The Daily Mail released an article encouraging gamers to play at reasonable times, citing “Internet congestion” during peak hours. They argue that Internet gamers are responsible for an increase in traffic on the Internet that could disrupt critical business flows.
Let’s look at why the Daily Mail article almost got it right, but missed the mark. As always, the devil is in the details.
This article will explain why you might want to defer your existing game update or new game download until before you head to bed for the night, just to be a Good Internet Citizen.
“There’s no way an online game uses as much as streaming Netflix videos!”
Let’s look at what a Netflix binge looks like from a network perspective. I turned on Umbrella Academy and ran a bandwidth capture. Here’s what I saw:
To get your video going, Netflix sends you an initial burst of data. That data contains let’s say 25 seconds of video and audio. So, for the next 15 seconds, they don’t need to send you anything. 15 seconds later, they send you another 10 seconds of data. That means you always have 10 seconds of buffer just in case there’s a problem. This pattern repeats until the video is over.
Over time, this burst-pause-burst-pause averages to a bandwidth metric. Per Netflix, you need .625 Megabytes per second to comfortably stream HD video. But, that .625 Megabytes per second is an average. If you look at my graph, you see some spikes below five, some above five, but when you take into account generally the average is well below one, because all the times where there is no data flowing also contributes to the average.
When I Escape from Tarkov, does that kill the Internet?
I’m sick of watching Netflix, and want to instead play a game on my PC. Let’s look at a couple popular FPS shooters.
I fired up EFT and ran a mission. During online play, I was surprised at how little bandwidth EFT actually used. Shockingly little.
I opened up COD: Warzone, ran the same bandwidth meter, and saw almost no Internet traffic during normal gameplay.
Why is this? All of the “heavy” stuff (graphics, sounds, animations) are already loaded on your PC or console. The only thing going back and forth is player positioning, and real time data such as firing a weapon or VoIP chat between teammates.
Obviously, this is two games out of thousands. I could have ran these tests for Xbox, PlayStation, Switch, etc., but generally speaking, the amount of ongoing bandwidth that a video game uses is significantly less than watching a Netflix video.
What if I buy a new game or patch an existing game? Hint: REDRUM.
Let’s say I want to load COD: Warzon on my new PC. I load the Blizzard loader, then download the Warzone application.
I started the Warzone download (but didn’t finish it), and it’s using 20 Megabytes/second (which is 160 Megabits per second). My home Internet service is 200 Megabits, so it’s using almost all my bandwidth.
Note that there are no pauses, there are no breaks in the data on the graph— the download will use all the available bandwidth until it’s finished. These game installations are massive.
Why is this bad?
In my example, just me downloading COD: Warzone uses as much bandwidth as 32 people streaming HD Netflix. For people that have Gigabit home Internet, this download would use as much bandwidth as 160 people watching Netflix.
Compound that by hundreds or thousands of people downloading the same game at the same time, the stress that puts on your provider’s network is exponential.
So, playing the games themselves aren’t bad, but the frequent patches and new game installations contribute to a bandwidth crunch.
What should the Daily Mail article have told you?
It’s really simple.
- If you need to download a patch or new game purchase, wait until off-peak hours. Hit “Go” before you go to bed.
- Small patches (1–2 gigs)? No problem.
- If you’re just playing your favorite game, go nuts.
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