How Much Data Does Online Gaming Use? Spend Your Bandwidth Wisely
Updated: May 09,2022
Online gaming has come a long way from its humble beginnings in the 1990s. Back then, most people would go to gaming rooms or host LAN parties, as dial-up and early cable internet were too slow and unreliable for competitive gaming. Fast forward to 2021, and we have lightning-fast Wi-Fi adapters that allow 4k streaming and download entire music discographies within minutes. With these advances in internet technology came bigger and more bandwidth-intensive games. So, how much data does online gaming use these days? Let’s find out.
Gaming and Video Streaming - Myth vs. Reality
If you’ve ever experienced internet sharing (with family members or flatmates) as a gamer, you’re probably rather annoyed at other people in the household blaming your gaming habits for hogging up all the bandwidth.
Contrary to popular belief, average data usage while gaming online is much lower than what you may spend watching HD+ videos on YouTube or streaming your favorite TV shows on HBO or Netflix. Don’t believe us? Consider that Netflix can burn a staggering 3 GB per hour in HD mode and up to 7 GB per hour if you watch 4k content.
How much data does gaming use in comparison? Not even close to that much, for most games. Outliers are titles like Microsoft Flight Simulator and Destiny, which can burn through more than 300 MB of data per hour. Most games will spend far less than that. Bear in mind that competitive online shooters tend to be on the higher end of the scale, and graphics-intensive titles will typically spend more bandwidth for gaming than something like Minecraft. We’ve compiled a list containing the average PC data usage when gaming online. Xbox and PS4 data usage should be about on par and possibly slightly lower.
|Game||Data usage per hour (MB)|
|Black Desert Online||60|
|Call of Duty Black Ops 4||40|
|Call of Duty WWII||40|
|Call of Duty Modern Warfare||80|
|Counter-Strike: Global Offensive||250|
|Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout||70|
|Final Fantasy XIV||30|
|Guild Wars 2||50|
|GTA V Online||60|
|Heroes of the Storm||30|
|League of Legends||45|
|Monster Hunter: World||30|
|PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG)||80|
|Rainbow Six Siege||70|
|Sea of Thieves||40|
|Star Wars: The Old Republic||30|
|Team Fortress 2||80|
|The Elder Scrolls Online||40|
|World of Warcraft||40|
It’s important to note that these are, at best, average estimates regarding online gaming data usage. The actual numbers can vary a lot, depending on a large number of factors. Take a game like Minecraft, for example: Depending on the size of the server and the number of active players, data usage can range from less than 40 MB to more than 100 MB per hour. This is especially true with multiplayer games that support a large number of users.
Another important and often overlooked factor is the voice chat. Talking to people online while gaming will significantly increase bandwidth usage, whether you use Discord (or other third-party apps) or rely on the in-game voice chat functionality. How much data does online gaming use with voice chat? Again, this depends on the number of users playing the game and using voice chat. Expect it to add 50+ megabytes per hour to your tally, with the best mics on the market spending even more bandwidth to transmit high-quality audio.
How To Reduce Bandwidth Usage While Gaming
While many people these days use unlimited internet data plans, there are still situations in which you may have limited monthly bandwidth to spend. For example, playing games on a Wi-Fi hotspot will quickly eat up your limited monthly mobile internet allocation. So, what can you do to reduce the amount of bandwidth that gets used up when gaming? Well, a couple of things.
Gaming data usage depends on many factors you can’t control, for example, how optimized the game’s code is. There are also factors such as the size of the server population and the complexity of the data that needs to be transmitted. Finally, the aforementioned voice chat can, depending on the number of people talking, expend 50+ megabytes per hour all by itself.
There are, however, factors you can directly influence. As you can imagine, settings that make the game run better also mean less data expenditure. Background programs such as game launchers can also spike online gaming internet usage by downloading upgrades and patches in the background while you are gaming. With all that in mind, here are a few things you can do to reduce bandwidth usage while gaming:
- Turn off voice chat.
- Set texture size to medium or small.
- Reduce shadow and post-processing quality.
- Switch off anti-aliasing.
- Check for background processes such as game launchers running in the background and turn them off if they aren’t needed.
- Avoid downloading massive games and patches while on limited internet allocation, as they can quickly eat through your allotted monthly bandwidth.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much bandwidth does online gaming use per month? How about game streaming? It’s impossible to accurately answer these questions without knowing each individual’s gaming habits. Online games can spend anywhere between 3 and 300+ MB per hour, so depending on what’s being played, internet usage may vary dramatically. If we take that most popular games spend around 40 megabytes per hour and that your average gamer will game four hours a day, 20 days a month, we’re looking at about 3.2 gigabytes of internet data usage spent on gaming each month.
As a general rule, online gaming bandwidth usage tends to be much lower than streaming data usage, especially compared to streaming 4k videos through Netflix and similar services. With that said, some games, such as Destiny 2 and Microsoft Flight Simulator, make heavy use of your internet, almost comparable to streaming full HD video. Additionally, if you plan on gaming and streaming, prepare for much higher data usage as streaming video from your computer will spend as much, if not more, bandwidth than your actual gaming session.
If you have no other options, it’s great; if you do, you’re better off with traditional or optical internet. While modern mobile internet is faster and more reliable than ever, the bandwidth needed for gaming will quickly eat through your standard data caps, requiring you to get high capacity or unlimited plans which are typically very expensive. In addition to that, it’s worth remembering that wireless and gaming hotspot internet typically fails to match good old wired solutions in terms of speed and reliability.
Definitely. It’ll just take setting up a Wi-Fi hotspot on your phone and connecting your PS4 console to it. Until 5G becomes widespread, mobile internet will typically be worse than wired solutions, but this is an excellent option for gaming on the move and in areas where you can’t get wired internet. Just watch out for automatic game updates and other big downloads your PS4 may want to do once online, as these tend to swiftly kill most monthly data caps.
It should be for the majority of gamers, but not necessarily everyone. Check out our “How Much Data Does Online Gaming Use?” guide above to better understand how much popular games typically use per hour. Then, try to determine how many hours a day you usually game, and, finally, work out how many hours that is per month. Unless you are streaming Destiny 2 or playing other heavy-hitters, such as Microsoft Flight Simulator, a 50 gig per month data allocation should be just fine.
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With a degree in humanities and a knack for the history of tech, Jovan was always interested in how technology shapes both us as human beings and our social landscapes. When he isn't binging on news and trying to predict the latest tech fads, you may find him trapped within the covers of a generic 80s cyberpunk thriller.