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Network Capacity & the Covid-19 Crisis

In this unprecedented situation, video games are an important way for players and families to interact by playing together, to stay in touch with friends, to learn through educational game modules, to engage in physical activity while at home and to enjoy culture through virtual visits. 

Fixed and mobile network resilience is a central issue for UK Government given how much of our lives now depends on them. The network is currently coping well, but this doesn’t prove there won’t be issues in the future, as demand for bandwidth may grow. In order to maintain network resilience it is advised that games companies observe the following guidelines:

  • Wherever feasible, large (gigabytes) downloads should be scheduled to occur during the hours of midnight to 8am UK time.
  • If this is not feasible, downloads should avoid peak periods of around 5pm to 11pm.
  • Other measures such as rolling downloads, phasing, rate limiting and offsetting may also help to spread the peak of download traffic.
  • Advanced warning of significant forthcoming releases or updates would help to ensure network readiness.

Video games are not typically streamed and streaming is still a very small part of the industry. For normal game play, including through multiplayer mode, or when a player interacts through social communications facilities, the impact on the network is low compared to popular audiovisual streaming services. The majority of video games can be played in an offline mode.

Because streaming is not the way that video games are typically enjoyed, the impact that video games may have on network capacity is limited and may only arise at the point of download, for example, when downloading a new game release and when updating a title.  

To mitigate potential network issues due to downloads during the Covid-19 crisis, video game publishers and platforms are being advised to take measures such as installing slots (so-called rolling-out schedules) for downloads of new releases to ensure these happen late at night to early morning when the internet usage is low, and this according to territories and time zones.

Importantly, video games companies are encouraged to work hand in hand with their partners, the internet service providers, the content delivery networks and the platforms to monitor patterns and to address, early on, any network issues caused by releases or updates by implementing  mitigation measures.  

Video game companies and their trade associations across Europe and globally are working to contribute to the wider effort against COVID-19 by informing the sector and players on measures to take to limit the pandemic. They provide families with tips and guidance on how to structure gameplay sensibly, to use parental control tools and family settings.

Ukie also has a page dedicated to signposting games businesses to routes of support from government as beyond. In addition to this, our Ukiepedia has a page linking to other resources on COVID19.