Jump to Content

Game on and on and on: Google Cloud's strategy for live service games

March 8, 2023
Jack Buser

Director, Game Industry Solutions, Google Cloud

Try Google Cloud

Start building on Google Cloud with $300 in free credits and 20+ always free products.

Free trial

It's undeniable: Live service games (“live games”) are the future of the games industry. In 2022, the top 10 most played games were all live, continuously delighting players with new content, features, and gameplay. Today, the live service model is prevalent across all console, PC and mobile platforms and genres. And with a projected 3.6 billion players by 2024, the opportunity for live games has never been larger.

Google is no stranger to this model, operating some of the world’s largest live services like Google Search and YouTube to billions of users around the world. Likewise, Google Cloud is committed to bringing the best of Google to game developers who are delivering live game experiences to players everywhere. 

We already work with most of the top-grossing game companies. In our journey with them, we’ve learned we need to help developers unite performance and understanding via three critical undertakings:

  1. Serve players everywhere.

  2. Collect and organize game data.

  3. Unlock player and game insights.

Here’s how. 

Serve players everywhere

Live games just have to work. Google Cloud helps developers connect players with game servers built on the world's largest, most secure network.

Take, for example, game launches. It's a hard problem because it requires developers to effectively bet on how successful their game will be before launch. "Will I attract a thousand players? A million? More? At the same time?" Ironically, the nightmare scenario is often extraordinary success: being unable to serve players who would have played your game had they been able. 

Success shouldn't worry a game developer. To that end, one of the most important capabilities Google Cloud can provide is scale. Kubernetes is recognized as one of the best ways to handle computing at massive scale and no one knows it better than us — we founded the project and continue to be its most prolific contributor.

With our deep knowledge of Kubernetes, we built Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE), which gives game developers the capability and confidence to serve even the largest player audiences. It’s the most scalable and automated managed Kubernetes service, capable of running 15,000+ node clusters, outscaling other cloud providers by as much as 10x.

While GKE works for a range of compute tasks, we know workloads for live games are unique. That's why we partnered with Ubisoft to create Agones, an open-source game server orchestrator for Kubernetes. Using Agones with GKE enables developers to focus on player experience instead of infrastructure.

At Ubisoft we needed a centralized, standard solution for game servers. We partnered with Google Cloud to develop Agones as a result, maximizing players’ engagement and trust over time.

Pierre Romagné, VP Engineering and Platform, Ubisoft

Collect and organize game data

Live games can't forget player progress. Google Cloud helps developers secure player experiences without having to worry about scale or performance.

Live service games are persistent. Players earn levels, add friends, buy skins. Even the smallest bits of data can be prized by players, down to every shot they made (“How accurate am I getting?”). Multiply this desire with the potential for a live game to have millions of concurrent players all over the world. The challenge seems daunting.

Leveraging our vast experience with our own live services, we created Cloud Spanner to fully address data scalability. Spanner provides a single, logical, horizontally scalable database that can process 2+ billion requests per second. This means game developers don’t have to compromise between performance, manageability, and scale (no more sharding!). They can have a single database that scales to handle the largest player audiences. 

At any given time, we have about 5,000 Spanner nodes handling traffic… All of them work together to support millions of players playing all across the world at a given moment.

James Prompanya, Sr. Engineering Manager, Pokémon GO, Niantic

Beyond scale, Spanner can also reduce costs (up to 50%) while improving player experience through latency reduction (up to 25%). That way, for example, when a player unlocks a new skin, they can equip it immediately. 

Unlock player and game insights

Live games need to continuously evolve in the right direction. Google Cloud helps developers understand what's working to find and retain players with Google's analytics and AI.

There are over 3 billion players in the world, and they come in all shapes and sizes. To delight them, developers need to understand what works and segment players accordingly. Take, for example, Square Enix, a global games publisher. They’re using data and analytics to build a Single Gamer View in order to understand and engage their players, resulting in increased engagement and customer satisfaction.

BigQuery is a catalyst for generating insights and is a killer app among large game developers. It’s used by nearly all of Google Cloud’s top game companies. When it comes to data analytics BQ is OP, helping developers analyze and unite huge amounts of player and game data. From predicting the success of a new feature to personalizing offers based on player behavior, BigQuery helps game companies find answers to questions they may not even have thought to ask. Or thought who to ask. BigQuery is designed for approachability, so employees across the business can generate insights using data previously locked in silos. BigQuery goes further with built-in ML and Vertex AI to unlock insights across the organization.

Powering an everlasting love for the game

At Google Cloud, we believe that a live game’s success should depend on the strength of the game’s enjoyment, not limited to the strength of its infrastructure. That’s why we’re building an ecosystem for live games that unifies understanding and performance. 

Google Cloud for Games is an ecosystem that includes not just Google Cloud, but also solutions from enablers like Ubitus, Incredibuild, Heroic Labs, and Unity. 

We are excited to work with Google to offer developers our suite of Unity Gaming Services which provides the most robust tools and infrastructure to build, launch, and grow games seamlessly at a global scale

Jeff Collins, SVP & GM of Unity Gaming Services, Unity

Solutions across this ecosystem work best when they work together as a cohesive whole. While there are standouts, the winningest MVP is backed by a well oiled team; just like a squad, clan, or raid group.

To learn more about Google Cloud for Games, visit goo.gle/cloudforgames


Posted in