Rockstar Games, developer of the popular action game Grand Theft Auto said the launch of the online version of the newest addition to the franchise, Grand Theft Auto V (GTA V), will likely encounter some server and network performance issues while the company looks to add more capacity to deal with higher than expected demand.
In a company blog post Roacktar Games said that it is struggling to deal will with unanticipated additional demand on its servers, and that it is “working around the clock to buy and add more servers.” A number of users posting on Rockstar’s forums say the servers are already down on the PlayStation 3 version.
Sales of GTA V are estimated to have topped 15 million since its launch and generated a record $1bn in sales during its first three days on sale.
But the company acknowledged that buying and spinning up new servers will likely cause even more of a nuisance because of the time it will take to integrate the new kit.
A number of popular gaming services have encountered the same challenge in recent years. When Call of Duty first came out on Xbox Live it went down on launch day because its servers were overwhelmed; Diablo III, which was released in May 2012 was only intermittently playable for the entire first week after it was released because it too suffered significant server bottlenecks.
But as the complexity of online gaming platforms continue to grow so too does the level of network capacity required to run them smoothly, which according to some could add networking issues to Rockstar’s server woes.
“With the much anticipated online launch today, it seems Rockstar North’s servers will get caught in the cross fire of the deluge of gamers looking to get a glimpse of the GTA online world. I suspect that they also realise that it’s not just the server end that they need to upgrade,” said Geoff Bennett, director of solutions and technology marketing at Infinera, a manufacturer of long-haul network solutions. “For the best user experience everything has to scale in sync, including a robust network that can turn capacity up and down on demand.”
“In a cloud-based delivery architecture it’s essential to also look at the back end network, rather than focussing purely on creating the most visually appealing and interactive gaming experience possible, otherwise gamers could be left in the slow lane,” Bennett added.
Jonathan Wright, vice president service provider at Interoute, one of Europe’s largest datacentre and backbone fibre network operators says that the capacity problems Rockstar is encountering signals a much bigger shift coupling the recent explosion in demand for services requiring high-capacity connections.
“Online gaming has been one of the chief accelerators of internet capacity. Though individual user capacity isn’t massive, the sheer aggregation of users guzzles capacity and creates local problems as gamers log on across the globe at different times of the day,” Wright said. “ To enable two million people to play a game seamlessly at the same time whilst ensuring minimal latency (thereby maximising user experience), will require a colossal amount of dedicated capacity in the right regions at the right time. It also puts pressure on the software code to be as network friendly as possible.”
Wright says that the increased demand for high capacity experiences online is forcing organisations to rethink how they can better enable this new generation of applications and services in and beyond gaming, prompting businesses to get into managing their own networks in order to better manage dynamic service demand.
“It accelerated cloud adoption and introduced the act of public cloud bursting to cope with traffic peaks. Now, the fight to improve user experiences is turning some technology companies into network owners, which comes with its own set of challenges. Creating hybrid public/private networks that minimise the use of the public internet becomes attractive from a latency perspective probably before the economic advantages of private network ownership are truly realised,” Wright said.
“As we see more immersive online experiences take hold, we will see more businesses look to own private network pipes, rather than rent public network capacity,” he added.