When your company creates and distributes some of the most successful and popular interactive games – including Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry – you’re charged with delivering immersive entertainment and experiences. That’s the situation for George Hong, Senior Manager Web Development for Ubisoft, whose team manages Ubisoft’s marketing sites.
Ubisoft is committed to delivering original and memorable gaming experiences across all popular platforms and Ubisoft websites are often the first touchpoint for many users. To boost the number of players who purchase games, it’s essential for Ubisoft to deliver engaging, immersive sites featuring beautiful imagery and assets.
However, when a game site features 500 or more images and serves as many as 1.7 million unique visitors in a month – a good percentage on mobile devices – the pressure is on to ensure optimal performance. This is no small feat when the WebDev team must secure images from multiple departments and continually satisfy pressing deadlines.
To ensure the optimal experience for site visitors and game users on a variety of devices and platforms, Ubisoft needs to optimize its imagery for each scenario. Unfortunately, the WebDev team relied on a time-consuming, manual process to indicate image optimization requirements. The departments supplying content and imagery to Web Development were using different processes to create and optimize images. In some cases, they weren’t applying any image optimization before delivering images to the WebDev team.
Without a fitting tool, the WebDev team wasn’t equipped to easily determine whether images were properly optimized. When they did notice issues, they were either forced to request that departments reoptimize the images, or rescale and reoptimize the images themselves. In fact, George’s team was spending 30% of its time on optimization.
Bogged down with these tasks, Web Development often struggled to upload fresh content to meet critical timelines. According to George, "In our industry, a lot of content comes in last minute. We are always working within tight time frames, and spending significant time optimizing images makes it even more difficult to hit deadlines."
The challenges didn’t end there. Not being able to effectively manage the image upload stage and having to constantly reoptimize images took a toll on Ubisoft's site performance. Ubisoft has researched industry averages when it comes to how long users will wait for a site to load and how load time affects engagement and conversion. It determined its web pages and game sites with heavy, rich images were loading inconsistently. "That wasn’t a good experience for anyone, whether players or Ubisoft employees creating and testing sites," explains George.
Knowing the current approach wasn’t viable for the long term, Ubisoft began looking for a solution.
One option for solving the image optimization issue was to apply more restrictions and policies on each asset upload. However, the WebDev team didn’t want to make it more difficult for the business and content producers to push out content. Moreover, the team realized this approach wouldn’t fully solve the problem due to Ubisoft’s proactive approach of more frequently uploading fresh content to encourage user engagement. While this has been effective, it means internal teams need to manage more assets and content. “When it came to image optimization, we realized we needed to pivot and implement better practices and tools,” George explains.
After considering custom solutions based on plug-ins, Ubisoft decided to evaluate the proven Akamai Image Manager solution. Since the company already uses Akamai solutions to deliver its assets and protect its sites, it was natural to consider Image Manager.
According to George, ease of use along with the ability to get started without significant up-front effort and to optimize images on the fly stood out. The team also appreciated gaining visibility into an image’s optimization at a glance. "Our team could see the potential of Image Manager to deliver an amazing ROI," he continues.
With Image Manager in place, the WebDev team can easily see which image optimizations have been applied. The team no longer needs to optimize images since Image Manager handles this automatically and seamlessly. Moreover, Ubisoft is no longer experiencing image-related page load spikes or latency.
In fact, Image Manager has eliminated the support tickets the WebDev team was resolving each week for image optimization and related site performance issues. "Image Manager removed a lot of friction from our workflow, saving us approximately one day per week. Now my team can focus on creating sites that deliver the best experience for visitors and game users," says George.
In addition, optimized images translate into more consistent load times on Ubisoft sites. "Before, we were unsure if a site would be slower or quicker than expected. Now we can properly benchmark where sites should be at any given time," explains George.
As George sees it, Image Manager has paved the way for his team to work in exciting new ways. "Image Manager expands the way we think about managing assets by providing the flexibility to decouple the way images get uploaded and optimized. This positions us to deliver the best experience, which in turn helps drive more engagement and conversions," concludes George.
Ubisoft is a leading creator, publisher and distributor of interactive entertainment and services, with a rich portfolio of world-renowned brands, including Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry, For Honor, Just Dance, Watch_Dogs or the Tom Clancy video games series Ghost Recon, Rainbow Six and The Division. The teams throughout Ubisoft’s worldwide network of studios and business offices are committed to delivering original and memorable gaming experiences across all popular platforms, including consoles, mobile phones, tablets and PCs. For the 2017-18 fiscal year Ubisoft generated net bookings of €1,732 million. To learn more, please visit www.ubisoft.com.