Nov29

In the Cloud: Five of the Top Online Gaming Companies in the World Today

Online gaming is a massive market that accounts for billions in annual revenue. This blog post will touch on why people enjoy these online games, trends in the business, the programming languages used, issues with the games, and a look at five of the top online game developers. By the way, check out a recent blog post on social gaming leader, Bossa Studios, who recently signed up for Virtual Internet cloud hosting services.


What Draws People to Online Games?

The reasons people play games are always varied, but one study has broken the overall causes down to three: for entertainment and to “kill time”, to comply with social norms or influence, and immersion into another world or to escape reality. Other reasons include the competitive aspect of games that put players against one another and the growing eSports community causes some to play games to make a profit.

Growth and Trends

One of the largest trends in gaming is the switch from the “Pay to Play” (P2P) subscription model to a “Free to Play” (F2P) model that takes advantage of the same attributes that draws people to online games. The F2P games fall into two broad categories. The first allows users to access all content by playing the game, and makes money through the sale of perks such as vanity items or quicker content access. The second type allows users to access enough content to play the game, but greatly encourages purchases by restricting access to much of the content. One of the most popular online games on the market today, League of Legends, follows the former style of F2P.

How Are Games Made?

Making a game is a bit different than programming other pieces of software. A need for fast performance has made C++ the go-to language for gaming for the past decade. Scripting languages such as Lua and Python supplement the C++ functionality in outlying functions, and database management like PHP and SQL are necessary to deal with the massive amount of information utilized by games. Some browser games are made with Java, though these tend to place less demand on technology.

Issues in Online Games

The most important technical issue with online gaming is lag. Barring games where users take turns, a brief bout of lag can ruin a user’s experience. Advances in networking technology has brought the cap on users up, but games like EVE Online have struggled with the limitations and had to develop unique code to handle the situation. EVE’s Time Dilation programming allows for massive fights of thousands of users on the same server node. The other main issue is harassment and negative attitudes, which has led to companies like Riot instituting policies to weed out “trolls” and promote positive behavior.

1. Activision-Blizzard: $4.7 Billion Annually

Activision-Blizzard is the second largest gaming company overall, and Blizzard’s World of Warcraft has been one of the top performing games for eight years and is still the most played MMORPG [7]. The company has a presence on every gaming platform with notable franchises such as Call of Duty (CoD) and Guitar Hero, with CoD routinely releasing top selling games.

2. Valve – $2.25 Billion Estimated Annually

Valve has been one of the largest impacts on online gaming largely in part due to the CounterStrike series. Their Team Fortress line was one of the first major games to switch to the “Free to Play” business style, and their Steam service offers a safe and reliable way to purchase games from any number of vendors.

3. Sony Computer Entertainment – $1.9 Billion Annually

The console debate aside, Sony is posting larger numbers than Microsoft when it comes to online gaming. The company has fewer actual online titles and instead makes it impact by the marketplace on the PlayStation Network. The lack of monthly subscription fees for online service has also played a role in the PSN’s success.

4. Microsoft – $1.75 Billion Annually

The gaming division of electronics giant Microsoft has owed a large amount of its success to its online capabilities. The XBox Live Arcade allows quick and easy distribution of smaller titles to users, and the company is not without its own popular competitive games such as the Halo series.

5. Zynga – $270 Million Annually

Some other companies might have higher revenues and more impact on the gaming market as a whole, but Zynga has developed a very successful niche with its integration of gaming and online social media like Facebook that make it a standout in the world of online gaming. The company is the publisher of the popular game Farmville.

The Future of Online Gaming

As the F2P model continues to prove itself in games such as LoL, EVE, and TF2, we can expect more leading developers to release titles with the same strategy. Games will continue to push the limits of concurrent users and graphics, and we can expect more games that bring thousands of users together in the same action with breathtaking visuals.

Further Reading

New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/09/technology/valve-a-video-game-maker-with-few-rules.html?_r=3&pagewanted=all&

Steam Powered
http://store.steampowered.com/news/5721/

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