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How Much Data Does Gaming Use?

So, would you like to start gaming online? Do you wish to experience the thrill of beating your friends and asserting your dominance? Or maybe you enjoy the fight and don’t mind getting thrashed by a 12- year old in your favorite game? Kids come up with some of the most creative insults to remind you how old you are.

The gaming industry has significantly changed over the past two decades, thanks in no small part to the increase of online multiplayer games. One of the many reasons why multiplayer games have exploded in popularity is the steady increase in internet connection speed and stability. More recently, the COVID-19 outbreak has pushed people in droves to go online to keep in touch with their friends.

The future of games is online multiplayer, with many big titles eschewing single-player content for a purely multiplayer experience.

Does Gaming Need a Lot of Bandwidth?

Generally, the typical data consumption while playing online is low. Playing multiplayer games will consume the same data as music streaming, roughly 40-120 MB per hour. Streaming an HD video can use up anywhere from 1 GB to 3 GB of data per hour, and streaming 4K content would require about 7 GB of data per hour. Streaming Netflix in HD uses up an enormous 3 GB per hour. If you’re having a Zoom meeting, receiving a 1080p HD video stream consumes about 1.8 MBps (MegaBytes per second). That’s 810 MB per hour.

Thankfully, no game will consume your bandwidth as voraciously as video streaming would.

Games that utilize dedicated servers, like Minecraft, use fewer megabytes per hour. For games that use peer-to-peer hosting, like Warcraft, the player designated as the host uses up considerably more data than the other connecting players. This difference is because the host’s connection is responsible for transmitting and receiving all of the required updates during gameplay.

Data usage varies wildly from game to game. Here are some examples of popular titles and their date usage per hour:

  • Hearthstone – 3 MB/h
  • Final Fantasy XIV – 20 MB/h
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic – 30 MB/h
  • World of Warcraft – 40 MB/h
  • GTA V Online – 60 MB/h
  • Minecraft – 80 MB/h
  • Call of Duty Modern Warfare – 80 MB/h
  • Fortnite – 100 MB/h
  • League of Legends – 100 MB/h
  • Overwatch – 135 MB/h
  • Counter-Strike: Global Offensive – 250 MB/h
  • Destiny 2 – 300 MB/h

From the list, it’s evident that their consumption is reasonable compared to streaming HD movies online.

DLCs and Updates

There are other contributing factors leading to data depletion during gaming. Updates or patches, downloadable content (DLC), or perhaps the initial download of the games themselves can lead to heavy data usage.

If you’re buying a game online, usually the downloads are massive. For instance, Red Dead Redemption 2 is a 105 GB download. This is because the holy grail of modern games is high-resolution graphics with high-quality sound files. However, not all games are that large; most range from 10 GB to 50 GB. But a 100 GB game you'll play for 100 hours will use less bandwidth in total than streaming Netflix in HD for 100 hours.

Players need to have the same version of the game to play together online. Thus, platforms like Steam, Xbox Live, and the PlayStation Network opt for automatic updates over manual patches. So, you can’t escape the updates.

Game updates sizes range from a couple of megabytes to multiple gigabytes, all of which can add up over time. Single-player games also receive updates and DLCs.

Voice Chat

Another factor that determines data usage is the voice chat. This is usually considered a feature of the game to foster a communal atmosphere. Whenever you’re speaking or listening to someone else, you transmit data, and it adds up to a hefty amount. You can also find external chats such as party chat on the PlayStation Network or Xbox Live and programs such as Discord or Skype for PC. Skype, for example, uses between 13 MB and 45 MB per hour for voice calls. The number of participants typically increases the amount of data used.

Final Thoughts

How much data you consume while gaming varies from game to game, but generally, it is low and manageable. Try and find any official information issued by the game developers themselves for specific titles you’re interested in. There are review pages that have all the information condensed to make your work easier. For instance, if you’re into playing casino games online, you’ll be able to get information and reviews about gaming websites and how much data they consume in this site. Online gaming is one of the least data-intensive things you can do online, so have fun and don't worry about your data cap!

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