Here’s How Much Data Online Gaming Actually Uses

Here’s How Much Data Online Gaming Actually Uses
Image: Blizzard
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Earlier this week Bill Morrow blamed gamers for congesting NBN’s fixed wireless network, and though a correction has been issued retracting this statement, there still seems to be a belief that gamers are among the NBN’s ‘heavy users’. So how does gaming’s data use actually stack up to things like streaming video?

The Internet Reacts To NBN CEO Blaming Gamers For Congestion

A parliamentary hearing in Sydney got an extra touch of spice yesterday, after the chief executive of NBN Co appeared to finger one group of users supposedly responsible for congestion on NBN's fixed wireless network: gamers.

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You probably won’t be surprised to hear that the data use from gaming is much lower than streaming video: on average, games will only use around a third of the data of streaming Netflix in SD, let alone HD or 4K streaming.

WhistleOut has crunched the numbers on a number of popular games to see just how data hungry they are.

At the top of the list is Destiny 2, using around 300MB an hour, followed by CS:GO at 250MB per hour. Dota 2 and Overwatch are the next highest at 120 and 135MB per hour respectively.

Other popular games like PUBG, World of Warcraft and League Of Legends are even lower, with each of them between 40 and 45MB per hour. You can see the full list at the link above.

So how does that stack up to video streaming? According to another WhistleOut guide, the only video streaming service that’s on par with even the most data hungry games is ABC iView on standard definition or Netflix on low definition, using 300MB an hour each.

If you want to stream in HD, you’re looking at a minimum of 675MB per hour for SBS on Demand, or 3GB an hour for HD Netflix. Want a 4K stream? Netflix and Stan will both eat up 7GB an hour, while Amazon Prime Video is only a little lower at 6.75GB per hour. A little 100MB for games here and there doesn’t seem so bad now, does it?

NBN Says They Weren't Blaming Gamers At All

Following a solid round of criticism over the last 24 hours over comments at a parliamentary hearing in Sydney, NBN Co has issued a statement. NBN chief executive, Bill Morrow, didn't blame gamers for congestion on the fixed wireless network at all.

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Of course there’s one place where gaming is heavy on data: downloads. With more people buying games digitally, and even physical games coming with hefty update files, game downloads can eat up a whole lot of data in a short time. Hell, Alex even managed to shut down our office internet with a single Star Citizen update.

So if you are one of those gamers playing on NBN fixed wireless, you might want to hold off all those Steam updates for a quieter, off-peak time.

If you want to see all the figures in one place, the ABC has a handy chart showing that gamers actually use very little compared to all those Netflix binge-watchers.


  • YouTube is a massive offender here too. I’ve had to rate limit my daughter’s iPad on my pfSense firewall just so I can connect to gaming services such as Xbox live (from Windows) and uPlay.

  • What i wanna know is how destiny manages to burn through 300mb an hour. that seems huge for an online game Considering wow which is a massive MMO doesnt come close to it.

    • Depends on what actually needs to be sent. Generally games need low latency but not loads of data – it’s just updating the game world state with the server. I’m guessing that WOW or other MMORPGS don’t need to update as many things server side unless they’re in a busy area – I assume the client does a bit more of the work and there’s less packets to send.

      I guess with an FPS there’s constant movement and shooting that needs to be tracked and results in more data over time, and little opportunity for compression since it’s fast paced. Destiny and CS are using about the same so it must be inherent to the kind of game. Just guessing.

      • There are MMO’s that would need similar. Planetside for starters, and Defiance. Both are shooters, and Defiance at least doesn’t work off target locking or anything that would reduce the need for accuracy. Havent played Planetside, so not sure how their targeting works.

        Defiance can be quite twitchy at times, so I wonder how its data rate looks. Up close and shotgunny is fairly common.

        I expect how Destiny sets its maps up would play a big role. Each map is broken up into segments, and you can pop in and out of segments to essentially reset them. Keeping track of that would be complicated, and I expect quite data intensive.

    • OK, I will try to explain with a mixture of only a basic understanding and my horrible way at explaining things, so others feel free to correct or add to what I say, I am in no way an expert.

      Most of the data that gets sent through is relates to movement and actions (telemetry?) a game like wow is lets be honest rather slow, movement and action wise. So the amount of data needed to be sent through is reduced, positions don’t need to be updated as rapidly etc, as opposed to destiny with people bouncing around every at near the speed of light.

      Wow also only concerns itself with your local area, so you are only updated to people movements in the local area, where as destiny updates every action by every person on that map at the time.

      Wow has also spent years and years on algorithms for prediction and other ways to reduce data consumption and bandwidth requirements, which I don’t think too many games these days worry about as much, remember how old wow is, although requirements are higher these days people used to play it on dialup, so it has always been based off using the minimum bandwidth requirements.

      • The movement bit for WoW is less about pace and more that it doesn’t matter much if the exact position of other players isn’t accurate. It’s “lock on” targeting rather than skill/active targeting so they can afford to update less often/send less data.

        I vaguely remember watching a video from some game devs at some point about latency and how it compares in fps vs rpg etc and the reasons for different priorities.

    • I’d imagine PVP wouldn’t take as much. But co-op PVE would considering the world and NPC’s would need to be updated for every player in the same zone and then when you have multiple randoms popping in and out of game this would be compounded.

  • There is one situation where online gaming can really punish the network, and that’s when a major update hits. Everyone goes to play Overwatch or Fortnite for the evening and discovers they need a big patch. So you have a large number of users wanting to get that done ASAP in a narrow time frame.

  • Also something that needs to be taken in account as well is how much packets a game is sending on a regular basis.
    Maybe a latency sensitive game such as Destiny is pumping out huge amounts of packets that can saturate a fixed wireless link ??
    I am one of those people with a little bit extra bits of knowledge to be dangerous, so please correct me if I am wrong.

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