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Overcoming latency in gaming

By Jaheer Abbas, Senior Director, SEA & India at Limelight Networks

The Asia Pacific region is slated to be the largest in the world for online gaming, although when it comes to live streaming to provide time critical content, the issue of latency is emerging as a major challenge.

Essential to the online gaming experience today is the delivery of content at ultra-low latency so players can experience the game in near real-time on any device. Latency is the time between when the camera captures the video until it is played back on another device.

 Latency Remains A Primary Challenge

Delivering content at low latency is key for a great online gaming experience, and yet remains one of the biggest challenges faced by online gaming operators the world over. Online casinos have the added requirement of low latency to speed up gameplay in order to facilitate more dealing rounds and, thus, increase revenue for the operator. This requires latency that is much lower than most live streaming delivery today.

While this challenge may be mitigated by Adobe Flash, streaming on mobile devices and major web browsers is either not supported adequately or is being phased out. As a result, some operators have turned to HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) – a HTTP-based media streaming communications protocol – to overcome this challenge. However, HLS still causes high latencies and is thus not a viable option for gaming operators, resulting in a fundamental disconnect between technologies and use cases in the industry.

On average, players experience a delay of approximately 30 seconds to over a minute. This greatly disrupts players’ game experience, and even results in a loss in revenue for the gaming operator as the high latency reduces the number of playing rounds, which in turn cuts the operator’s revenues from the game.

Therefore, gaming operators need a streaming solution that is able to deliver predictable and consistent low latencies to players in order for them to see the action in near real-time on virtually any device, and from anywhere in the world.

 WebRTC: The Key To Overcoming Latency

For an industry which requires as close to zero latency as possible, a different approach needs to be taken as HLS is challenging for latency of less than one second.

A new solution to counter this challenge is Web Real-Time Communication (WebRTC) technology, an open framework that has the capacity, reach, and connectivity to stream high-quality content, to and from anywhere in the world, in less than a second. This is possible as it runs over User Datagram Protocol (UDP) – a protocol which eliminates the need to create discrete media segments, delivering consistently low latency to all players.

WebRTC is ideal for applications in which perceived latency is critical – such as online gaming – as real-time video creates a more immersive gaming experience, thus encouraging continued gameplay which will ultimately benefit game operators’ bottom lines.

The revolutionary technology is also natively supported by all major browsers and devices without the need for special software or plug-ins, making it easy for players to enjoy real-time video on a variety of devices.

The Future of Live Streaming

For many dedicated players, the online gaming experience is more than just a game. Many players have built global communities, forged new friendships and brought the games to life. As such, the onus is on gaming operators to provide the best gaming experiences to millions of players globally by ensuring the delivery of low latency streams.

As the online gaming industry continues to flourish, many technology solution providers are considering how best to address the latency challenge, investing heavily in the further development of WebRTC-based solutions. In particular, solution providers are keen to develop two areas of focus: increasing its capacity and making more features available.

WebRTC technology has the potential to provide endless opportunities for gaming operators to deliver content at near real-time, in broadcast quality and to virtually any device, anywhere.

Find out more about Limelight and how to improve latency in live streaming.

Asia Gaming Brief is a news and intelligence service providing up to date market information for worldwide executives on relevant gaming issues in Asia.

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