Xbox Live is Microsoft’s online multiplayer gaming and entertainment network. It connects Microsoft’s Xbox gaming consoles, smartphones, and computers to its online gaming, music streaming, and on-demand video services. Xbox 360, Xbox One, and PC gamers can access a limited number of Xbox Live’s features (like avatars, game saving, and the Xbox Live Arcade) free of charge through Live Free. Gamers who subscribe to Live Gold, the network’s paid service, can access premium features like free games, live broadcasting, online multi-player gaming, and game DVR. Xbox Live restricts most features to Gold members who pay the $60 monthly fee . Through the Games with Gold program, Microsoft gives Live Gold subscribers access to two complementary games per month. For Xbox 360 gamers, these downloads belong permanently to the subscriber, even if he or she terminates his or her account. For Xbox One gamers (like for all PlayStation gamers using the PlayStation Network), the games are available only as long as the gamer remains a Live Gold member. Microsoft typically releases desirable games (in the past: Tomb Raider: Definitive Addition, Halo: Spartan Assault, and Assasin’s Creed IV: Black Flag) through Live Gold. So, what kind of impact does Xbox Live have on bandwidth? To get an idea, we crowd-sourced numbers for some of the most popular Xbox games of 2015: 1. Halo 3: Without voice, Halo 3 uses approximately 40 MB of data per hour . 2. Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 (COD:BO2): The game uses approximately 15 MB of data per hour if you are a client and 30-40 MB per hour if you are a host . Note that COD is also compatible with PlayStation, Wii, and PC.
The PlayStation Network (PSN)
The PlayStation Network (PSN) is Sony’s online entertainment network. It connects the electronics giant’s PlayStation gaming consoles, tablets, smartphones, Blu-Ray players, and HDTVs to its online gaming, music streaming, and video streaming services. PlayStation Vita, PlayStation 3, and PlayStation 4 gamers can access the PSN’s standard gaming features (like auto-updates, free games, remote play, and live broadcasting) free of charge. Gamers who subscribe to PSN Plus, the network’s paid service, can access additional features like demos, discounts, full game trials, and 3 GB of saved game storage. Sony also releases six complementary games per month to PSN Plus subscribers. The cumulative value of these games can be significant; in 2014, Sony released 72 games that, altogether, were worth over $1,300 . Considering an annual subscription costs $50 , PSN Plus is a good value for PlayStation gamers who like to play the field of new games, rather than stick to one or two favorite titles. To determine the impact the PSN has on bandwidth, we crowd-sourced numbers for some of the most popular PlayStation games of 2015: 1. Minecraft: The average Minecraft user on a multiplayer server uses 100 MB of data per hour . Note that Minecraft is compatible with PlayStation, Xbox, and PC. 2. Killzone: Shadow Fall: The game uses approximately 195 MB of data per hour . 3. Battlefield 4: This game uses approximately 65 MB of data per hour . Note that Battlefield 4 is compatible with PlayStation, Xbox, and PC.
The Nintendo Network
The Nintendo Network is (obviously) Nintendo’s online gaming network. It gives the video game company’s Nintendo 3DS and Wii U gaming consoles online gaming and video streaming capability. It also connects smartphones, tablets, and computers to its online gaming Miiverse. Nintendo 3DS, 3DS XL, 2DS and Wii U gamers can access all of the Nintendo Network’s gaming features (like Miiverse sharing, online multi-player gaming, matchmaking, and system updates) free of charge. The Nintendo Network never bills console owners (or members using Miiverse on smartphones, tablets, or computers) to use the network. The most tangible advantage of the Nintendo Network is the ability to network with other gamers through the Miiverse and through online multi-player gaming. While the Nintendo Network provides the same essential features of multi-player gaming as Xbox Live and the PSN (admittedly, sometimes to lesser success), Nintendo approaches its network with a different philosophy. By including the entirety of the Nintendo Network free with every Nintendo system, the company embraces online gameplay as a natural extension of console gaming. To determine the impact the Nintendo Network has on bandwidth, we crowd-sourced numbers for the some of the most popular Nintendo Network games: 1. FIFA 14: This classic game uses approximately 30 MB of data per hour . Note that the FIFA titles are also available on Xbox, PlayStation, and PC. 2. Super Smash Bros.: The online version of the Super Mario-esque fighting game uses about 15 Kbps/per active opponent. That averages out to about 70 MB per hour of play .
Dedicated servers connect the most decentralized of the gaming subcategories, PC gaming, to networks that facilitate online multi-player gaming. These servers transmit information efficiently between clients who are playing the same game (more efficiently than using a shared server), but cost money to run. To address this problem, video game companies will oftentimes sponsor servers for their games. If this is not the case, gamers must pay to play on a dedicated server. Gaming servers transmit at two speeds. A 128 tick server updates 128 times per second, which gives clients the more accurate account of gameplay. A 64 tick server updates 64 times per second, which gives clients an adequate, if not ideal, account of gameplay. For games that require fast reaction time, like first person shooters, playing on a 128 tick server will actually improve your game. Note that, if you have a 60Hz monitor, the limitations of your hardware mean it is unlikely you will see a tangible difference between 64 and 128 ticks. As a subcategory, online PC gaming is most celebrated for the massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG). To determine the impact that PC gaming has on bandwidth, we crowd-sourced numbers for the five most popular MMORGs, according to online gaming platform Raptr : 1. League of Legends: An average 5v5 game takes 35 minutes to play and uses approximately 35 MB of data, so, on average, LoL uses 60 MB of data per hour . 2. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive: If a player uses a 64 tick server the game uses approximately 87 MB of data per hour. If a player uses a 128 tick server, the game uses approximately 246 MB of data per hour . 3. World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor: In WoW, play style determines data use. Playing solo and refraining from trade and general both decrease bandwidth use. To illustrate how much usage varies: raids use approximately 25 MB of data per hour  while a 30v30 standoff in Alterac Valley uses approximately 160 MB of data per hour . 4. DOTA 2 (Defense of the Ancients 2): Anecdotally, a game of 42 minutes uses 70 MB of data , so, on average, DOTA 2 uses somewhere around 100 MB of data per hour. 5. World of Tanks: WoT uses a very limited amount of data, by several accounts between 10 and 20 MB per hour .
Lowering the graphics settings in the game control panel (by decreasing the screen resolution, lowering render quality, and lowering texture resolution) will reduce bandwidth usage, as will turning off background music or playing the game on mute. On a computer, decrease anti-alias (which smooths edges) and anisotropic filtering (which enhances textures) in the graphic card settings to save data. On a gaming console, reduce the graphics scaler or disable HDMI to save data.
Downloading Games, Updates, and Patches
nothing eats data like game downloads. There are three ways to avoid wasting data on pesky downloads: (1) seek out public Wi-Fi at, for example, a local library during the download, (2) buy the physical disk, or (3) rent the physical disk, download the game, and then purchase the rights to the game online. Like the initial download, a game update or patch uses a lot of data. If you’re using a computer, turn off automatic updates and, instead, download updates manually when you are connected to public Wi-Fi.
Live Streaming Gameplay
Live streaming gameplay uses a huge amount of data. Streaming via Twitch.tv, for example, uses approximately 780 MB of data per hour (best quality, upload only) . To save data, stream sparingly.