Presented by DataStax
The key to success in a crowded game market is exceeding player expectations. Learn how the scalable tech stack behind one of the world’s largest games was key to its success, why it’s crucial to prioritize technology from development to launch, and more.
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Why is the technology behind a game so important? It comes down to the fact that in the end, games are pure entertainment, aimed at making players happy, says Henning Kosmack, CEO and co-founder of MegaZebra, the studio behind Mahjong Trails. But even the happiest user won’t tolerate friction in a game — and in a media market packed with near-infinite content, it’s easier than ever to abandon a lagging game and never return.
“Good technology will not make a great game,” Kosmack says. “But bad technology will kill even the best game.”
It’s especially critical as user acquisition keeps getting more expensive: the noise level in the market keeps rising, and user privacy changes, in a charge led by Apple, have hamstrung targeted marketing in a variety of ways.
“For a game like ours, it’s important that once we have a user, ideally they will be so happy with everything that they’ll stick around for a long time,” he says. “Instead of us constantly churning out new games that people might play for two weeks or so, we’re focused on the long tail. That means constantly bringing new content and new features into the game, which comes with extra tech challenges.”
Kosmack also points out that the gaming market is a volatile one, in which games that are languishing, generally unloved, could suddenly go viral — and right out of the gate, any studio should have the infrastructure to support that. It’s not just about running smoothly, regardless of the size you reach, but being able to scale up and down as necessary, to meet unexpected challenges. If it’s not scalable and you’re over-provisioned, then your costs will hurt you. If it doesn’t scale and you’re under-provisioned, players get angry.
For all these reasons, “you have to make that technology investment at the start, and you shouldn’t cut corners on it,” Kosmack says. “You have to find the best way that works for you and your studio.”
How the Mahjong Trails tech stack evolved
Mahjong Trails has been around for more than a decade, and the infrastructure behind the game had to keep pace not only with the growth of the game, but with evolving technology solutions and new innovations appearing on the market.
“From very early on we knew that this could be mass-market, and knew it needed to be scalable,” Kosmack says. “We had servers from Amazon Web Services, and the Cassandra database, but we had to build all the scaling and we wrote a lot of code to do things that partners like DataStax can help you with today.”
Scalability has remained crucial, and over time, MegaZebra’s infrastructure has become seriously robust. Over the years they’ve gradually worked their way through the overall architecture to optimize whenever new technology was available. For example, MegaZebra Dockerized where necessary, when that technology became available, and replaced in-house code when better products appeared. They were also collecting player data and building in analytics and syslogs from the start.
“Originally we made the right technology decisions, and that has been a competitive advantage from the get-go,” he says. “And while we like to be on the forefront of innovation, we have to make sure that we don’t jump on something before it’s proven, and before we know that there will be ongoing support for it.”
It’s also important to consider how easily a new technology can be maintained — whether game publishers have the skills in-house or have to tap someone new. And if they need to find a new specialist, will they be trying to hire from a very small and rarefied pool of professionals? And while cost will always remain a consideration, it shouldn’t be the deciding factor.
“Good technology is rarely cheap, but don’t just go for the least expensive solution,” Kosmack says.” In Germany we sometimes say that if you buy something cheap, you’ll have to buy it twice. We don’t take these decisions lightly.”
To learn more about building a technology stack for success, why companies of every size need to take technology into consideration right at the start, and more, don’t miss this VB Spotlight event!
Watch free on-demand!
- Launching new games faster and shipping updates quickly
- Increasing player engagement, retention and word of mouth
- Scaling efficiently and cost effectively for every size audience
- Maintaining availability for a global audience
- Henning Kosmack, CEO and Co-founder, MegaZebra
- Daniel Lee, Solutions Architect – WWCS DNB Games, AWS
- Aaron Ploetz, DBRE/Developer Advocate, DataStax
- Rachel Kaser, Technology Writer, VentureBeat (Moderator)
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