Mobile gaming revenue is expected to exceed $95 billion globally by 2022 as games are becoming increasingly more social, immersive and interactive.

But with this surge comes the challenge of how to meet users’ demand for lightning-fast, low-latency connections—something that traditional data centers are struggling to provide. Enter edge computing, which is essentially smaller data centers offering cloud-based compute resources and services closer to users or at the “edge” of a network.

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Industry observers say this is a growing trend that will be a game changer in the gaming market.

By positioning these data centers as close as possible to users, edge computing drastically reduces latency—and transmits data significantly faster than a larger, centralized data center.

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In mobile games, even a delay of a fraction of a second is enough to totally disrupt the experience. “Gaming is a real-time experience,” and more and more people are playing games from their mobile devices, said Jacob Smith, co-founder and chief marketing officer of the infrastructure provider Packet.

But when hundreds of people are playing a graphics-intensive game at the same time, the greater the likelihood of latency, he said.

The more compute that can be done locally with edge networks, “the more you make that experience fast and seamless,” and enable the game to do all it offers, Smith said.

Packet, which agreed to be acquired by the data center company Equinix this week, provides the infrastructure layer for the mobile gaming platform Hatch to reduce latency and provide a better experience—which gamers are willing to pay for, Smith said.

Gamers have growing expectations for a seamless, consistent experience. More games now use high-quality augmented reality and virtual reality technology, said Jaromir Coufal, principal product manager at Red Hat, which also offers a platform to help organizations build an edge computing architecture.

AR and VR generate demands for low-latency, high processing power, which the device often can’t handle alone, he said.
“This creates the need to offload compute processing off of the device onto edge computing resources close to the smartphone rather than using compute and storage processing that is located in a central site, far away from the user and data which could impact the user experience,” Coufal said.

The appeal of the edge

Edge computing and 5G connectivity help address low-latency, high-bandwidth requirements by placing high compute processing power closer to users and devices while providing the bandwidth needed to support high-quality, multi-player gaming experiences.

To do this, compute processing needs to be placed close to the network antenna level– the first receiving point of the data packets coming from the mobile device, Coufal said.

“This computing power can be highly distributed, and in many cases, needs to be managed centrally as these edge/remote sites have limited to no IT resources. They must also be able to survive potential intermittent network connectivity back to a central site and continue to process the data it receives ensuring that continuous gaming experience users need,” Coufal said.

Esports is another use case where edge computing will make a splash, Smith said. “You’ve got live, interactive sports with lots of media going on … that uses a lot of compute [power]. Gaming is just the tip of the sphere combining digital, content, and live experiences together and that’s where having local edge compute makes a difference.”

Besides Packet and Red Hat, several other companies are now offering edge computing resources because enterprises will benefit as well, including Amazon, Google, VMware, and Microsoft, Smith noted. “They’re starting to say ‘We want to put infrastructure everywhere because enterprises need it'” as well. “It’s not super sexy like gaming, but it needs to be all over.”

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Edge computing is not just the future of gaming, it’s the future for organizations adopting hybrid multiclouds and edge architectures as their modern digital infrastructure, industry observers say.

“Experiences will be more real time, more immersive, and richer, and in order to do that, you need compute and other resources close to the user instead of far away,” Smith said. “It’s as simple as that. That’s edge computing.”