Coffee Break – Game Updates Are Killing Me and My Terrible Internet

Coffee Break is a place for the GameRevolution staff to air their thoughts and share their grievances. Reading over coffee isn’t a requirement, but it is a very strong suggestion.

I recently moved home and after enjoying 300 Mbps download speeds for the past four years, I’m now lumbered with a pitiful 11 Mbps. Virgin Media can’t supply to my area after previously stating that it could (*shakes fist until the end of time*), and the usual range of fiber optic options aren’t available here, either, so I’m now stuck in internet purgatory with Sky cable. I leave my PC on overnight if I wish to download something, and I leave the bathroom door open when using my phone as the router’s signal doesn’t reach upstairs. Kill me.

The modern gaming industry is incredibly reliant on players having decent internet speeds. I’ve never really had to put too much thought into it, sitting atop my high-speed ivory tower, though this has been a painful awakening. Call it a first-world problem all you like, but this is kinda my job, so waiting for 17 years for a Forza Horizon 4 patch to install is more than a little infuriating.

In the past couple of weeks, there have been a few separate news stories describing how major upcoming releases will require significant day one updates or patches. Fallout 76 was given a whopping 47 GB update, effectively replacing the entire base game, while Spyro Reignited Trilogy would reportedly require an additional 17.6 GB download. In the case of the former, 56 GB is larger than the game itself, meaning that installing it and then its subsequent patch came to a total of 103 GB. In the case of the latter, Activision only put the first game on the disc, with Spyro 2 and having to be downloaded. Not only that but additional day one updates take its download size all the way up to 67.5 GB.

Just Make Your Damn Game Updates Smaller

slow download games

This is clearly preposterous, but it’s becoming increasingly common. For someone dealing with my pitiful download speeds, physical copies of games are often the only reasonable solution. However, with day one updates and patches becoming increasingly sizable, those who just want to play the games they’ve bought are finding modern gaming to be increasingly inaccessible. Thank god for the relatively underpowered Nintendo Switch, which packs the likes of Pokemon Let’s Go into a 5 GB download.

The UK, where I’m being held captive with terrible internet, has an average broadband speed of a pitiful 16.51 Mbps (via Wired). The US fares much better with an average speed of 93.98 Mbps (via NCTA), with millions of dollars having been invested in its infrastructure. However, you can still expect lower speeds than the advertised rate — for instance, with a Sky cable internet package, I’m getting around 8Mbps. This means that a routine League of Legends update gave me an ETA of 320 minutes.

With these internet speeds, day one patches are a way to ensure that I won’t actually get to play a game on day one. The US may be improving its online infrastructure, but the UK is lagging behind considerably, and extensive updates ensure that many games are rendered unplayable at launch. It also means that physical copies are often the only option, which is a bit of a problem considering the gaming industry is steadily moving towards a digital-only future.

FORTY-SEVEN GIGABYTES?!

slow download speeds game updates

Unfortunately, this leaves people like me stuck without much in the way of a solution. The government has stated that UK homes and business will have a legal right to high-speed internet by 2020, though this “high-speed” internet is a paltry 10 Mbps. If games keep launching in unfinished states, and patch download sizes such as Fallout 76‘s become the common standard, those of us with poor speeds will have to add an extra day onto release dates.

I’m currently having to manage my downloads on an evening in order to ensure that I’ll get a chance to play my games the following day. For those who buy one or two releases per year, this isn’t such an issue, but for anyone who likes to keep on top of the latest video games then let me tell ya; it’s a pain in the backside. I highly doubt anyone in the games industry is planning to take into account internet speeds like mine in the near future, but that won’t prevent me from complaining about it on the internet.