. Needless to say, DNS plays a critical role in gaming operations. If there is downtime or lag in online gaming, it can encourage gamers to move to a competitor’s platform to play.

How Outages and Slow Speeds Affect Gaming

With such a booming industry, what’s one hour of downtime really worth? It can be made up quickly, right? Wrong! You never want to make negative investments and every sale or potential sale is important to your success. It’s like going to the store and paying the cashier with cash (yes, “cash”) and you accidentally drop a $100 bill out of your wallet in the process. Can you recuperate the loss? It all depends on how you look at it. Technically, it can be replenished, but no matter how you look at it, the result is the same—it’s always a loss. That’s why it’s called losing money.

One Hour of Downtime in Online Gaming Can Cost Upwards of $1 Million

Online gaming alone is a multimillion-dollar division of the industry. Not only are gamers utilizing services like Xbox Live Gold and PlayStation Plus to play, but they are also sharing their gameplay in real-time on streaming platforms such as YouTube and Twitch, each raking in a good chunk of gaming revenue of their own.  

Xbox Live Gold

As of April 2020, Microsoft has a whopping 90 million Xbox Live Gold active monthly users. This online subscription gaming service has three different pricing options:

  • $9.99 a month 
  • $24.99 for three months (which averages $8.33 a month)
  • $59.99 for twelve months (averages $4.99 a month)

Taking all of these price points in mind, we can approximate the monthly average of Xbox Live Gold to be $7.77 to estimate how much the Microsoft subsidiary could potentially lose during an outage. 

Based on the $7.77 monthly subscription average, we get a total revenue of $699,300,000 a month, we can break down the revenue (or loss) to equate to $23,310,000 a day. Upon further dissection, one hour of downtime would be $971,250 (roughly $1 million). It’s important to note that this number doesn’t even include any games being purchased through the app store. 

PlayStation Plus 

As of December 2020, PlayStation Plus had over 41.5 million subscribers. The pricing structure for online play with PlayStation Plus is exactly the same as Xbox Live Gold. Using the same formula above, PlayStation can expect a loss of over $37K with one hour of downtime for their online gaming service. An entire day could result in about $900K in lost revenue.

Steam

While Steam does not charge a fee to play, their brand reputation heavily relies on digital video game sales. In a 2020 Year in Review, parent company Valve shared that aside from their big sale events breaking overall revenue generation records, it saw a 36 percent increase in games grossing over $100,000 from 2019's Winter Sale to the 2020 equivalent. With retail sales, an outage at any time is detrimental to a brand’s reputation, but devastational if it occurs during their biggest sales events of the year. 

Notable Gaming Service Outages

Unfortunately, this billion-dollar industry has seen its share of outages. Electronic Arts, Ubisoft’s Rainbow Six Siege, and Blizzard Entertainment’s Overwatch have all experienced downtime within the last month alone. 

A Microsoft outage recently occurred on April Fool’s Day of 2021 that impacted Microsoft domains utilizing Azure’s DNS, including Xbox network (formerly Xbox Live) and Office 365. The downtime lasted for approximately five hours and was confirmed to be the result of a DNS-related issue. According to the aforementioned calculations, that would equate to roughly a $5 million loss in revenue in the Xbox division of Microsoft alone, just to put it into perspective, not to mention all of the other company’s services that were affected.

Cloudflare experienced a massive outage that took down both online gaming giants PlayStation Network and Xbox network among other services on August 30, 2020. Being that the outage took place on a Sunday, this was sure to leave a gaping hole in weekend gaming for users and company IT employees alike. The fact that the issue occurred with their DNS provider, left both PlayStation and Xbox with their hands tied until Cloudflare mitigated the problem nearly three hours after they initially posted that they were aware of the issues.


The Impact of COVID-19 on the Video Game Industry

Outages aren’t the only source of money loss in the gaming industry. The coronavirus pandemic took a hold of the world and put a tight grasp on it with many restrictions. Shelter-in-place orders were implemented to minimize the rapid spread of the virus. During the lockdowns, 55% of US residents turned to video games for relief. Online gaming soared and streaming behemoth Twitch became a huge source of entertainment as this medium became a social lifeline.  

Fun Fact: The Nintendo Switch outsold every console on the market during 2020, including the recently released PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S. - The NPD Group 

Two particular new releases quickly became a staple in gamers’ libraries. Animal Crossing: New Horizons sold 31 million copies from its release date March 20, 2020 through December 31, 2020, and Among Us had half a billion players in November alone. Mobile hit Pokémon Go implemented pandemic adaptations and grew 39 percent year over year. Digital games racked up $126.6 billion over the course of 2020. 

The Hardships of Releasing New Games and Consoles During COVID-19

While online gaming and digital sales rose, work from home safety precautions proved to be challenging as developers adjusted to their new operational environment. 

The most notable example was the release of Cyberpunk 2077. It was anticipated to be the biggest video game of 2020, featuring Keanu Reeves as the leading character. Then, the game’s developer CD Projekt Red sent its workforce home to complete the project. It garnished 8 million preorders, but was unavoidably delayed three times before finally releasing on December 10, 2020, nearly three months after its initial launch date. 

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, there were major console launches —of course we’re talking about the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X and S editions. The next generation of consoles brought gamers more power, but Uncle Ben had it right when he said, “With great power, there must also come great responsibility.” The next-gen consoles came with hefty install sizes. A great example would be Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales Ultimate Launch Edition’s need for 105 GB minimum available storage space for the PlayStation 5, with up to 50 GB of that needed for downloadable content.  

COVID-19 Caused Internet Traffic Congestion 

Content delivery network (CDN) provider, Akamai, slowed down video game downloads during peak hours in early 2020 to preserve bandwidth and avoid traffic congestions during the coronavirus outbreak. Install sizes were claimed to be the cause of bottlenecks for some customers. While they insisted the slowdown would not impact gameplay, it still had an effect on consumers. They had to not only plan their downloads around the CDN’s approved times but also worry about the rest of the gaming community doing the same and causing slow download times. 

The developers who released the games are also affected due to delays in their games reaching customers. Time is of the essence when a new title releases because journalist reviews, influencer streaming, and general word-of-mouth recommendations are crucial for sales. This occurred before the launch of the new systems that would require data transfers from existing to next-gen consoles or even the PlayStation Plus Collection which was a bundle of games gifted to PlayStation Plus members who purchased the PlayStation 5. A single-second delay in load time for a website can lead to a 7% reduction in conversions.

Did you know? The PlayStation 5 is the fastest-selling console in U.S. history in both unit and dollar sales [through] lifetime sales with five months on the market. - The NPD Group

There were alternatives that would’ve helped, rather than damaging an entire industry’s sales. 

Keep Your Domains Healthy The Right Dose of DNS Management Solutions

There is not one industry that is immune to downtime or pandemic changes, but there are solutions that will keep domains, not only up and running, but utilizing healthy and reliable resources. It is all in the infrastructure and configuration of available services. With a lucrative video game market, it’s imperative to maintain stability through 100% uptime and top speeds.    

Multi-CDN and Real-Time Analytics

Constellix’s Multi-CDN allows you to add more than one content delivery network (CDN) to your system. The additional configured CDNs essentially act as backups, but better. The solution includes a fully automated monitoring system that displays multiple CDN providers’ performances in real-time. Updated every second, the real-time analysis displays any detected anomalies so that smart DNS traffic-routing decisions can be made. 

In the event one of your CDN connections slows down or becomes unavailable, the Multi-CDN tool will dynamically reroute new queries to the healthiest and fastest CDN for the querying client. Multi-CDN works hand in hand with other Constellix services and features to provide the end-user with the optimal experience for their query journey.

Use Case: Multi-CDN is used to add two or more CDNs for added redundancy for domains by directing traffic to the fastest and healthiest resource for the queried information.

Load Balancing and Failover

Load balancing is commonly used to manage traffic flow between redundant systems, such as web servers or CDN services. Adding additional resources assists in greater results. Incoming traffic is shared, or balanced, amongst the configured systems to secure connectivity. Since they are always “live,” they are ready to take on traffic from a server that may be unavailable or unreliable. Having a solid unit working together to support your domain is mission-critical. 

Failover is the service responsible for keeping traffic going to healthy resources. If your primary web server is down, the incoming queries are routed to the next available server. 

Use Case: Load balancing uses failover to transfer incoming traffic from one source to another to maintain optimal traffic flow.

Real-Time Traffic Anomaly Detection

Real-Time Traffic Anomaly Detection (RTTAD) helps ward off the bad guys, or at least helps you detect them before they ambush your network. This service works with Constellix’s IP Anycast+ and query reports and statistics to study and record your DNS data in order to determine its traffic patterns. In the event of a traffic anomaly, you are immediately alerted. 

RTTAD allows you to be in more control of your incoming traffic and affords you the ability to make proactive decisions instead of reactive decisions. Suspicious spikes can be dealt with immediately to keep your domain safe and secure.

Use Case: Real-Time Traffic Anomaly Detection uses machine-learning technology to determine a domain’s normal traffic flow and notifies your department in the event of an anomaly. It is also used to detect issues or misconfigurations in your system.

Everyone who plays team-based video games knows the importance each class brings to the success of the team. The same goes for DNS management. A great offense, defense, and support allow your domain to successfully handle mission-critical objectives.

Game-Changers for Your DNS Strategy

Here at Constellix, we understand the importance of speed and reliability. In fact, we have built an entire infrastructure with these core beliefs in mind. Constellix has invested millions of dollars in its one-of-a-kind architecture to bring dependable service to our customers to make their job easier and their domain successful. 

With 100% uptime, our customers enjoy the added security features that also offer the best speeds for their end users. Constellix’s services scale with your organization’s needs. The more services you utilize, the more benefits and savings you will receive. So, you’re incentivized to grow with us.  

Because we work with companies within the gaming industry, we understand the importance of uptime to your users and your brand reputation. Book a demo to see why the Constellix network has proven to be the industry leader in DNS speeds and security. We can show you just how our services can be configured for your domain for optimal results.

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DNS Management for Gaming Applications


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