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With the recent publishing of Pokemon Go, we're reminded yet again at how often online-dependent software (especially games) fails to run appropriately on launch-day due to server errors. I've been playing video games for a little over a decade now and I've noticed that this is a very common trend. Typically, according to company PR statements, they're due to "unexpected server traffic".

Is this something developers can test for? (Emulate server load)


Bonus but not necessary:

  • After so many years and this being a consistent event, shouldn't developers expect this by now?

  • Are companies being entirely truthful behind their bugs? In other words, is it just easier to tell their customers, "Stuff is broken because our product is so popular!" when in reality there might be other underlying reasons?

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Is this something developers can test for? (Emulate server load)

Only somewhat. They can emulate load, but emulated load is not real. The rate, latency, and diversity of the traffic will all vary. The servers being targets will vary. The level of malicious code (people trying to hack/bot/flood/etc) will likely be less. And for something as large as Pokemon Go, they might not have been able to generate the full traffic because it would simply cost too much.

Remember that all testing is a matter of risk mitigation. How much money is it worth to keep servers from being down a few hours right at launch?

After so many years and this being a consistent event, shouldn't developers expect this by now?

They do, but see above: they don't necessarily know how the traffic will behave, and even if they did, is it worth doing anything more to mitigate the risk?

Are companies being entirely truthful behind their bugs?

No.

Even if the issues were caused by traffic (plausible), the amount of traffic wasn't really unexpected - it is much more likely that there are other errors, or that the company made a calculated decision to not deal with a level of traffic which will only be seen for a few hours over the lifetime of the app.

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