GamesBeat

Social games can rocket to millions of users thanks to RightScale

One of the amazing things about the new era of social gaming is that tiny companies can launch a game on Facebook and see their users grow to the tens of millions within a matter of weeks.

That’s possible thanks to web services companies that specialize in outsourced server infrastructure capable of handling the online needs of tens of millions of users. Amazon.com’s Elastic Compute Cloud provides this server infrastructure, essentially renting data centers to the social game companies. And RightScale provides the management platform that allows the use of cloud computing infrastructure.

Among RightScale’s customers are Zynga, Crowdstar and Playfish, the top three social game companies on Facebook, with a combined 341 million monthly active users, according to AppData. Among the games running on RightScale and Amazon’s EC2 platforms today are FarmVille, Cafe World, Mafia Wars, FishVille, Happy Aquarium, Pet Society, PetVille and Restaurant City.

Small companies with hit games can generate huge revenues quickly by tapping into virtual resources. That wasn’t possible before in the early days of the Internet, and it has made the competition in the video game market more unpredictable, Darwinian, and open to newcomers. Social game companies have proven that they can rely almost entirely on outsourced infrastructure, running huge games without ever owning their own servers. They’re a major success story for cloud computing, or web-connected computers that take the place of dedicated computer equipment.

RightScale provides the equivalent of a dashboard that lets the game companies dial up or dial down their computing needs on the fly. RightScale is announcing today a gaming edition of its management platform to address the needs of social gaming companies in particular. It provides game companies with pre-configured game deployments with Facebook-ready services. With it, companies can launch their game prototypes, experiment with them, and then scale them up to handle millions of users, said Michael Crandell, chief executive and co-founder of RightScale (pictured).

With RightScale, Crowdstar has the flexibility to scale its infrastructure to meet ever-changing demand, said Peter Relan, executive chairman of Crowdstar. That’s how the company’s Happy Aquarium was able to shoot to tens of millions of users since September.

RightScale was founded in 2006 and has 81 employees. Its software measures the usage of a microprocessor, memory, and other hardware in a server. As the load becomes too much, RightScale preventatively seeks out other servers that can handle the work load, creating the illusion of infinite resources, Crandell said. RightScale also monitors account usage and can generate general statistics about game usage. However, RightScale does not tell a game company where exactly inside a game the players are hitting obstacles and quitting.

Right now, Amazon’s EC 2 service is available in regions in the west and east coasts of the U.S. as well as in Europe. A free developer edition of RightScale’s platform is available for entry level developers. The company makes money both through subscriptions and usage charges.

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