The first impacts of the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities are beginning to be felt in the games industry. Epic Games’ Fortnite has been suffering widespread outages and login problems this weekend, and Epic has pinned the blame on Meltdown patches installed on its Fortnite servers that have dramatically spiked server CPU usage.
“We wanted to provide a bit more context for the most recent login issues and service instability,” writes Epic. “All of our cloud services are affected by updates required to mitigate the Meltdown vulnerability. We heavily rely on cloud services to run our back-end and we may experience further service issues due to ongoing updates.”
Handily, Epic also provided a server CPU utilization chart to show the precise impact of the Meltdown fix. The patch was installed late in the evening on January 3rd and we see this single back-end process drop instantaneously from around 16% CPU usage all the up to roughly 45%, near enough tripling the CPU usage of this particular process. Multiply this by dozens of back-end services no doubt at play in Fortnite and you quickly get a good picture of just how much of a mess this is to sort out.
As a result of the first patch which mitigates Meltdown vulnerabilities, Epic has said Fortnite users may suffer unexpected performance issues and connection drops as it works to enhance its cloud services.
On an anecdotal front, and this may be totally unrelated, much of Ubisoft’s servers were down for hours on Saturday evening. The likes of Rainbow Six Siege, Ghost Recon Wildlands, and even Uplay login were affected, although it appears these issues have been fixed at the time of writing. If Ubisoft’s been busy patching to prevent Meltdown attacks it would make sense if performance crumpled during times of high load, such as during the evenings or at weekends.
Looking elsewhere, these sorts of updates are going to need to roll out to just about every online game, so this may not be the last we hear of online performance hiccups. These are also just the preliminary Meltdown fixes as well, with more to come that may cause yet further performance hits on servers.