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New rules for powerful gaming

New rules for powerful gaming: performance and savings, now together at last

Working with Atea, Fingersoft’s COO Ville Rauma picked Microsoft Azure and together they’re reshaping what’s possible in the gaming business today.

Leaders in the video game industry thrive by anticipating where their customers are going and then responding. Gamers today want the best experience possible, making full use of the newest technology out there. And that means a steadily growing demand for more raw computing power. However, meeting that demand also used to mean having to take on steadily growing overhead costs, too: a significant impediment for a growing business.

That was the dilemma faced by Fingersoft, based in Oulu, Finland.

Its award-winning game, Hill Climb Racing, had already been a major hit in the marketplace. As work progressed on the game’s sequel, Hill Climb Racing 2, all expectations had been raised. As COO Ville Rauma explains, it became clear that the old way of doing things wasn’t going to work anymore.

New rules for a new game

Previously the company managed the back-end with a relatively small number of virtual machines with a few cores, mostly handling analytics and advertising. “But things got interesting in a hurry when we got into the new version of the game,” says Rauma. “Because Hill Climb Racing 2 includes live gaming, it changes things quite a bit. So we knew we were going to need a whole lot more computing power.”

In 2013, the company had no server department to speak of: just one PHP web server in the cloud. That was it. Rauma’s comparative analysis showed that expanded cloud-based services made the best sense going forward. But he needed a lot of servers—not just quickly, but also in a way that was capable of adding various advertising configurations.

Microsoft Azure was picked as the winning platform and Atea customized and optimized the environment. Fingersoft began rolling out a large number of servers. And in doing so, together they rewrote the rules of what gaming can do in today’s marketplace. 

Today, not only have customers embraced this powerful new game—more than 70 million downloads at last count—managing it has been made easier at the same time. “This has definitely been an effortless, excellent solution for us,” says Rauma. “We’re crunching hundreds of millions of entries now. Right after the launch, we had 200,000 simultaneous players. We can handle it now because the cloud never runs out of raw computing power.” Game servers are essentially Linux virtual machines that sit on top of Azure. Advertising services use the DNS side. The outcome is a pure power boost. But there’s another benefit as well.

Big performance, even bigger savings

As Rauma points out, by moving completely to Azure, the implementation of multiple cores doesn’t just scale effortlessly. It also happens incredibly fast. “Implementation for us was done in just one day. And that’s a huge savings for us.” Thanks to Atea’s optimization, Rauma credits this Azure-based solution for generating up to a 40% cost savings annually. “We are talking about six-figure sums here,” he says.

The outcome is a better way to build games, a better experience for gamers, and a structured way for a thriving business to expand what it can offer. As Rauma concludes: “It’s wonderful that we no longer have to think about servers at all. Instead, we can focus on doing more with our existing resources. And that’s a major change in the way of thinking within our company.”

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