About ActivationActivision is a leading American video game developer with a large following in Saudi Arabia and the wider Middle East region. Founded in 1979, Activision has achieved enormous success through its Call of Duty gaming franchise, one of the world’s largest.
They have been changing the way people play, and today, they are one of the most valuable interactive entertainment companies in the world.
The ChallengeThe gaming industry in Saudi Arabia and the broader Middle East region has grown substantially over the past decade. Since Saudi Arabia has a large and growing young population with a high degree of global interaction, gaming has become very popular in the country, particularly online gaming. Despite this growth, the gaming industry in the region still faces some key challenges. Most developers host their online games in outside of the Middle East, which forces local players to connect to game servers located in Europe or Asia. This situation creates two primary problems for gamers: 1) the user experience suffers due to latencies incurred, and 2) they are compelled to communicate in a language that is not their own. This results in frustration for players, sometimes severe enough for them to leave the game in session.
Activision’s Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 attracts more than two million players in the region. In contrast, Call of Duty Mobile attracted 100 million downloads globally in the first week after the launch. Of the various game modes across Call of Duty titles, the multiplayer modes are far the most popular in the Middle East. However, many players have raised concerns about delayed gaming experiences due to connecting to servers outside the region. With the launch of Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, gamers faced an additional challenge some multiplayer modes (like the highly anticipated Battle Royale mode) would require connections to local servers.
To address the customer concerns about latency and ensure an excellent experience for new titles, Activision collaborated with stc to provide reliable infrastructure, robust connectivity, and the advanced technical capabilities necessary to physically host games in the region.
Why stc CloudEven though several IaaS providers operate in the Middle East market, two key characteristics of the STC Cloud were particularly relevant to Activision:
1. At an infrastructure level, the certifications awarded to STC Business data centers created a high level of confidence in the reliability of the STC Cloud offering
2. The open, API-driven nature of STC Cloud would provide Activision with flexibility and the ability to scale.
3. The security of workloads that STC Business offers reinforced Activision’s confidence in STC Cloud.
In addition, redundancy has been built into the data center’s internal networking, power supply, and environmental control components, including the networking links that connect the data center to the rest of the world. Given the core requirements of Activision and its gamers, particularly concerning reliability and connectivity, the Tier IV certification underscores the quality of the underlying infrastructure on which STC Cloud is built. The Uptime certification, STC Cloud, holds the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) certification. Through meeting the requirements of this standard, STC Business directly demonstrates the level of security of its platform, thereby alleviating the security concerns of customers.
Essentially, the reliability of the STC Cloud platform was the most critical selection criterion for Activision. Beyond reliability in general, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 also required a consistent CPU performance and reliable connectivity to deliver the best customer experience possible. These requirements would also be relevant for Call of Duty Mobile and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. STC’s cloud platform exceeded all expectations across the several tests that Activision later performed.
STC’s usage of APIs further enabled operational agility, allowing Activision to deploy and remove servers as required. This feature also allowed Activision to utilize consumption-based billing. Finally, the STC price point was attractive to Activision.
Key impact and ResultsUsing STC Cloud, Activision recorded a 10% increase in the number of users playing Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 compared with those playing Call of Duty: Black Ops 3. Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 also recorded 58% more players than Call of Duty: WWII, an earlier title from Activision. Activision also saw a marked decrease in the number of performance-related complaints on social media.
While user numbers are essential metrics to measure a project’s success, users’ perception is equally vital. Consequently, interviews were conducted with players following the deployment of the new server infrastructure to understand the impact on the gaming experience.
Improved Latency: When asked about the changes they had experienced, 62.5% of interviewed gamers highlighted they experienced reductions in ping, smoother gameplay, and fewer delays in getting to the action. Activision’s internal statistics suggest that latency has cut in half, from an average of 100-150 milliseconds to 50-75 milliseconds. Activision also noted a marked decrease in the number of social media complaints related to latency.
Improved Communications: Improved communication is highlighted as a second benefit. When using European servers in the past, players in Saudi Arabia would often be matched with players from Europe — meaning that most players would have to use a second language to communicate with other players. Local servers alleviated this concern by enabling players to be consistently matched with players from the same region.
Satisfied Local Gaming Community: a high percentage of players (62.5%) believe that local servers will positively impact the local gaming scene in general. Electronic sports (esports) are becoming a global phenomenon as the gaming market in the Middle East is on an upward trajectory; the deployment of game servers via in-kingdom cloud infrastructure should further fuel the growth and expansion of the gaming industry in Saudi Arabia.