CUSTOMER PROFILE:

Akamai understands networks and serving assets, but Instart Logic really understands web applications and how to deliver them intelligently to provide the best user experience. This awareness allows Instart Logic to build technology that makes every player’s experience with Kongregate fast and frustration-free.

Jim Greer
CEO of Kongregate

The Challenge

Kongregate is one of the world’s leading destinations for people who like to play online games. The game portal only makes money, however, when these users execute in-application purchases to enhance their game experience. Rarely do users make a purchase on the first visit to a game, so putting the users into actual game play as quickly as possible is the most important factor in driving return engagements. “We have a big funnel of casual users coming in at the top and some very core committed users spending a lot of money on virtual goods at the bottom,” says Jim Greer, CEO of Kongregate. “Each step along that funnel, we have the possibility of losing somebody through impatience. We needed to make the experience super fast.”

To speed up online game performance, Kongregate had optimized the site to meet current web performance best practices. They also used multiple data-caching layers in their infrastructure to allow frequently-used web assets to travel to users faster. A handful of game developers, too, optimized their Flash files for faster loading and gameplay. To drop latency further, Kongregate deployed a CDN solution from Akamai to keep copies of games closer to players. However, Akamai’s system could not do anything unique to speed up the Flash games that make up the majority of Kongregate’s titles.

“Flash is something that no CDN has done well to date,” says Greer. “We were already doing everything we could to deliver the page as quickly as possible using a CDN and caching assets heavily. But what we really cared about was how long it takes for the player to be able to start playing the game. And that would involve changes to the game code itself.” Greer also knew that as Kongregate moved to publish more games adapted to tablets and smart phones, legacy CDN solutions would prove ineffective because of the wide variability of download speeds and network connections faced by visitors to Kongregate over wireless (3G, 4G, WiFi) networks. So he was looking for a web performance technology to “future-proof” the company.

In summary, Greer wanted a web performance solution that would:

  • Deliver super fast user experience and reduce the waiting time before users could play
  • Accelerate Flash file delivery with application intelligence
  • Deliver high-res images to dynamically generated pages without impacting load time
  • Provide fast load times even over wireless and mobile networks • Outperform legacy CDN technology without increasing costs

The Solution

Greer heard about Instart Logic‘s Web Application Streaming Network TM and was intrigued. He knew that streaming technology worked great for video files. Instart Logic’s technology offered the promise of streaming web- based video games – HTML, Flash and image files – to users’ local browsers. Flash streaming, in particular, sound - ed amazing to Greer. “No one else was doing anything like this,” he says. “On a game-by-game basis, Instart auto - matically figures out what is the most important component and what needs to be there for the player to play the very first level. Often that’s only 10% of the game. So you can get a 10X speed-up by only delivering that first 10% and then streaming the rest in the background.

The Result

Kongregate’s operations team tested Instart Logic on a portion of its user traffic. The effect was dramatic. Games loaded significantly faster, even to the naked eye. Over time Kongregate shifted all of its Flash game traffic from Akamai to Instart Logic. “By being aware of which parts of the game needed to be there first, Instart was able to reduce the time to get into a game on Kongregate by 50% and for some games by as much as 90%,” says Greer “So we’re blown away that Instart was able to do that.”

Improved web performance is particularly critical because, on average, the most active customers play as many as 30 games in a month. “Day 1 retention is the key metric for our business, but you can’t retain somebody if they bounce in the first place. So that first 5 seconds with the user is completely critical and that’s where Instart has really been able to help.”

Game developers in the Kongregate community, too, noticed their games were loading faster and responding more quickly to game play. Working closely with Instart Logic’s team, Kongregate is planning to take advantage of the Web Application Streaming technology to introduce unique, entirely new, user-centric features never before possible in desktop games, as well as a full slate of games for mobile and tablet devices that will serve even more dynamic content. Says Greer, “Instart Logic’s Web Application Streaming technology has been a big perfor - mance win, and immediately reduced our bounce rate, a key metric for us.”

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