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Cloud-Based Gaming Could Dramatically Boost Broadband Usage

Fiber optic
(Image credit: Pixabay)

NEW YORK—New forecasts from Kagan, the media research unit of S&P Global Market Intelligence, suggest that the ongoing move from console gaming to cloud-based gaming could dramatically boost broadband usage of gamers by 6x. 

That development could both put pressure on existing broadband networks and create new opportunities for operators to sell them higher bandwidth plans. 

The projections come at a time when broadband networks are facing a wave of new demand as video game publishers increasingly embrace cloud gaming services. 

Kagan estimates that console and PC gamers playing 42 hours a month, who transition from downloading software to streaming games via the cloud in HD, would consume six times more data and potentially need higher bandwidth plans to support their hobbies, according to Neil Barbour, the lead analyst for this analysis.

Key highlights from the analysis include:

  • It is forecast that the U.S. game console installed base will contract by 15.4 million units over the next five years, and many of those users are expected to transition to cloud gaming.
  • According to Kagan's spring 2022 U.S. Consumer Insights survey results, 69% of console owners play games weekly. If that percentage holds through the forecast, as many as 10.6 million frequent gamers could be moving from consoles to the cloud by 2026. That means each would consume an additional 378 GB of data per month on average, or 527% more than the average game download, which uses 60 GB of data, when playing for 42 hours on Xbox Cloud Gaming, which requires 20 megabits per second (Mbps) of bandwidth, Kagan predicted. 
  • Hardcore gamers who transition to the cloud would also be on the network for longer periods of time and require more connection stability than they would if they were just downloading or playing multiplayer games, Kagan reported. Gamers may also need more bandwidth, particularly if other members of the household are playing or streaming video concurrently. It is estimated that less than 13% of U.S. broadband users subscribed to 1 Gbps or higher in 2021, while more than two-thirds of broadband customers to 100 Mbps or higher.
  • The baseline for THE cloud gaming analysis is a 1080p stream running at 60 frames per second, a common expectation for hardcore gamers. Examples of cloud gaming client devices include streaming media devices and smart TVs.

George Winslow is the senior content producer for TV Tech. He has written about the television, media and technology industries for nearly 30 years for such publications as Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel News and TV Tech. Over the years, he has edited a number of magazines, including Multichannel News International and World Screen, and moderated panels at such major industry events as NAB and MIP TV. He has published two books and dozens of encyclopedia articles on such subjects as the media, New York City history and economics.