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How Subspace is improving engagement in multiplayer games

Sponsored article: How this new internet system is reducing lag and opening up new markets

This week, GamesIndustry.Biz caught up with Subspace, the global real-time network performance experts, to learn about their latest product, some recent staff changes, and how they continue to redefine what network quality is for real-time applications.

Subspace serves some of the biggest online video game companies in the world as customers. They are about to launch their publicly available product allowing any game developer, regardless of size, to benefit from the same technology as the biggest games. Subspace has started upgrading infrastructure in over 100 global locations. With almost a hundred people working around the world and growing, Subspace is gearing up to serve any player anywhere in the world.

"To use Subspace, customers don't need to change their client app code nor will they need to change their internet service provider"

Online multiplayer games are growing at breakneck speed. And, the biggest complaint from gamers is lag. Especially as games get more competitive, from the hugely popular battle royales to fast and responsive first-person shooters, every millisecond counts. It only takes the slightest hiccup to ruin the game.

Imagine we're playing in the Super Bowl, and just as the pass is being thrown, the lights turn off even for just a moment. The ball is missed, the play is over, that game is spoiled and there's no way to come back from that and say that it was a fair game. That's essentially what millions of online gamers experience every day. ISPs can provide higher bandwidth internet and games can have better netcode; however, these solutions only partially address fundamental gaps in the foundation of the internet.

The internet's core design principles lie in being a resilient communication network that can survive natural disasters or nuclear war. The internet wasn't built for games or other low latency demanding real-time applications. The internet often seems to work perfectly for on-demand services like Netflix or YouTube, where the content is cached - copies pre-distributed to hard drives and data centres around the world. But you can't cache a Zoom call, an online game, a live stream or any other content that happens in real time.

The problem is that we're stuck with the internet's foundational principles of survivability over quality. So how do we best serve the demands of real-time applications like online gaming? This is where Subspace comes into play. Founded in 2018, it is a global platform that sits on top of the existing internet - an overlay network - using a set of technologies that measures, finds and secures the most reliable, highest quality and fastest path between any two points in the world. Think of it like traffic-aware GPS navigation, but for real-time internet traffic.

Through a mix of proprietary software and globally deployed hardware control points, Subspace's platform finds the fastest path and carries traffic across it. The platform detects, at the tiniest timescales, problems that could affect the connection, and switches paths before the application is aware of an issue. Changing paths and real-time DDoS mitigation occur without adding any lag. Subspace becomes a customized global network for each player's connection where traffic is always taking the highest quality path.

As far as real-time applications go, gaming is one of most impacted, which is why Subspace chose it as the first market. Indeed, gaming is bigger than all other forms of entertainment combined, and has only grown since the pandemic began in 2020. It's also a market where gamers have been complaining about lag for over 20 years, so Subspace is an overdue solution that will have a huge impact for hundreds of millions of players, and now for any size online game.

To use Subspace, customers don't need to change their client app code nor will they need to change their internet service provider. Using anycast proxy technology, Subspace simply becomes the virtual network controller for all gameplay traffic. Instead of sending traffic to the IP address of the normal internet path, the game client sends traffic to a Subspace address running on Subspace infrastructure that picks up and routes that traffic across faster paths all the way back to the game server. The result is improvements of over 100 milliseconds in latency for some players, plus reduced packet loss and latency variance (jitter) and increased security and game integrity.

Improving latency for players is important to the health of these games and player communities. Subspace data shows that for every 10 milliseconds of latency improvement, players play 4% longer. Better player engagement translates to more spend -- after all, happy gamers who play for longer and have a fair gaming session are more likely to spend more and invite more friends to play.

"In the same way that Intel brought their computer processors to the market with the 'Intel Inside' campaign, Subspace envisions it will be just as meaningful when someone sees that a game is powered by Subspace, because it provides a higher performing, better and more fair game play for gamers that will be noticeable versus a game using normal internet infrastructure,"said Subspace VP of Operations Ron Williams, who as Vice President of Infrastructure and Security at Riot Games led the creation of the specialised global infrastructure that powers games like League of Legends and new experiences like Valorant have built upon. Riot innovations like Riot Direct have led to a few large games copying the approach, but the modern global gaming world needs a fun and fair playing field for everyone and Subspace is building it for game companies - now of all sizes.

Request access to Subspace's speed-of-light internet at subspace.com/VIP and enter code games100. Games Industry readers are eligible to receive a $100 credit.

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