Cloud-based 'Monopoly City Streets' was the largest online version of Hasbro’s famous property game, built to promote a new version of the board game, Monopoly City.

The web-based game had over 17 million visits and more than 1.4 million registered players during the three months it was live – and the creators, Hasbro’s digital advertising agency Tribal DDB, said it was thanks to the flexibility of cloud computing that the game was able to cope with the huge amount of traffic. The game was hosted on Carrenza’s cloud computing platform.

“[Using the cloud] we were able to scale horizontally – we could keep sharding databases [breaking databases into small pieces and spreading it around different servers] and adding more web servers [when needed],” said Matt Oxley, technical director at Tribal DDB.

“We spent a lot of time optimising throughout the project, and with cloud, we were able to expand on the fly, without having [to stop the game] to do maintenance.”

Nick Barron, sales director at Carrenza, added: “Cloud computing enabled the ability to scale up [during the game life] and down [towards the end]. We didn’t have to spend money where we didn’t have to, for example, on buying hardware.”

Monopoly City Streets, which ran between September and November 2009, had more functionalities than the board game. People could buy properties on any street in the world, protect their own areas by laying down a park, or sabotage other players’ properties using a bulldozer card.

The game was created by overlaying the Monopoly board over Google Maps, using a combination of Google’s map tiles and its application interface.

“Google won’t give access to the layout of the structures. You can see the map tiles, but we had to use the OpenStreetMap data project and convert it into a format compatible with the overlay system from Google Maps,” Oxley explained.

The game ran on a MySQL database, with two 16 CPU servers that Carrenza heavily customised. Furthermore, by sharding the database into 20 pieces, Carrenza was able to spread the data, and enable it to expand and contract depending on the demand.

The number of web servers used increased from around 60 web servers at launch, to 300 by the end of the game. Servers were allocated to the areas in the world where the game was most popular, namely the UK, US and Germany. In addition, the game used two physical database servers at the start, which increased to 10 supporting the 20 shards.

 “The web tier of the Monopoly project was infinitely scalable. Everything was decoupled – you added as many web servers as you wanted. The real challenge came on the database side of things,” said Barron.

Carrenza worked with Tribal to optimise the code and infrastructure of the cloud platform as much as possible.

“We have control over the underlying infrastructure,” Barron said. “We used battery backed write controllers, which enabled us to do a layer of caching between the server and the disk. It gave us a 10-fold increase in performance.”

During the lifetime of the game, the website received more than five million unique visitors, which Tribal and Carrenza had not anticipated. Even on the day before the launch, which was on 9 September 2009, 325,000 unique visitors came to the website.  

“We expected people to come, have a play and then go away. We didn’t account for the amount that people wanted to play. People were coming in and actively looking at what other people were doing. They were buying a lot of properties,” said Oxley.

“The first week, the success took us a bit by surprise. We thought we would have one million users over the three months – it happened on the first day.”