Scaling to 50M users – OMGPOP’s crazy ride

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a big gamer. I never got into flash game sites, Farmville, Zynga, or any of the games you can download to your phone. Yeah, I’m kinda boring that way. I first noticed OMGPOP’s Draw Something on the train when I saw someone trying to draw a Monopoly board on their iPad. The next morning, I noticed two more people drawing things on their phone. I began to recognize the UI colors and noticed more that evening.

Then the Facebook invitations started to come in. It was so easy to start, intuitive to play, and oh so viral. What better way to connect with long-lost Facebook friends than to send them a pictionary scribble? I had my kids playing and I’m sure I confused Anil Dash when my son sent him a rendition of his avatar on the cover of a book as a drawing for the word, Facebook.

All this is a lead-up to explain how this game burst onto the scene, blew up overnight getting the company acquired by Zynga from start to finish in less than two months.

So what’s it like riding a rocket ship like that? What’s it like spinning up 100+ servers in the middle of the night? What’s it like getting calls from your service vendor threatening to rate limit you because, “you’re too hot.” All these questions and more are answered by Jason Pearlman CTO of OMGPOP and one of the three systems team that was there manning the servers during their incredible growth.

“So there we were, 1 a.m. and needing a completely new backend that can scale and handle our current traffic.” – they re-wrote the backend in Couchbase and pushed it live by 3am.

“At one point our growth was so huge that our players — millions of them — were doubling every day. It’s actually hard to wrap your head around the fact that if your usage doubles every day, that probably means your servers have to double every day too. Thankfully our systems were pretty automated, and we were bringing up tons of servers constantly. Eventually we were able to overshoot and catch up with growth by placing one order of around 100 servers.”

“I think at one point we were up for around 60-plus hours straight, never leaving the computer.”

To date, Draw Something has been downloaded more than 50 million times within 50 days. At its peak, about 3,000 drawings are created every second.

All this was done with the knowledge that if the site was down for even a few hours, it would have meant the end. Draw Something was not their only game, OMGPOP had been at it for many years, with multiple games, before hitting out of the park with this one. It’s a great story of holding things together during a hard tack in their history they made it and are now well on their way to success.

Scale Something: How Draw Something rode its rocket ship of growth

 

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