March 27, 2020
Due to increased Internet traffic during the coronavirus, YouTube will reduce the quality of its streaming videos to standard definition for a month. Viewers will, however, be able to choose to watch in high definition. In instituting lower resolution, the Google-owned company is extending the policy enacted in Europe, where regulators asked all streaming companies — including Netflix and Amazon Prime Video — to do so. Sony, Microsoft and others are also working to minimize the impact of game downloads on bandwidth.
Bloomberg reports that, “while YouTube viewing has historically spiked in the evening when people are off work, consumption is now more steady across the day.” Last year, reported Sandvine, “Google was the largest consumer of traffic volume on the Internet last year, just ahead of Netflix.”
YouTube, which “already limits the quality of video based on the strength of a user’s Internet connection,” stated that the world will not “run out of Internet bandwidth any time soon but is taking a preemptive measure given growing concerns at the government level.”
TechCrunch reports that, “although streaming video is of course a major contributor, games are a huge, if more intermittent, burden on the network.” Content delivery network Akamai is now “working with leading distributors of software, particularly for the gaming industry, including Microsoft and Sony, to help manage congestion during peak usage periods.”
Gaming software downloads, said Akamai in a post, accounts for “large amounts of Internet traffic when an update is released.” For example, the new “Call of Duty: Warzone” — if the user didn’t already own the latest CoD title — was “a more than 80- gigabyte download, equivalent to dozens of movies on Netflix.” Game developers are currently releasing “tons of high-profile games.”
Steam “posted a record 20 million concurrent players the other day, and one analysis saw a 400 percent increase in gaming traffic.” In response, gaming downloads are being “throttled for the foreseeable future, at least in some markets,” said Sony Interactive Entertainment chief executive Jim Ryan, who warned that, “players may experience somewhat slower or delayed game downloads.”
But TechCrunch points out that, “unlike downloading games, playing games is a remarkably low-bandwidth task.” It advises gamers to “set your games to be downloaded overnight, as local infrastructure will be less taxed while everyone in your region is asleep.”