Many consumers who went home with a new Wii U on November 18 were dismayed by the need to download a firmware update that in some cases took more than an hour to complete. Nintendo recently announced another firmware update coming out for the console and warned that it also will take an hour or more to download for many users.

As a result, Content Delivery Network (CDN) and web acceleration solutions are becoming vital to the video game industry. You don’t want to have somebody buy a game that you just released only to have them wait an hour before they can even play it. If you are supporting digital downloads, you want to make sure the process does not take so long that users become frustrated with your game before they even make it to the title menu.

The evolution of system performance
As hardware evolves to the point that 1080p resolutions are commonplace, data distribution problems can emerge. The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 are both outdated from a hardware standpoint. When the new versions of those consoles come out, which most experts anticipate will happen in 2013, the video game industry will likely take a major stride forward in game and hardware performance. Furthermore, the heightened hardware capabilities in consoles will likely lead to developers taking advantage of more PC capabilities as well, as they have been limited by the low baseline established by current consoles.

This creates an environment in which performance throughout games — not just in terms of graphics, but also in artificial intelligence, social interaction, network functionality and motion sensing — could rise in almost every genre and type of game. At the same time, system management will also become more complex, leading to the need for major firmware updates like the ones Nintendo is dealing with. All of this is compounded by the need to treat all consoles like computers from a security standpoint and make regular updates to deal with any vulnerability.

The future of content delivery
So, why does this evolution matter? When Nintendo asked users to wait more than an hour for a download, it was unheard of. This may not be the case for long. With the amount of data that will go into games and systems during the next few years, large updates will likely be necessary. This makes data delivery a priority for developers, publishers and console OEMs because they have to make sure data gets to end users without such long download times. Otherwise, update and patching speeds could become a customer service issue moving forward, something that is already prevalent in online video games and will likely become more prominent as games get more expansive and intelligent.

Nintendo’s initial struggles with Wii U firmware updates, while understandable, point to the problems that could be coming with next-generation video games. Some issues could be specific to the Wii U firmware and the nuances of the console, but the data transit climate needed to support advanced video game functionality should not be downplayed. Network services can help companies overcome some of these problems and put themselves in a solid position to keep their customers happy through efficient updates and content delivery processes.

To learn more about the importance of efficient content delivery for game developers and publishers, download the Online Gaming Industry Handbook.