Taming the Digital Beast: How to Solve the Gaming Industry’s Data Dilemma

Analytics in gaming is by no means new, but we’re likely to see it gain increased usage in the near future.

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As mobile games enjoy mainstream acceptance and adulation with millions of users logging in daily, staggering amounts of associated data are generated. This data can be a relentless cascade and can overwhelm ill-equipped companies. Having suitable data management tools is invaluable to better planning and organisation, helping build better assets and products.


All in the Game

The gaming industry’s transformational growth of near-Cinderella-like proportions is undeniable. Pixelated images weaving and bobbing through archaic devices have evolved into fully rendered, realistic graphical visions on small screens. And with mobile games penetrating all levels of society, the number of people in the ecosystem is massive. The pandemic has further boosted the sector as more people turned to newer forms of entertainment. In India, the online gaming industry is expected to worth $1.9 billion by 2024, even as several gaming companies cater to more than 300 million mobile gamers in the country. With their broad appeal and financial opportunity, the masses are taking to games like online Ludo, snakes and ladders, and scores more are investing in fantasy games. For gaming companies, this means more information to capture, unpack, and process at the backend, constant scoreboard management, tracking in-app purchases, managing player metrics, and evaluating high read and write loads accurately and in real time. As more users join existing traffic, provisioning the accompanying data can become a huge burden and potential breaking point for the ill-prepared.

A Massive Undertaking: Data, Data, and more Data


Gaming companies are highly dependent on data to understand user behaviour, progress their products, and chart efficient working practices. Older games were relatively static in their function, didn’t require internet connections to work and operated on limited functionality. Since then, developers have raced to integrate games with more: more features, more flair, more choices, and tapping into the communal environment of online networks and leaving traditional stacks behind. Invariably, games have become heavier and more data intensive, a fact aggravated by the growing number of people playing these games.  And further complicating matters is the real-time nature of these games’ actions and reactions, leading to extensive data needing to be processed accurately and at a moment’s notice. A new mobile game release might attract millions of users following its launch: this is a breathtaking volume requiring top-notch server functionality and a robust data platform to accommodate every user’s credentials and statistics. Factoring in extensive playtimes and possible multi-person usage and the task at hand becomes infinitely more daunting.

     Old relational databases cannot match such scale; these databases are usually planned to run on single machines and based on the relatively straightforward relationship between tables housing information. While these databases are simple and easy to handle with reasonable data loads, the rigid schemas underlining them make it difficult to change the data structure if required, for example when there’s a change in a game or a new feature is added. And as the table complexity increases, the database performance takes a hit. Relational databases are also prone to scalability issues and can be expensive, especially if hardware upgrades are to be made to compensate for insufficient machine requirements. Relational DBs are monolith and hence specialised hardware is required to scale them. Distributed Databases can scale on commodity hardware with lower cost.

Hence, the answer to the gaming data conundrum lies in picking modern, efficient platforms that free developers of valuable time and resources. This choice becomes more significant as even the littlest data bottlenecks can adversely affect downtimes and user experience, which, in a highly competitive space, can be financially catastrophic. Data management in gaming can mean the difference between gaining a business advantage and falling into obscurity.


Picking the Proper Database Can Make All the Difference

Games across the spectrum might not share any discernible DNA: casual games, fantasy games, and battle royale options have different dynamics, but each format has specific data requirements to enable development and a successful production. Companies should look for four primary things while database shopping:

  • A flexible modern data model that can naturally handle all the various data types and be resilient to delays. Intuitive data management complements developers moving away from unyielding schemas, allowing for easy data layer changes. The proper database can store new player data effortlessly, permit easy addition of items and stats. This enables features like real-time leaderboard analytics that collects real-time gamer action and interpret it in the same breath. Flexible data models can help quickly define player profiles while correlating them with new features such as in-game currency, gear upgrades, and level unlocks in secure environments. Other advantages of such elastic databases are reliable session making (ensuring the right players are in a session together), competent transactional integrity for fast inventory loading, and seamless data capture and analysis with easy insights observation and native visualisation for polymorphic data and connectors to SQL-based BI tools.
  • A scalable database that can easily and, in many cases, automatically, measure up to rapid data influx without failing. Anticipating higher demands and adapting to them helps companies keep downtime, response times, and overhead to a minimum. Scaling up allows companies to perform seamlessly through overwhelming surges and unforeseen data spikes.
  • A cloud-native database that runs fluidly in the cloud helps give the best user experience across regions and allows for further geographical expansion while easily integrating new cloud providers. A fully managed cloud database ensures global deployment for low latency, supporting customers with both horizontal and vertical scaling to meet high workloads. 
  • A managed data platform that oversees operations while providing built-in data services that mirror a modern app. A data platform capable of handling the lifecycle of the data. It should enable easy search, archival, easy movement across gaming devices and others. Modern data platform is increasingly likely to have add-ons for things like full-text search, a data lake or integrated analytics that makes it simpler to build reports on growth metrics and adoption. 

A Database for all Seasons and Reasons

A quick, responsive, and flexible database will enable customers to innovate and maintain a competitive edge. Gaming companies like SEGA and Ludo King have employed modern databases to scale operations. The latter needed to find a solution to the massive download numbers during the lockdown. And the Japanese entertainment giant’s UK-based mobile development studio SEGA HARDlight sought a database to resolve vast amounts of account-based data that would ultimately be linked with games featuring online functionality.

Additionally, companies can leverage database capabilities to go beyond their products—for instance, user behaviour associated with specific metrics can be used to model off-environment campaigns. 

The trajectory is upwards, and games show no signs of slowing down: developers are increasingly embracing flexible frameworks with quick response times as users demand more varied experiences and services. All things considered, the right database solution is vital to making sense of the endless data loads, accelerating performance, and guaranteeing user satisfaction.

-By Himanshumali, Solutions Architect Leader, MongoDB