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Twitch broadcasting adds video chat to mobile gaming

Playing video games

Online mobile games require a robust amount of Internet horsepower just for the games to function properly, but the growing popularity of Twitch broadcasting is adding video chat bandwidth requirements to the equation. Twitch is an offshoot of video streaming service Justin.tv, and has garnered popularity by adding video chat capabilities to game consoles such as the new Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Gamers can trade video smack talk while they compete in a variety of well-known gaming titles.

The company recently announced support for its first mobile video game — freeware racer Asphalt 8 — on the iOS platform. In March, Twitch introduced a developers kit for Android and iOS game developers looking to add video chat support to their releases. Gameloft, Asphalt 8’s developer, optimized Twitch support for the game for newer iOS devices such as the iPad Air, the iPad Mini with Retina, and the iPhone 5s.

Video chat capabilities raise the bar for mobile and gaming providers

Twitch’s popularity means mobile and online gamers are now expecting bandwidth-consuming, higher-end features such as video chat to be a part of their gaming experience. Great graphics, fast action, and compelling game play are no longer enough. Online and mobile game providers need to enhance their technology to support video chat and other social gaming features.

Since these same game developers also need to focus on excellent user experience design and storytelling, working with a technology partner offers the best opportunity to optimize a game’s back end without hampering the development process. In many cases, developers will benefit from partnering with a content delivery network (CDN).

The benefits of a CDN for online gaming

Web acceleration technology provided by an industry-leading CDN offers faster and more secure game downloads, which leads to a larger customer base. Unlimited scalability ensures that high traffic doesn’t hamper the gaming experience as a game becomes more popular. Video chat capabilities are easily supported, with bandwidth to spare.

As Twitch broadcasting and other similar services continue to grow, gamers’ expectations increase as well. Supporting video chat and other bandwidth-intensive gaming features is a breeze when working with a CDN.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Amazon Streaming Device Fire TV Released

Amazon Fire TV

Amazon Fire TV

Amazon entered the streaming device competition with its $99 Amazon Fire TV device, which was announced and released on April 2. But what capabilities could an Amazon streaming device bring to the table that Google and Apple haven’t already? A lot.

Voice control

One of the big selling points of the Amazon Fire TV is that users can search and play content simply by talking. Though this might seem like a new feature, owners of the Xbox One video console (and the Xbox 360 with Kinect before it) know all about the convenience that voice control provides. Much like Xbox’s functionality, Amazon Fire TV’s voice control is limited to in-app functions, and users can’t cross-search multiple streaming providers for a specific TV show or actor. However, those who prefer streaming video through Amazon Prime will find this voice control option to be quite useful.

Advanced Streaming and Prediction

Though the voice control feature is already offered by competitors, Amazon’s new Advanced Streaming and Prediction (ASAP) feature could be a game changer for the industry. ASAP is designed to predict what users are going to watch by measuring time spent on show landing pages or previous programs viewed, and then start preloading the prediction in the background. This is supposed to make Amazon Prime videos viewed with Fire TV much faster than other streaming networks such as Netflix and Hulu and eliminate buffering time entirely.

Video games

Another big feature that will set Fire TV apart from the competition is that it will be the first streaming device to feature gaming functionality. Though the games will be played locally, Fire TV will be the first to even offer gaming as an option, giving Amazon an edge over the competition.

Content delivery is key

In order for a streaming service such as Fire TV to be successful, it must deliver both fast and high-quality video. Though this Amazon streaming device has partnered with third-party content vendors such as Netflix, its goal is to push customers toward its own in-house service. The company hopes that customers will choose to stream or purchase something from Amazon without opening another app. In order to achieve this, video content must be delivered consistently through a service that can minimize lagging. As demand for these types of services increases, companies that partner with industry-leading content delivery networks (CDNs) can ensure reliability will be paramount.

Whether this Amazon streaming device could lay claim to the market in a major way remains to be seen, but with its features and low price, it could be the next big thing to hit the streaming world.

Photo credit: Flickr

Online multiplayer games require top-notch performance

World of Warcraft

World of Warcraft at a gaming convention.

Online multiplayer games are continuing to grow in popularity. The massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) genre drives this trend with millions of gamers active in these virtual worlds, typified by titles such as World of Warcraft and Star Wars: The Old Republic. In fact, this gaming genre has become a billion-dollar industry because of the monthly subscription fees paid by those taking part in these enthralling experiences.

Game developers hoping to tap into this billion-dollar market must understand that building these virtual universes requires excellent storytelling, compelling graphics, and a technical back end capable of seamlessly handling millions of users. Considering the connected nature of this specialized niche within the overall gaming community, expect any news about downtime or streaming hiccups to go viral instantaneously!

Mobile gaming a growing trend in the MMORPG community

While MMORPGs saw their genesis on the desktop platform, in recent years, mobile-compatible versions of these games have hit the market. In fact, a MMORPG for children, School of Dragons, was recently released on the Android platform after first garnering popularity on Facebook and iOS. In addition to great performance, gamers are now expecting to be able to enjoy online multiplayer games while on the go.

This places the onus on game developers to ensure that the servers delivering their games have fast streaming capability in addition to the ability to scale horizontally to allow millions of concurrent players, no matter their location. In most cases, partnering with a industry-leading content delivery network (CDN) is the best way to ensure gamers enjoy compelling content while developers build a robust bottom line.

The advantages of a CDN for a MMORPG

The best CDNs offer a range of services and capabilities perfectly suited for online gaming. Game content is downloaded faster, while limitless scalability ensures that anyone joining the world is accommodated for once the game becomes a viral hit. Access to the Internet’s leading peering points means that mobile gamers are able to enjoy the action from pretty much anywhere in the world. A service-level agreement promising 100 percent availability keeps these games running on a 24/7 basis.

Game companies looking to enter this growing market need to explore a partnership with a CDN. Combining compelling game content with a top-rank technology stack is a great way to create a MMORPG hit.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Pokemon online games take new form in ‘Twitch Plays Pokemon’

Pokémon Games

Playing video games can be hard. Making decisions in RPGs, aiming long sniper shots in first-person shooters, or even judging jumping distances in simple platforming games relies on a gamer’s ability to judge the situation at hand and quickly execute the correct command to ensure success. Imagine if you had to judge a gaming scenario, but you were playing along with 1 million people who were also making decisions — with 36 million people watching. It might seem like an impossible scenario, but it became a reality with “Twitch Plays Pokémon.”

Pokémon online games have their place, but “Twitch Plays Pokémon” was something completely different. The social experiment consisted of nearly 1 million people inputting commands through a custom emulator running “Pokémon Red” (first released in 1996 for Nintendo’s Game Boy). The game started off slow at first, with literally thousands of commands coming in every second, which resulted in the main character spinning around and walking in unpredictable zigzags. However, as the game progressed and gamers became more collaborative and invested, progress actually began to be made. Sixteen days later, the members of Twitch TV had beat “Pokémon Red.”

Delivering Streaming in an Interactive Environment

The interactive streaming element was one of the biggest reasons why “Twitch Plays Pokémon” attracted so much attention. Though streaming service Twitch TV has hosted thousands of individual game streams, “Twitch Plays Pokémon” was the first interactive stream where user input dictated a player’s movement in the game. These types of real-time streams that rely on user input must run without lag so the true gaming experience can be preserved.

“Twitch Plays Pokémon” was also unique because it built viewership as the game progressed, garnering more than 36 million unique viewers over the course of the two-week-long game. This required Twitch TV to make some server adjustments to support the load, according to Ars Technica. When traffic unexpectedly surges, it is vital to have the scalability that content delivery networks provide so individuals streaming your content don’t get left behind.

Though the inaugural session of “Twitch Plays Pokémon” drew to a close in early March, the second iteration of the next generation of Pokémon online games has just begun. Although “Twitch TV Plays Pokémon Crystal” has yet to hit the viewership and engagement highs that the first round reached, it appears well-positioned to establish crowdsourced inputs as a legitimate trend in the gaming world.

If this type of group gaming does become the hallmark of streaming gaming services, it is important that companies hoping to provide users with the opportunity to experience streaming interactive content have delivery methods that ensure everyone can enjoy the game without worrying about technical issues like server overload or lag.

Photo credit: Flickr

PC Versus Console: A Gamer’s Choice

PC vs. Console Gaming

It’s a better time in history to be a gamer today than it ever has been, in all of digital entertainment history. Not only do new vibrant, challenging titles hit the shelves on a weekly basis, but society has come to understand the practical and emotional value in gaming. A study by the Entertainment Software Association reported that 7 out of 10 parents report that video games help to stimulate their children’s imaginations, while 6 out of 10 believe that video games help to keep the family spending time together. When it comes to your choice of device for video games, however, you’re presented with two options: PC or console. Which works better for you?

All About Retro

No matter how many flashy graphics, beautiful textures, and quality voice animations a new game packs into its disc, some just prefer the classics over the modern when it comes to gaming. For all those who relish playing titles from their childhood, PCs allow a user to download an emulator that allows any gamer to play classic hits ranging from Pac-Man to the original Mario Brothers. Emulators have proven so popular at drawing gamers’ attentions that game developers like Sony have launched lawsuits to attempt to get their customers back. While you can still play a Nintendo 64 game on a Nintendo 64, you can’t access 100 Nintendo games at the same time, and certainly cannot play a Nintendo game on a Microsoft or Sony console.

Competition Factor

Come for the singleplayer, stay for the multiplayer! More and more gamers today have elected to skip the former in favor of the latter, which an MMORPGs like EVE Online shows by raking in $65 million per year from the hundreds of thousands of players who prefer to test their skills against other e-foes. Multiplayer benefits PC and consoles alike, but across different types of games: PC has a stranglehold on strategy games and role-playing games, while consoles dominate fighting and racing multiplayer platforms. Split down the middle are first-person shooter titles like Battlefield 4, which was released to PC users on Origin.com and consoles users in disc form simultaneously. BF4, furthermore, allows console users to check their stats on a PC, while PC users can import their profiles to a console.

Difficulty Curves

Wizened gamers may prefer their particular game on their particular platform, since there are difficulty curves to any game, regardless of its origins. In fact, those good enough at a particular game can even make a living from it – such as the Korean professionals who bring in six-figure salaries due to their micro and macro skills in Starcraft. For a beginner, conversely, there’s no question: console games have a lower difficulty curve and are easier to get into. Partly, it’s the difference between a controller having only a half-dozen buttons while and a keyboard and mouse have ten times as many. Mostly, however, game developers target console users for party game developments. Nintendo even noted their target audience for the Wii U launch is kids and families, offering games that young and old alike can pick up and quickly enjoy. Pros may prefer the PC, but gaming novices should hone their skills on a console first.

Author Credit: SocialMonsters.org