In context: With internet usage peaking during the current pandemic crisis, companies with large bandwidth requirements are beginning to cut back on their network speeds. Video streaming services were the first place restrictions by limiting HD resolutions. Sony has joined the effort by limiting download speeds for games sold on its digital storefront.
Update (03/27/20): It probably comes as no surprise that Sony is expanding its efforts to minimize bandwidth by slowing or delaying downloads on PSN. In an update to its original blog post regarding the European initiative, the company said it would "take similar measures" in the US and thanked the community for its patience in the matter.
"Beginning today, we will take similar measures in the United States, and we will continue to take appropriate action to do our part to help ensure internet stability as this unprecedented situation continues to evolve. We are grateful for the role we play in helping deliver a sense of community and entertainment in these very trying times. Thank you again for your support, your patience, and for being part of the PlayStation community. Please stay home and stay safe."
The company maintains that online gaming speeds will remain constant.
Sony is the latest to begin throttling broadband usage in Europe due to stay-at-home orders caused by the coronavirus. Today the company announced it would limit PlayStation download speeds in the EU, adding that multiplayer gaming would remain unaffected.
“We believe it is important to do our part to address internet stability concerns as an unprecedented number of people are practicing social distancing and are becoming more reliant on internet access,” said Sony Interactive Entertainment CEO Jim Ryan. “Players may experience somewhat slower or delayed game downloads but will still enjoy robust gameplay.”
Netflix started the bandwidth-restricting ball rolling last week by dialing back streaming bitrates for at least 30 days at the urging of EU officials. Amazon and YouTube also got on board with the recommendations on Friday. Disney+ and Facebook have capitulated as well. While these restrictions are primarily limited to the EU and UK for now, YouTube announced today that it would be extending its throttling efforts worldwide.
Sony is the first company to take steps to cut game-related usage to help mitigate the increasing internet congestion brought on by social distancing and people working from home. It will be interesting to see if others follow suit.
While digital storefronts like Steam and Epic can reduce download rates without too much blowback, services like Stadia, GeForce Now, and other game-streaming platforms would be hard-pressed to reduce bandwidth. Streaming games is not the same as streaming video, and even a slight reduction in bitrate can lead to issues far beyond the scope of image quality.
So far, there are no indications that platforms like these are feeling pressure to minimize bandwidth, but things could change as the hysteria continues.
Masthead credit: oneinchpunch