Importance of Load Testing and Launch Day
Any application or software that is intended to support many users needs adequate load testing, yet this is still an often forgotten or disregarded step in the development process. With the recent success of Pokemon GO, we are faced with another failure in load testing and server capacity planning. The difference this time is the fierce loyalty to the brand displayed by its fans. But this is not always the case. Let’s take a look at a two major times that initial stress testing issues caused problems for games during launch day.
Activision Blizzard famously released the third installment of it’s action role-playing game in 2012 to disastrous failure. Though the company worked tirelessly to correct the issues, the main problem was that they did not anticipate how many users would be logging in simultaneously and failed to prepare the servers for that instantaneous load at launch. This left players frustrated for days while they devised a working queue system in order to alleviate the issue. The “always online” requirement increased the strain immensely, preventing even those who wanted to play alone instead of in groups to cause additional strain.
Here, like with Pokemon GO, it is the brand itself which saved this game. Players wanted the latest Diablo game, and were willing to put up with issues in the short term. This enthusiasm does not last long, however, which is why immediate resolution is necessary. Though the fact remains that this issue could have been avoided entirely with better load testing.
EA and Maxis released the latest installment in the city building and management game March 5, 2013. There was a massive amount of excitement from fans at the prospect of managing a city online with multiple users participating in a single region, but skepticism that the “always online” requirement would hamper server performance. Shortly after release and in response to massive server problems, EA limited game functionality in an attempt to reign in the constant crashing and stress. It seemed that the company had failed to stress test their servers at all.
Though a recognizable brand, the lack of significant progress to address the concurrent user issues experienced by SimCity 5 (core features weren’t fully reinstated until June 11th) ultimately forced Maxis to permanently close its doors.
Both examples show that extensive load testing is critical to a successful launch. Even big companies can suffer consequences from poor foresight, despite brand recognition. There are a variety of website load testing tools, both free and paid that can be used to prepare for a launch day and help mitigate potential problems.