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Gamers once faced the stereotype as nerds who spend all their time surrounded only by the darkness of a basement and the soft green glow of an Xbox. Now, those old characturers have faded away as gaming has gone mainstream thanks in large part to mobile devices.

Mobile gaming is already the fastest growing segment of the gaming industry, expected to generate $33 billion in revenue by 2017, up from $16 billion in 2013 and just $4 billion in 2011. Seemingly, only one thing can derail the popularity of mobile gaming – poor mobile app performance.

Unfortunately, app developers don’t have the same “restart” button that players have – they only get one chance to design an app that performs well in real time, even when it has many concurrent players, and even when one of them is in an area with poor network connectivity. That’s why many developers turn to intelligent data distribution and data recovery techniques.

Imagine playing a first-person mobile shooter with seven of your friends. Your team is winning, but suddenly, the game slows. Then, when you briefly lose your connection, the other team is suddenly able to gang up on you, and you’re unable to run away or return fire in real time. Game over. App deleted. Most people already dump apps after just 24 hours! Now, throw in performance problems and players are likely to delete them with no hesitation. Wouldn’t you?

With intelligent data distribution, you’ll get the necessary performance boost, gamers won’t delete your app and no cheat codes are needed!

The drag of lag

At their most basic level, mobile games should be fun. But, how can a player have any fun if the game experiences frequent lag? In multiplayer games, one player can’t afford to experience more latency than another, or someone will have an unfair advantage. The game needs to flow predictably and seamlessly, faster than the speed of the human eye, with latency maxing out in the milliseconds. Otherwise, customers won’t remain loyal, especially if they keep losing the game due to a design flaw.

More players, more problems?

While consistent, real-time performance is important, what’s even more vital is that mobile games hold up when thousands or millions of people all over the world are playing at the same time. After all, that’s the goal for app creators, right? Developers want their apps to go viral and join the ranks of Threes,  Flappy Bird, Temple Run, and Angry Birds.

To reach that level of success, apps need to be able to support everyone and their mother playing at the same time – especially when people are on the go and away from Wi-Fi. Yet more players can also be the downfall for many apps. Whether gamers want to play with one friend or seven people, like in the example above, the individual experience should remain the same. Peaks and troughs in traffic come with the territory, and developers need to consider this to ensure their games will scale smoothly.

Preventing ‘app-tastrophes’

As the number of mobile gamers increases worldwide, many will suffer from unreliable networks, whether they’re in a developing nation with unpredictable connectivity or simply traveling through a tunnel in New York City.

Gamers want to play wherever, whenever, and with whomever they want, which is creating high expectations for flawless performance and may also lead to frustration when connectivity problems arise. While the hitch may ultimately lie with mobile network performance, players are likely to blame the app itself, and some may even dump a poor-performing game to replace it with a similar one. When this happens, app creators are essentially handing players over to one of their many competitors. Just look at how many Flappy Bird copycats popped up after developer Dong Nguyen deleted the original – at its height, clones were being added to the Apple App Store at a rate of one every 24 minutes!

Mobile games have the potential to bring people together from all over the world, but that will never happen if apps are constantly facing performance problems.

Keep players in the game with intelligent data distribution

The root causes of poor app performance are the data-heavy animations and other media that make the gaming experience so eye-catching and fun. Gameplay suffers when data transmissions bog down apps.

To maintain peak app performance, developers are increasingly turning to intelligent data distribution techniques. Mobile apps that incorporate this technology are able to intelligently understand data, sending only lightweight delta data packets that software can quickly interpret and update in sequence to ensure a seamless gaming experience. Similarly, intelligent data recovery only sends relevant information to app users when a lost connection is restored, so they’re not bogged down with meaningless information.

Together, intelligent data distribution and data recovery bring all of the benefits of console gaming to mobile users. And let’s face it, some apps need this kind of a facelift when you consider that some of today’s most popular mobile games are also the biggest data hogs, including Candy Crush Saga (which uses up to 59MB of data per month), Bejeweled Blitz (155MB) and Temple Run: Oz (2.2GB). Not only are players likely to experience performance issues, but they could also be in for an unpleasant surprise when they open their phone bills and see how much they were charged for data overages from playing on the subway every morning.

As mobile games take the next step forward into the worlds of augmented reality, location-based gaming, and 3D, player satisfaction will continue to depend on consistent, real-time performance at scale. For the most part, pixelated, choppy gameplay is a thing of the past. But now, as gaming continues to escalate, it’s up to game developers to keep it that way.

Sean Bowen 2Sean Bowen is the cofounder and CEO of Push Technology. Stemming from his experience in the highly technological and latency-driven financial services market, Sean saw an opportunity to revolutionize the way businesses use data. He launched Push Technology in 2006 to help organizations realize the full potential of the Internet in achieving fast, scalable and efficient data distribution solutions.

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