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COLOPL: Scaling database resources to manage massive mobile game volumes with Google Cloud

About COLOPL

Founded with the vision of making daily lives more fun and wonderful with entertainment, COLOPL’s core business is the development and publication of mobile games for domestic and international markets. Since its establishment in Japan in 2008, COLOPL has undertaken numerous mergers and acquisitions to grow its employee numbers to 1,500+, while adding console gaming, virtual reality, and investment to its portfolio of offerings.

Industries: Gaming
Location: Japan

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With Google Cloud, including Cloud Spanner, COLOPL is achieving the scalability, stability, and cost efficiency to optimize player experiences of leading mobile games such as Dragon Quest Walk.

Google Cloud results

  • Enables developers to focus on game logic and development rather than database complexity and infrastructure issues
  • Positions COLOPL to launch new game titles without concerns over stability, scalability, or performance
  • Reduces database costs by up to 25% and operational costs by up to 80%

Doubles the number of nodes to support peak traffic volumes

With analysts valuing the mobile gaming market in Japan alone at well over 1 trillion yen and growing, mobile game developer and publisher COLOPL is well positioned for continued success. The business—which has an overarching mission of “making daily lives more fun and wonderful with entertainment,” has combined organic growth with mergers and acquisitions to 1,500+ employees and a portfolio of offerings that includes console gaming, virtual reality, and investment. Mobile gaming continues to account for 80% of COLOPL’s business and its games include the location-based Colony Life, quiz-based role player Quiz RPG: The World of Mystic Wiz, and action role player Shironeko Project.

“We implemented a portfolio strategy to grow and realize our vision,” says Kentaro Fukazawa, president’s PR office manager, COLOPL. “We are not bound to one region, type of content, or device and respond quickly to change and aim to continue expanding by challenging ourselves.”

COLOPL recently restructured into a two-segment operation comprising an entertainment business and an investment and development business to unleash its full growth potential. “We have been investing in virtual reality, young entrepreneurs, and unlisted companies since 2014 and now focus on entertainment and business-to-consumer companies,” explains Kentaro. “We are beginning to see the results and will continue to execute our mission through these two operations.”

“Cloud Spanner perfectly matched our requirement to cost-effectively scale database resources to manage game loads, while Google Cloud, being the leader in Kubernetes development and providing direct access to developers, would boost the spirit of inquiry among our engineers.”

Kenta Sugai, Executive Director, COLOPL

Evaluating cloud options

From 2012 COLOPL relied on a traditional cloud service to develop and run its games. However, by 2017, a range of issues prompted the business to review its options. In particular, COLOPL has a policy of zero maintenance downtime for its games, requiring its technology team to dedicate considerable effort to keeping games running during regularly scheduled maintenance. In addition, the team had to apply sophisticated techniques to run reserved instances in accordance with the loads of various games.

Furthermore, responding rapidly to load changes—particularly when loads were higher than expected—was extremely difficult, and COLOPL tended to add excessive server capacity to reduce the risk of being caught short, thereby driving up costs. Depending on the number of databases the organization needed to scale, making the adjustments needed to respond to big load changes could take up to 5.5 man-days to complete.

COLOPL reviewed Google Cloud and identified several advantages over its incumbent provider. For example, the live migration feature of Google Cloud instances would enable the business to operate with almost no need for scheduled maintenance, while the COLOPL team was also attracted by the flexibility of committed use discounts and the opportunities presented to reduce costs.

“We also felt we could create a win-win relationship by using Google Cloud,” explains Yoichi Hiromoto, general manager, backend engineering, COLOPL. “We developed a service on the platform to try it out and provided feedback to the Google Cloud team—much of which was taken in.

“Based on that experience, we decided to migrate to Google Cloud and take further advantage of its feedback-receptive culture.”

COLOPL was also impressed by what Executive Director Kenta Sugai describes as Google Cloud’s “outstanding products made with the latest technologies.”

“Cloud Spanner has enabled us to streamline and make our development and operations more agile.”

Yoichi Hiromoto, General Manager, Backend Engineering Division, COLOPL

Cloud Spanner perfectly matched requirements

The mobile gaming specialist moved all game workloads to a Google Cloud architecture incorporating the Cloud Spanner managed relational database service and the Google Kubernetes Engine managed application containerization environment in November 2018, and almost immediately began to achieve benefits. “Cloud Spanner perfectly matched our requirement to cost-effectively scale database resources to manage game loads, while Google Cloud being the leader in Kubernetes development and providing direct access to developers would boost the spirit of inquiry among our engineers,” says Kenta.

Cloud Spanner’s stability also enabled COLOPL to avoid the risk of service shutdown that occurred when one of many database servers used by a service experienced issues. The business has not experienced any downtime due to Cloud Spanner since moving to the cloud-based database service.

Furthermore, consolidating all user data with the exception of logs–including access tokens, in-game possessions such as equipment and characters, game events and progress, and billing data—to a single database for development has eliminated the scalability constraints that occurred when COLOPL used horizontally and vertically partitioned databases for large-scale services. These databases created complex configurations that constrained applications and limited the organization’s ability to scale in and out.

“Cloud Spanner has enabled us to streamline and make our development and operations more agile,” says Yoichi. “Furthermore, we can seamlessly and cost-effectively change the number of nodes in our service on a daily basis and, when we run an event in a game, we can immediately increase the number of nodes if the load is higher than expected or decrease the number to accommodate lower loads.” The number of nodes required to handle increases in traffic during big events such as anniversaries can be double the number needed by the organization during standard periods.

This flexibility, combined with eliminating the need to deploy excess server capacity to meet unexpected spikes in load, enabled the business to reduce its database costs by up to 25% and its operational costs by up to 80%.

Introducing the database service has also freed developers from the increasing complexity of code such as two-phase commits between databases and helped them focus on game logic instead. In addition, integrating middleware created for games into Google Cloud is allowing COLOPL developers to spend more time creating and updating games.

“The large number of users and long playing time means these volumes are massive—and we can handle these easily because escalating the number of nodes for Cloud Spanner also increases query processing and storage capacity.”

Kazuyuki Jitsukata, Manager, Infrastructure Division, COLOPL

Powering new game launches

Cloud Spanner is ideally suited to process the data volumes created from user interaction with games such as the location-based Dragon Quest Walk. “The large number of users and long playing time means these volumes are massive—and we can handle these easily because escalating the number of nodes for Cloud Spanner also increases query processing and storage capacity,” says Kazuyuki Jitsukata, manager, infrastructure, COLOPL. “We now plan to launch a global game title on a combination of Cloud Spanner and Google Kubernetes Engine—our fifth title using these products as our default configuration for development, which gives us a highly stable service.”

Google Kubernetes Engine provides an efficient front end for large scale games through containerized compute resources while delivering high availability through auto repair functionality that enables COLOPL to keep its nodes healthy.

Furthermore, COLOPL uses BigQuery to analyze data such as user activity logs to identify trends, improve user experiences, and make informed decisions, and Cloud Storage to store these logs at low cost.

“We are now looking at a range of other Google Cloud services to upgrade and improve the efficiency of our cloud-based infrastructure,” says Kazuyuki. “These include Security Command Center to detect configuration errors and visualize configurations at low cost; Virtual Private Cloud to control access to Google Cloud service data through APIs, with finer security boundaries due to the increase in remote work; Cloud Run and GKE Autopilot to reduce the time and effort involved in upgrading clusters managed by Google Kubernetes Engine, and Google Cloud Game Servers to reduce the cost of Google Kubernetes Engine upgrades for clusters running the Agones game server scaling and orchestration platform.

“We will continue to use Google Cloud’s advanced services and options to reduce costs and change the overall concept of infrastructure management at COLOPL,” concludes Kazuyuki.

Tell us your challenge. We're here to help.

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About COLOPL

Founded with the vision of making daily lives more fun and wonderful with entertainment, COLOPL’s core business is the development and publication of mobile games for domestic and international markets. Since its establishment in Japan in 2008, COLOPL has undertaken numerous mergers and acquisitions to grow its employee numbers to 1,500+, while adding console gaming, virtual reality, and investment to its portfolio of offerings.

Industries: Gaming
Location: Japan