Home Playfish Shows How “Games-as-a-Service” Scale in the Cloud

Playfish Shows How “Games-as-a-Service” Scale in the Cloud

As recent Nielsen ratings show, we are spending more and more of our online time on social networks, and much of that time is spent playing games. Few services, then, can demonstrate the need for flexibility and scaling quite like social gaming. New games are constantly in development; new titles are quickly released. Popularity of games – new and old – can skyrocket unexpectedly.

This “games-as-a-service” seems tailor-made for the cloud. And as such, Playfish, one of the largest developers of social games, was remarkably prescient in 2007 when it launched its company on the fresh-out-of-beta Amazon Web Services. Since then Playfish, the second largest developer on Facebook, has operated fully in the Amazon cloud.

Playfish was purchased by Electronic Arts in 2009, but the requirements for social games are quite different from many of EA Games’ other titles. Unlike games that have monthly subscriptions that can help subsidize hardware and product investment, the free-to-play social games “run lean,” says Playfish Chief Architect Martin Frost, and demand a high level of efficiency.

According to Frost, this efficiency has also prompted Playfish to explore several open source solutions, including the adoption of the YAMI4 distributed messaging system. “There are not a lot of tried and tested technologies at this scale,” says Frost, particularly technologies that are available to the public. Playfish see its adoption of YAMI4, which was developed in part by those working on the CERN particle accelerator, much like its adoption of the cloud as demonstrating the company’s affinity for “bleeding edge technology.”

While choosing the cloud for a startup might seem obvious now, it certainly wasn’t when Playfish launched. And some startups may move away from the cloud once they’ve reached a certain stage in their development. When Martin Frost and Playfish Chief of Engineering Jodi Moran were asked how Playfish has managed to thrive and scale in the cloud where others have not, they both agreed it was because the company’s architecture was constructed and implemented with the cloud in mind. The cloud does necessitate a higher standard earlier, says Frost, but being in the cloud has allowed Playfish to “focus on our own differentiators.”

For a company boasting 200 million downloads, 50 million monthly active users, and 10 million daily active users, being in the cloud has allowed Playfish to be incredibly innovative and flexible.

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