"The October 1 release of the online multiplayer edition of popular video game “Grand Theft Auto Online” was one of the most-anticipated days of the year for the growing base of gamers worldwide. What most users wound up experiencing on the day of the launch was a far cry from enjoying the new game, as servers repeatedly crashed due to overwhelming traffic.
A companion to the controversial mob-based action/adventure game “Grand Theft Auto V,” which since its mid-September release has become the highest-selling game on the PlayStation 3 console, the online edition’s expected downloads for the day of its launch went well into the millions. However, according to The Guardian’s Keith Stuart, who live-blogged his own attempts to gain access, the colocation servers of the game’s developer Rockstar, were experiencing problems within minutes. Among the major issues Stuart and other users experienced were “Rockstar Cloud Servers Unavailable” error messages, significant latency and freezing in the game’s loading stages, hosting failures, data corruption, random player timeouts and failed login attempts. Stuart quoted multiplatform game developer Simon Barratt, who detailed the problems Rockstar likely experienced throughout the day.
“It seems they’ve been trying to scale their hardware quickly to cope with the expected requirements based on their incredible sales,” Barratt wrote. “Even if they were using an existing server infrastructure provider such as Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure – which is unlikely and their wording suggests not – they would probably need to be adding to their cloud server farms to support the numbers they’re expecting.”
Managed Server Hosting in the Video Game Industry
Two key trends in the video game industry illustrate the need for more robust server hosting solutions, as well as the issues that are likely to persist if nothing is done. As Barratt observed, Rockstar likely tried to scale up their servers in the days preceding the online title’s debut, fully aware of the recent console version’s popularity. However, they were unable to anticipate the volume of traffic they actually experienced, and the multiple recurring issues experienced throughout the day point to a lack of sufficient disaster recovery planning solutions. With better cloud infrastructure in place that could actually support the high volumes of traffic, the company could have avoided or more easily repaired a problem.
It is not the first time an online game launch has run into problems. In March, the release of the newest version of city-building title “SimCity 5? caused developer Maxis’s network to collapse, wrote The Guardian’s Amanda Holpuch, and the launch of role-playing game “Diablo III” in May 2012 was marred by frequent error messages. While the traffic experienced immediately following the launch likely represents the peak traffic imposed on a game company’s networks and servers, recurring instances of insufficient infrastructure could give rise to increasingly negative publicity in the industry. Many users reacted as Stuart did, airing their grievances on public forums and social networks. Continued incidents could impact developers’ bottom lines, a more pressing issue as companies release digital versions of their games for direct download and build online multiplayer environments."