PS5 and Xbox Series X Launches are Destroying Data Caps, Breaking Internet Use Records

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The fall season is always a heavy time for gaming, and that’s before you account for a pandemic keeping people indoors, new consoles launching, and digital game updates and file sizes being bigger than ever. Last week’s launch of the Xbox Series X and PS5 consoles, along with game downloads and updates, caused a huge surge in internet traffic, making people exceed their data caps and even breaking records for ISPs in the UK (where the PS5 hasn’t even officially launched yet).

The BBC reported last week that BT, Virgin Media, Sky, TalkTalk, Vodafone, City Fibre and Zen Internet all saw a huge spike in data demand on Tuesday November 10th when the Xbox Series X launched. As players received the new console and began downloading new games, the providers hit record numbers.

BT had 18 terabits per second at its peak, the equivalent of 1,510 hours of high-definition video every second. Virgin Media saw an increase of 30% over the previous month. Zen said the demand was 11.6% higher than its previous peak. The other providers reported similar increases and spikes across the board for Tuesday and Wednesday in particular as new players got their consoles loaded up with games and updates. Being in the UK, these ISPs have commented about needing to account for this week’s PS5 launch as well.

BBC notes that Tuesday November 10th had a number of other factors that could have impacted data usage in addition to the new console arriving in many players’ homes:

  • Call of Duty Modern Warfare/Warzone update (~65 GB)
  • Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War preload (~130 GB)
  • Destiny 2 Beyond Light launch (~65 GB)
  • Assassin’s Creed Valhalla release (~60 GB, 8 GB Day One update)

Many of the previous reported data spikes from these ISPs line up with the launch of new Call of Duty seasons, with both the Season Four (June) and Season Five (August 5th) launches cited as major traffic days. Given the enormity of downloads required for the new Seasonal updates and more than 80 million people playing Call of Duty Warzone, it’s not hard to see why the franchise’s seasonal update cadence would have an impact on internet data use.

Reports about data use last week in the US aren’t as easy to find, but a number of players have been reporting nearing or breaking through their data caps with the new consoles. After receiving the PS5 for review in late October, I received a notice I’d never seen before from Xfinity, “You are at 95% of your monthly data limit.” Similarly, before the November 12th US launch of the PS5, I had already eaten up 75% of my 1.2TB data cap for the month. As of now, I’m worried about making it to the end of the month on what I have left. Others on the PSLS staff have reported going over their monthly limit thanks to receiving their new PS5s and downloading a bunch of games right away.

COVID-19 lockdowns in March created a surge in internet use as people began working remotely from home and turning to data intensive activities like streaming video and online video games to pass the time. Along with the prevalence of digital games and frequent updates to games being more common, the networks had already been stressed this year.

Now that the new consoles are in players’ homes—except this week’s UK launch of the PS5—ISPs should start seeing collective spikes spread out a little more. Early December may cause another spike thanks to the launch of Season One of Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War and the Destiny 2 next-gen update that will optimize Bungie’s looter shooter for the new consoles.

Has your internet been strained thanks to the launch of the new consoles? How much data did you use putting new games on your PS5? Let us know in the comments below.

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