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Cisco Networking Technology at the Heart of Esports

Cisco Networking Technology at the Heart of Esports


Esports is a billion-dollar market that is projected to grow to $5.74 billion by 2030, drawing in hundreds of millions of fans.

So, there’s a lot at stake, and much of it is riding on how well the underlying technology performs. “For the most part, bugs occur within a vacuum and only affect solo gamers, or game streams where nothing is at stake except viewership,” writes SVG, a multi-platform gaming publication. “When a bug strikes during an esports tournament, however, a shoddy line of code can spiral into a million-dollar mistake.”

But even if a particular esport game’s code is pristine, it is still critically dependent on network performance to provide the best gaming experience. That and ensure players are on an even playing field when it comes to latency and responsiveness.

Powering The Realm

Riot Games, developer of the wildly popular, team-based, multiplayer League of Legends (LoL) video game, knows what’s at stake. Which is why it tapped Cisco’s networking solutions to power “The Realm,” its private game server used exclusively for pro-level competitive matches at major global events.

With a vision to revolutionize how esports is played, watched, and consumed around the world, Riot Games in 2020 standardized its globally distributed technology infrastructure with Cisco solutions:

  • Cisco UCS servers power The Realm with mission-critical game servers that move from city to city in support of Riot’s global esports competitions
  • Cisco Meraki’s cloud network platform provides the on-site network for each event, allowing local access control and connecting game servers to broadcast devices
  • Cisco Nexus 9000 switches connect live event feeds to remote broadcast facilities that produce, translate and broadcast content to millions of esports fans worldwide
  • Cisco Intersight® Infrastructure Service provides proactive alerts when errors are detected, well before they have a chance to affect gameplay or viewership

“From the routers and switches that carry every packet of video to the servers that power hundreds of backend tools and applications, we rely on Cisco at every step of the production process,” says Ryan Haveson, Riot Games’ Head of Global Esports Technology.  

As part of their goal to transform the way esports events are produced and broadcast, Riot has launched its first global remote broadcast center (RBC) where live feeds from esports competitions are sent, and content is produced in real-time, translated into multiple languages, and broadcast to millions of esports fans around the world.

Riot opened the first in a planned circuit of these revolutionary RBCs in July 2022 in Dublin, powered entirely by Cisco technology. These all-IP environments allow Riot Games to produce live content and provide support to anywhere in the world at any time of day, regardless of where an event is taking place.

The 2021 League of Legends World Championships was the most-watched esports event in history. There was an average of more than 30 million worldwide viewers tuning in during the event, peaking at an astronomical 70 million concurrent viewers.

Spurring the next generation of net engineers?

Not only is it spurring real-time multi-player gaming and fan entertainment, but Riot Games is helping lead an industry that may well generate our next generation of leading-edge engineers:

  • “K–12 school districts are increasingly embracing esports to engage students and prepare them for potential STEM-related careers in the burgeoning esports industry,” writes IT solutions distributor CDW.
  • The National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE) comprises 240+ member schools who field more than 5,000+ student-athletes and offer $16 million in esports scholarships and aid.

“Esports is the only sport that is 100% technology dependent,” points out Brian Eaton, Cisco’s Director of Global Sponsorships. “The next generation of technology innovators and network engineers will be essential to continuing to improve experiences not only in esports but across all industries, from media and entertainment and beyond.”

Click here for more insight into Cisco and esports.

Copyright © 2023 IDG Communications, Inc.


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