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App-Rising.com covers the development and adoption of broadband applications, the deployment of and need for broadband networks, and the demands placed on policy to adapt to the revolutionary opportunities made possible by the Internet.

App-Rising.com is written by Geoff Daily, a DC-based technology journalist, broadband activist, marketing consultant, and Internet entrepreneur.

App-Rising.com is supported in part by AT&T;, however all views and opinions expressed herein are solely my own.

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September 25, 2007 8:25 AM

Watch Out Internet: Halo's Here

Thousands of people standing in line at midnight across the country. A million pre-orders waiting to be shipped. A cultural phenomenon has launched in the gaming world: the release of Halo 3.

For my non-gaming readers, Halo is an incredibly popular gaming franchise for the Xbox and Xbox 360 that follows the adventures of a futuristic soldier named Master Chief as he tries to save the world from evil aliens. The gameplay is that of a first-person shooter, where players run around, grabbing guns and shooting stuff. (My apologies for any Halo fanatics for the lack of nuance in this description.)

Halo has really made a name for itself, though, not for the single player story mode but the intense multi-player battles, where players from around the world fight with each other over the Internet.

I wanted to bring this story up for a pair of reasons:

1 - Friday night I was flipping through and paused on G4TV, a TV channel focused heavily on gaming news, as they were having a discussion about the pending release of Halo. At the end of a conversation about just how big an event Halo's launch would be, the host made an offhanded remark about how when everyone tries logging on to play their new copy of Halo this week that there's no way the Internet will be able to support it. He even went so far as to predict the Internet crashing under the weight of thousands of gamers trying to get online to play.

I wrote last week about one researchers belief that warning cries about the exaflood were overblown, but to have someone on national TV talking about the Internet crashing from too much use seems to suggest that maybe the specter of the exaflood is not a boogeyman but a real world problem.

At the same time we mustn't be imprecise in how we describe things: in the case of Halo, if players aren't able to log on from too much use it likely will have little to do with the larger Internet and mostly stem from overloaded gaming servers.

I think this point gets muddled too often. The servers on which things like games run are most certainly a key part of the Internet, but to refer to them as the Internet obscures the real issue: lack of capacity by whoever is offering an online service.

This is a matter of needing better planning and/or management of incoming users rather than an inherent lack of capacity on the Internet.

2 - If ever there was evidence of the Internet's ability to attract mass audiences quickly, it's the release of a game like Halo. By the time the Christmas shopping season is over, there may be more than 10 million copies of Halo in use in the US. And with online multiplayer a core element of the game, that means potentially 10 million people wanting to head onto the Internet to do the same thing likely at similar times.

Now, games like Halo aren't typically all that bandwidth intensive as the only data being pushed over the network are bits and bytes describing where things are positioned in the game, rather than trying to move around video of the game being played.

And in some ways this 10 million number is somewhat less consequential as most of those users are already online for other reasons, so it's not like this game is expanding the pie of broadband users all that much.

Even still, it's a significant happening that highlights the reality of the exaflood, the need for better understanding of how the Internet works, and the fact that a singular event like the launch of Halo can drive millions of people to use the Internet for the same purpose.


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Comments (1)

What we really need is to have Google commit to this MMPG space and deliver a universal MultiPlayer gaming platform (s)servers based out of their Regional Data Centers (we have 3 in SC alone) connected via a nationwide (and soon to be worldwide) fiber network. Universal in the sense that it would allow both console and PC gaming devices to connect and maximize low latency and speed.
This would allow a far better gaming exerience then everything going through a Nationwide central gaming network like Microsofts.


Posted by Jim on September 25, 2007 11:16 AM

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