Level 3 Communications

Jennifer Cleveland

E3 is Coming

The biggest gaming show in the industry, the Electronic Entertainment Expo – better known as E3 – is just around the corner. Set for June 13-15 in Los Angeles, E3 is the event for the top game developers, publishers and industry professionals to congregate and wow the world with upcoming titles and hardware.

If you’re not into gaming, you may think the industry is just, well…fun and games. Consider this: according to a recent Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers report, global interactive gaming boasts 2.6 billion gamers in 2017 versus 100 million in 1995. Global revenue for 2016 is estimated to be around $100 billion. With technology and media titans like Microsoft and Sony as key players, games are serious business.

Over 50,000 people attended E3 in 2016 and this year’s event promises to be equally impressive. We sat down with Level 3’s Vice President of Content Sales, Jennifer Cleveland, to talk about the trends and technologies to watch for at this year’s show.

Level 3:  What’s the significance of E3 to the gaming community?

Cleveland: E3 is the preeminent platform to announce upcoming games to retailers and the press. Everyone usually saves their biggest announcements for this show, and virtually everything is displayed via gameplay demos or trailers, so it’s pretty exciting.

Level 3: Is there anything different happening at this year’s show, as opposed to years past?

Cleveland: This is the first year the conference is open to the public, and it sold out 15,000 tickets very quickly. These are consumers who are clearly interested in the industry and are willing to pay to get first crack at seeing and playing the new games, so I think that will introduce a fun energy to the show overall.

Level 3: What trends or new technologies do you expect to see?

Cleveland: I expect virtual reality (VR) will continue to steal the headlines. Not only will there be announcements of new, more robust games, but I also expect to see improvements to headsets and consoles.

In addition to the big push toward VR, there’s also tons of interest in augmented reality (AR). With AR, you don’t need another device other than your phone to play the game. Both VR and AR development are going down interesting paths right now, so I’m sure we’ll see a lot of both.

Level 3: So, there are developers, publishers and the press covering the industry at the show. Who else attends?

Cleveland: As I mentioned earlier, there will be a big public contingent this year. The other participants are providers who enable development, collaboration on a global scale, and enhanced customer experience. The network and technology support required to develop and distribute games is mind-boggling.

Start with IP. Developers send massive video files between their offices on a constant basis. Many companies have people working from locations all over the world, so they need to have enough bandwidth capacity to move those files quickly while maintaining quality integrity to team members half a world away.

But it’s not enough to just transport the files. Piracy is a real issue, both in terms of idea theft and people stealing game downloads, so an inherently secure global network and add-on security services are top-of-mind these days. Of course, a global network coupled with multi-layer security capabilities is where Level 3 comes in.

Level 3: Ok, I understand a gaming company’s interest in network capabilities during the development process. What effect does the choice of network have on the customer experience?  

Cleveland: Game publishers are very, very mindful of the network and the infrastructure put in place to make sure they serve their customers in the best way possible.

Game distribution used to be primarily disks, but now online distribution dominates. It is critical that companies have the bandwidth to deliver their game as fast as possible to the customer; during the initial download when the customer first wants to purchase the game and afterwards during active play.

Gamers play with other people around the world, so latency really counts – you simply can’t have lag time. If a player is sitting in front of their game console playing a game, and there’s buffering going on, they lose the “live” aspect, and consequently lose interest.

With sports games, the team rosters are constantly updated with real-time trades, injury status, and ratings for performance. It’s all about live updates mimicking what’s happening in the real world, so the faster those updates move to the console, the happier the gamer will be.

This uber-fast content delivery is where content delivery networks (CDNs) come in. When a person sits in front of their console or plays a game on their mobile phone, the CDN serves that game from the closest location to provide the best experience. Minimal latency leads to happier customers and greater success. Who doesn’t want that?

Level 3: So, what you’re saying is network and CDN performance can have a huge impact on the success of a game?

Cleveland: Absolutely. Developers and publishers can create a great game, but if their network doesn’t deliver, the ultimate experience is going to be negative.

One of the primary reasons people delete a game or stop playing it is because of poor performance – long load times, etc. There can be other reasons, too. But performance – lag time, loading, the ability to communicate and play a game with users anywhere in the world with almost instantaneous response – that’s key.

Level 3: Got it. Thanks so much, Jennifer, for sharing your insights and predictions for this year’s E3 show.

Cleveland: You bet. It’s a great event and all of us at Level 3 are looking forward to participating, meeting new people, and playing the latest and greatest games!