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Humor, remote work, and scaling up for traffic spikes with Jackbox's Mike Bilder - GDC Podcast ep. 9

As quarantine measures were taking place to lessen the spread of the coronavirus, people began turning to stay at home-friendly entertainment. More specifically, a whole lot of people started playing Jackbox Party Packs on Zoom with friends and family.

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"Right around the time everything started shutting down, kind of mid-March, traffic started increasing on our servers," Jackbox Games CEO Mike Bilder said on the latest episode of the GDC Podcast. "We were in the same state as the rest of the world where we're now shutting down and moving the whole organization to be work from home…Shortly thereafter it really started to increase."

He said the traffic increase was dramatic and the 40-person Chicago-based studio had to react fast. Once stay at home orders took place, the company started seeing traffic levels match and exceed those of Thanksgiving and New Year's—typically the biggest days of the year for Jackbox—on a daily basis.

"It was a very busy time—it still is a very busy time," Bilder said. "But our whole server infrastructure is a lot more stable and beefed up because we were reacting very quickly to a lot more traffic, and in real time finding some bugs and fixing some things, adding stability and updating controllers, and also the website. We had this influx of traffic to our website. We never had concerns of it going down or the shop going down, and we had all that happen to us within about a two week time frame."

Bilder acknowledged that a lot of game companies are likely going through a similar experience as people turn to games during the COVID-19 crisis. And he admitted that finding such success during and due to a pandemic is an odd feeling.

"It's a bit of a weird moment to find success in what is a very trying and anxious time for the rest of the world," he said.

In order to give back and help people cope with the crisis, Jackbox has been hosting celebrity streams where people like Jack Black, Ben Schwartz, Thomas Middleditch, Olivia Wilde, and others play Jackbox games to raise awareness and money to give to charities that are responding to the pandemic. So far, Jackbox itself has donated over $500,000 to those charities.

GDC Podcast music by Mike Meehan

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