Stop Putting Servers in California

May 17, 2017

Dear online game developers,

Why do you insist on situating your North American servers in California? Is it because you almost definitely have a building there? Are you like me where on particularly hot days you like to go and have a sneaky lunch in the server room because it has the best air conditioning in the building?

Help me understand why, oh why, you insist on putting your servers on the very edge of the continent.

North America is a giant landmass with absolutely garbage physical infrastructure. Most internet connections within the United States still run along copper phone lines, which were invented over 100 years ago to handle much simpler communication protocols. Pile on top of that that most of this infrastructure is owned by one of just three companies, each holding an absolute monopoly over several large areas within the United States, there is no incentive for the infrastructure to update any time soon.

Despite the illusion we’ve built up around the digital age, data does not move instantly. Even within your own machine there is a minuscule amount of latency (nanoseconds) between the moment where your machine’s memory controller requests a value stored in memory and when that value is received. Now multiply that out to a distance of a few hundred miles and the latency of the data transfer may become a noticeable delay, measurable in tens or even hundreds of milliseconds.

In an online game where reaction speed matters, latency can become a problem. Before League of Legends moved its North American servers from Portland to Chicago, 61% of non-international competitors in the season 5 NA championship series hailed from (and learned to play in) the Pacific timezone.

Although not every game requires as little latency to play optimally as LoL does, more games would absolutely benefit from moving their datacenters from one of the coasts to a location closer to the center of the country. As it stands, being closer to the game server permits a distinct advantage over those further from it.

Some games may follow in Riot’s footsteps and relocate to Chicago, a large city with compatible infrastructure to those on the coasts, that’s quite far north and closer to the East Coast than to the West. For those games that would prefer a more central location between the coasts and a better deal for South American players (in exchange for a sacrifice of Canadian ones), Texan cities like Dallas or Austin would be a fine choice. Kansas City and Denver are also viable options for centrally located cities.

There is simply no reason for a company worth billions to shove their game servers to the edge of the continent. It hampers player competition and inconveniences more players than it aids.

Just stop putting your bloody servers all the way over in California, ok? It’s real stupid.