5G’s anticipated traffic volumes and low-latency edge requirements will prove a challenge for hyperscalers and network providers. By our estimates, they’re due perhaps sooner than expected, as the near-term impact of gaming appears poised to usher in a staggering impact on networks. And in the process, blasting past any data traffic, latency, or real time scalability requirements we’ve seen to date.
Originally, gaming was largely a solo affair as basic online play saw gamers consuming a relatively modest 50 megabits per hour.
Now, high-quality VoIP, 4K video and massive scene rendering loads are becoming par for the course. Games are using AI/ML to predict character movements and then processing anticipated scenes in the cloud. As a result, data rates are more like 100-150 megabytes per hour per user. That’s 800-1,200 megabits.
This is just the beginning, as the top gaming platforms reveal plans to invest billions into games, metaverses and technologies that will redefine immersive play. They’re putting tens of thousands of graphics processing units (GPUs) in the cloud to source and render scenes in real time. Video quality will soon hit dual 8K display resolution (which will quadruple data rates).
Meanwhile, the volume of users has also skyrocketed. Microsoft said its Xbox Live service grew from 40 million active users in 2016 to 100 million just five years later. Not only have the number of users increased dramatically, but gamers are now online for many more hours a day than before.
This all adds up to a massive increase in data traversing the network and a much more complex service to deliver. But gamers will still expect and demand premium experiences, making low latency and zero disruptions a new imperative. Some experts observe a trend that quality of experience (QoE) in gaming use is driving a major portion of adoption choice for network services.
Are platforms and networks ready to deliver?
The next wave of gaming won’t wait for networks to be perfect
Soon, AR/VR headsets, haptic feedback and voice controls will provide more immersive experiences. Images will be greatly enhanced with high dynamic range (HDR) scene renderings.
These advancements are independent of whether the network is ready to keep pace. The service providers that can, will have the decisive advantage.
Traffic will become symmetrical, with uploads needing as much bandwidth as downloads. The super-high 300 megabytes per hour for each of well over 100 million users on one gaming platform alone will put tremendous load on the cloud and will require it to shrink and contract based on load.
Then there’s the e-commerce component, which is increasingly becoming a primary gaming revenue source. We expect gaming companies to create their own platform and game metaverses, including marketplaces to sell virtual, nonfungible tokens (NFTs).
The success of this gaming model is completely dependent on a cloud, that today, is simply not ready, despite plans for more than $50B in infrastructure investments.
Ensuring gaming quality of experience
Even with the more modest network requirements today, gamers frequently express frustration by low bandwidth and long response times.
Consider, that despite years of planning, 5G is still struggling to provide its much-anticipated enhanced bandwidth and reduced latency.
So, how can the network and cloud actually be ready in two years when over 100M active gamers on one platform alone are each expected to require 300 megabytes per hour?
Can the network and cloud actually be ready in two years when 100M active gamers on one platform alone are each expected to require generating 300 megabytes per hour?
Ongoing quality of experience will be essential for gaming, especially for new game title releases with robust requirements. If the game doesn’t perform because of a spike in demand, social media will blow up and people will move onto the next thing.
It is clear that the cloud will need to predict traffic peaks and preemptively expand resources to meet needs.
The essential question to consider today is how infrastructure will be tested to ensure it delivers the quality of service (QoS) required for gaming to be a success. Testing must answer critical questions, such as:
How can new release and production network failures be avoided?
What is required to ensure security in the metaverse?
How are QoS and performance measured accurately and managed effectively?
How do users actually perceive quality?
Is the cloud scaling up and down as needed?
Spirent understands gaming will prove an important driver of future networks. Having an accurate validation capability and strategy of how the network is behaving (we call it realism under scale) will require a nimble, adaptive approach. The cost of not testing or testing incorrectly can represent success or failure in marketplace moving at lightspeed.
In our next post, we provide insights into testing strategies and best testing practices that gaming companies should use to ensure an excellent user experience.
Learn more about Spirent’s cloud and virtualization test and assurance and 5G Network Benchmarking for cloud gaming solutions.