Hardware has long been the bottlenecking factor for fluid gaming performance, but the advent of online multiplayer games brings an entirely new determinant into the game – The Internet!
The fact that most gamers are still stuck with a metered connection, a natural question that begs to be asked is, “how much data does gaming use?”
Well, not everyone has access to a high-speed internet connection, even worse if your ISP has a cap on the monthly bandwidth. Does this mean that you won’t be able to enjoy your favorite titles with your friends?
Of course not! Online games use significantly less data than something like streaming shows on Netflix. However, the consumption depends upon various factors as well as the game you play.
Now if you’re curious to find out just how much data playing video games will use off of your broadband or cellular hotspot connection, read the full article.
Gaming Data Usage Per Hour of Popular Online Games
Just as we mentioned earlier, the usage will entirely depend on the title you play. Some games will use 10 times the data of some other ones; even the usage for a single game will vary depending on what you do in the game.
Before we go into breaking down the data consumption in-depth, here’s a chart showing average data used per hour of some popular video games.
|Title||Average Data Consumption Per Hour* (in MB)|
|Team Fortress 2||80|
|League of Legends||45|
* These values are just a rough estimate, and can vary based upon multiple factors such as the number of players, patches/updates, frame rate and resolution.
Online Gaming Data Consumption Explained
If you’re new to online gaming, it is important to understand what actually consumes the data. Not only this will help you in deciding upon the right internet plan for your needs but will ensure that you won’t hit your monthly limit in case of a metered connection.
The first and the most obvious scenario is downloading the game itself. Downloading will probably put the most dent on your monthly quota, but luckily it’s a one-off thing. Modern titles are no joke when it comes to the download size with games like COD:Warzone, Red Dead Redemption 2, Final Fantasy XV etc. coming at well over 100GB. Not only that, several games will throw patches & updates at you along the way, but more on that later.
With that out of the way, let’s move onto the gameplay itself.
Multiplayer games have to constantly send & receive data to and from the server, which then reflects in the form of gameplay. The size and amount of packets isn’t fixed, and depends upon several variables – how many players are in the game, frame rate, downloading patches on the go, loading unexplored locations etc. As a result, there might be cases where you may end up using just 10-15 MB of data over a couple hours, or even several GBs within an hour.
How Much Data Does Cloud Gaming Use?
In simple terms, cloud gaming refers to hosting the game on an online server instead of your computer. Think of cloud Gaming as something similar to streaming videos, except that you send a series of inputs to the cloud gaming server through your mouse, keyboard, controller and in return the server sends a stream of the gameplay based upon your instructions.
The downside to cloud gaming is that you need a consistent high-speed internet connection with a very low latency. A 10Mbps or more connection is preferred which then translates to a data usage of about 3 – 4.5 GB/hour, much more than a game running directly in your PC. But this allows for instant gameplay (no download required) as well as no hardware limitations.
How Much Data Does 4K Gaming Use?
Just like 4K video streaming, 4K Gaming is very resource intensive. Not only does it demand solid hardware, but huge amounts of bandwidth that can quickly eat up your monthly cap.
A fully-online platform like Google Stadia requires internet speeds of at least 35Mbps for 4K gaming. This comes up at almost 15.75GB per hour, yikes! On the other hand, Google recommends minimum 10Mbps speeds for 720p gaming, which will roughly use 4.5GB per hour. To put that side-by-side to that of Netflix: 4K streaming uses 7GB per hour and HD videos stand at about 700MB per hour.
Keep in mind that these higher data costs are associated with 4K online gaming, and not playing a game locally installed on your PC/console. In case of the latter, changing the resolution of a game doesn’t affect data use due to the fact that the graphics are already downloaded and installed in your system.
Patches and Updates
When it comes to online multiplayer games, the real data hog are going to be the never-ending updates (or patches). Whether you’re buying the games digitally or on disc, you will need to download and install those patches because most games require all the players to be on the same version (latest version).
The size of these patches varies a lot. Killzone and Assassin’s Creed 4 may have patches around 100MB each, whereas Battlefield 4 and Stars Wars Battlefront patches munch 15-25 GB from your bandwidth. With the advancements in gaming technology and internet, one can’t help but expect these to grow even more in the future.
What Do I Need to Keep in Mind?
There are a lot of variables when it comes to online gaming, and there is no fixed number for all the games out there. In general, one can infer that PC/console games will consume much less data than video streaming, and the average value stays around 40-100 MB/hour. On the other hand, cloud gaming can make a huge dent in your bandwidth and demands a consistent network.
As you now know, the greatest costs are associated with downloading the game files and subsequent patches, and as long as your internet can keep up with those, there is nothing you need to worry about.
If you are really concerned, the most important metric to look out for is the ping (read Latency), which is much more crucial than the bandwidth when it comes to online gaming. For optimal bandwidth use, you can always limit the frame-rate, turn off automatic updates and use an uncapped WiFi whenever possible.