By Elena Slavoski June 20, 2017
So the video gamer in your house insists their gaming time isn’t the reason for the data overages you may be experiencing, but all those hours playing video games must be using up all your data, right? Well, maybe. To find your data-gobbling culprit, let’s start by looking at a few possible factors: Downloading new games, automatic updates, and playing multiplayer online games.
First, downloading new games. Video games are huge files these days, with some games requiring anywhere from 40-80 GB. For example, Elder Scrolls Online takes up almost 65 GB!
Patches and downloadable content are data hogs, too. It may surprise non-gamers to learn that most modern games, even single-player titles, exchange data over the internet whenever a user is online. These can be quick checks that use a tiny amount of data, or giant patches that add features and fix bugs. If you’re lucky enough to own a Playstation 4 Pro (or the forthcoming Xbox One X), some games will try to download 5 GB or more in updates the very first time you load them up! So:
- Make sure to turn off automatic downloads and updates. This prevents programs from updating in the background, so you won’t burn through data without knowing it.
- When using distribution software such as Steam and uPlay, manually turn off automatic updates or only update during a specific time period specified in your Settings menu.
- Make sure to only update a game when you want to play it, or when you are sure you have sufficient data.
- If you have a Viasat plan that has a Free Zone, that’s a good time to download and update games, since they won’t count against your data allowance. You can also plan these bigger downloads right before your bill date resets. That way, even if you blow past your allowance, you’ll get a quick reset.
Next, multiplayer games. Data usage varies depending on what type of video game you’re playing, either multiplayer or single-player. Generally, single-player games do not use as much data after they are downloaded because they do not need to constantly access the internet to function. Multiplayer games usually use more data than single-player games because you interact with other players, so the game is constantly exchanging data with a server.
But beware! Even if there are fewer players on your multiplayer server, you could still be using as much data as playing on a large multiplayer game. Although fewer players may be interacting on your screen, the other players may still registered in the data packet. The game is still updating all of the players, even those who are offline. To be on the safe side, monitor your time spent on multiplayer games.
It is actually super difficult to play video games this way.
It’s also helpful to understand the difference between multiplayer games that store most of their assets locally on your hard drive (League of Legends, Hearthstone, Overwatch, Dota 2, World of Warcraft) and web browser-based games that are constantly downloading the sights and sounds as you play (Runescape, From Dust, Candy Crush Saga Online). Locally stored games tend to use less data, since much of the work is done on your own computer. However, video games played on a browser have to download textures, images and music, which can use up a lot of bandwidth. Try to limit your time on browser-based games.
Voice chatting does use data whenever a player transmits his or her voice to another player, but generally it’s not a huge data hog in and of itself.
Are you a fan of gaming on your phone? Fear not! Playing video games on your phone may be hard on your battery life, but it’s typically not too bad for your Viasat data plan. As long as you keep your phone connected to Wi-Fi and keep and eye on your usage, you should be OK.
Just remember that if you’re playing lots of mobile games on the go, you may run out of data with your cellular service provider. When the Pokemon GO craze hit in 2016, gamers were playing for hours at a time all week. Because these players were out of range of Wi-Fi and using cell phone data, many hit their data limits with their cell service providers.
Just remember, there are some exceptions. Some mobile multiplayer games download a portion of the game when you need it. When you reach a new area, the new portion you need is downloaded, oftentimes in large chunks.
In order to catch ‘em all without worrying about hitting your data cap, disable the app’s background data on cellular networks in the game settings and only play for an hour at a time.
So, are video games making you go over your data limits? Yes and no. The bottom line is that data usage varies among online games. To be on the safe side:
- Turn off automatic updates
- Limit your time spent on multiplayer online games
- Disable the app’s background data when playing on your phone