3 ways video games are shaping Internet traffic

Madrid, 19 August 2019. Gamescom, Europe’s leading business platform of the games industry, is about to open its gates. The event will most likely bring exciting news about Google Stadia or Microsoft xCloud, some of the services that are setting the scene for the next gaming revolution, which will take place in the cloud. The industry is getting ready for a skyrocketing traffic demand with the arrival of these platforms. However, at the same time, the challenge is to make sure that latency is as low as possible to ensure an awesome gaming experience even on older PCs.

When the gameplay occurs 100 % in the cloud and all the data is processed and travels back and forth from the data center servers to the user’s device, it is paramount that latency is kept to the minimum in order for these services to succeed. DE-CIX, the world’s leading Internet Exchange operator, has analyzed the trends that are shaping the gaming industry in terms of Internet traffic. 

“We are moving from a form of multiplayer online gaming that just needed to transfer basic information – like the player’s position and actions within the game – to gameplays that are completely executed on remote servers and stream the entire graphics and videos in high quality to end consumers”, says Theresa Bobis, Regional Director South Europe at DE-CIX. “The data volume is clearly higher, and companies must prepare to minimize latency – which, when it comes to interconnection, means the time this information takes to travel back and forth from the data center to the device.”

There are 3 ways video games are shaping Internet traffic: 

  1. Servers are getting closer: Latency depends on many factors, including physical distance. Between the cities of Madrid and Frankfurt, this takes around 30 msec (round trip time), more than fast enough for standard content (such as emails), but perhaps insufficient for a good gaming experience. This means that industry-leading companies will not only exchange traffic in Frankfurt, New York, Amsterdam, or London, but are also moving to Southern Europe. The Spanish capital is especially attractive due to its high population index and geostrategic position, which have turned DE-CIX Madrid into the fastest growing Internet Exchange in the world, having doubled its traffic in the past year.

  2. Increasing data volume: In cloud-based video games, the gameplay data are transported as full stream between the data centers and the player's device. The bandwidth requirements are getting increasingly large as content demands a better and better picture quality: a standard HD stream requires between 3 and 5 Mbps, but if it's 4K quality, it can easily reach 20 to 50 Mbps, depending on compression. If expectations are met and cloud gaming takes off on a broad scale, traffic could increase dramatically, which would also affect bandwidth needs.

  3. Live stream game viewing also having an impact: In the second quarter of 2019 alone, more than 3 billion streaming hours of gaming were viewed, according to Streamlabs. Platforms like Twitch, YouTube, and Mixer are spearheading a trend that has great impact in terms of traffic. A Twitch livestream generates 10 mbps (non-4k!), a figure that increased incrementally for each person watching the gameplay. This means that if 12,000 people are following it, they produce 120 gigabits of traffic per second. These figures will keep growing as streaming quality increases to 4K or even 8K standards.