The internet is truly a wonderful thing. It has managed to bring the world closer together than ever before and allowed for new and innovative ways to communicate and express ideas, as well as view content. The growth of the internet is happening exponentially, with more people than ever logging online. In the United Kingdom, for example, a study revealed that a staggering 89.3% of the population have internet connections in their homes. The internet can be used in many diverse and interesting ways, from emailing friends, family and peers; viewing online content on sites such as YouTube and Netflix, to uploading and downloading music or connecting with people from all around the world on social media as quickly as those in the local area. One of the newer ways that the internet is being increasingly utilised to fantastic effect is for online video gaming. What began in the arcades and moved into the home, has now grown from something often experienced alone or with a few friends, to a global reaching cultural phenomena, where people from any country in the world can play with and against others, often making friends in the process. It’s a massive industry too, with reports showing that 41% of internet users have played games online, and 23% play weekly, with that figure constantly rising – showing that online gaming is here to stay. With the growth of super-fast fibre broadband, online gaming has become more efficient and allowed for new and exciting ways that the internet to be used, making it indispensable to the thriving gaming community.
There is a multitude of ways that having an ultra-fast fibre broadband connection can benefit gamers, and we have listed examples of them below.
As the speeds and power of internet grow, the gaming community is increasingly moving away from physical games and services towards digital content. On PCs, games can be purchased digitally and downloaded directly to the hard drive via popular sites such as Steam and GoG. Similarly, all modern consoles such as PlayStation and Xbox have their own online stores that are easily accessible from the gaming menu, where digital versions of games can be downloaded directly to the hard drive of the console (depending on space). This benefits gamers in a number of ways. Firstly, there is no need to go out and actively purchase the game from a physical store, or wait for it to be delivered via an online retailer. There is also no possibility of the game being out of stock, as digital versions don’t have finite copies. This is particularly beneficial for the release of popular new games on launch days, where a gamer can avoid long queues at stores and the potential disappointment of it being out of stock, instead of sitting in the comfort of their own home and just waiting for it to download.
However, modern games are big. Average titles can easily be upwards of 40 gigabytes, not including any extra downloadable content. If you have a poor internet connection, this can equate to an entire day or more waiting for the game to download – whilst risking interruptions to the service, which will cause the process to be stopped. Fast fibre internet connections can download a game in a matter of hours, meaning that it can be left in the background whilst you go and do something else. Some of the highest fibre packages (like the Virgin Media VIVID 200Mbps package can often download a large game in under an hour). That is why if you’re going to be buying your games digitally, you need a fast fibre broadband connection.
Gameplay capturing is also becoming increasingly prevalent, with LetsPlay’ being among the most viewed content on the internet. This is where gamers (such as Pewdiepie) record their gaming sessions along with voice or video commentary via a game capture recoding card and then upload it to specific video streaming sites, such as YouTube or Twitch for others to view. If you are wondering just how popular this type of aspect to gaming is, you need only look again at PewDiePie, who has over 50 million subscribers to his YouTube channel. In addition, there were over 240 billion minutes of video uploaded to Twitch in 2015, roughly translating to around 400,000 years of recorded gameplay.
If you are looking into video capturing and uploading, you will need a fast fibre broadband connection. Whilst some consoles (such as PlayStation) allow you to instantly record twenty minutes of gameplay and upload it to a linked social media platform, this can still take a while to encode and distribute if the speeds are poor. With longer sessions captured via a video card, it is impossible to maintain a good regular upload stream if you have poor internet. Even with good quality speeds, a video game capture of 2 hours can often take several more hours to upload, due to these speeds being far slower than download speeds. It is essential to have a fast fibre internet package if you are looking to stream your gaming sessions, or create LetsPlay videos.
Latency and ping are terms that you will often hear in the online gaming community. It is important to have low latency in order to successfully enjoy playing games to their fullest potential (and help combat gaming rage, which is another frequent term used a lot with gamers)! So what exactly are latency and ping? Whilst used interchangeably there is actually a technical difference between the two. Ping is the signal sent from one computer (or console) to another connected to the same network (or server). The console or PC pings’ another and then that console or PC responds with its own ping. How long it takes in milliseconds for the returning ping to work its way back to the original device is measured as Latency. Therefore, the lower your latency, the better your online gaming experience will be. This is because high latency will create something called Lag. Lag is a high delay that can cause technical issues whilst gaming. A very good example of this is when playing a first person shooting game online – a bullet is fired at an enemy player, but due to Lag, by the time the game server has recognised the shot, the opposing player has moved to a new position, meaning that the bullet has not technical hit them, even though it appears that way on the screen of the person who fired the bullet. This is where you get the common occurrence of seemingly invincible’ players, who can get shot hundreds of times but suffer no damage. Similarly, in racing games, it might seem that an opposing player is behind you when in fact, they have already overtaken. It is clear to see why this would be absolutely infuriating to gamers and cause them to not want to play if latency was a constant factor. Having an Ethernet connection to your router on a super-fast fibre broadband is the most effective way to combat this issue. The better your connection, the lower your chances of latency. You might even end up being that invincible player!
With the evolution of the internet and gaming world, there is now a third option beyond buying physical or digital games – cloud gaming. Cloud gaming is a form of online game distribution that streams games directly from a server to the individual’s PC or video game console. PlayStation as its own service called PlayStation Now, where a library of popular games are available to stream directly (and be saved remotely) via a subscription service. There is no need for storage space as the games themselves are stored directly on the server, meaning more space left on the hard drive of the console. In PC terms it is also very important as it means that the technical specifications of the computer are largely unimportant as it is the server that handles all of the processing capabilities, and it is simply streaming the content to the computer in question (meaning cloud gaming is becoming increasingly popular for PC gamers). The commands of the console controller or mouse and keyboard are transmitted directly where they are noted and recorded and inputted into the game in extremely quick times. However, with cloud gaming, the need for good quality fibre speed is quite obvious. If there is a delay, then the quality of the image will be distorted, as will the speed at which the game operates as the incoming connection is delayed. In addition, button commands can be delayed causing severe issues for gaming enjoyment.
Traffic management is two words that can make any gamer shudder. Due to the internet growing at an exponential rate, and the new and demanding ways it is being used – film and music streaming, video calling, game playing for example – the available lines are becoming increasingly congested. Because of this many Internet Service Providers (ISPS) will often restrict the amount of online traffic on their servers during peak times (such as evenings and weekends), or give priority to certain types of traffic over others. This is known as traffic management. With more basic internet packages, it is usually these individuals who will be restricted first, with those who have more premium packages that run better speeds being given the priority VIP treatment during peak times. It isn’t fair, but it’s written into most of the agreements that people accept when they sign up to their provider. With that in mind, anyone who is serious about gaming needs to have a high-speed fibre broadband package where traffic management isn’t an issue. An example of this is the Virgin Media VIVID 200 Gamer tier, one of the best on the market (which is explained in greater detail later).
If you feel that you aren’t getting the performance you need in order to be able to game online effectively, there are a number of different things that you can do to improve the situation. Listed below are a couple of tips to get you back up at the top of the leader scoreboard.
Speed upgrade. In order to counteract the infuriating element of gaming latency, it is important to have internet speeds that are a minimum of 15 Megabits per second (Mbps). You might think that a connection of around this will, therefore, be sufficient in order to game without issues. However, you might not have taken into account other devices such as tablets, phones and personal computers that are also connected to your internet connection – and using it to view online content or listen to music – which will likely be putting the heavy strain on your bandwidth and causing your gaming to suffer as a result. If you have multiple devices in the home all hooking up to the internet, or there are others who might be using their computers or phones whilst you are gaming, then you need to look at upgrading your internet speeds. In a normal home with an average of about 4 devices connected, speeds of around 20Mbps on a fibre broadband connection should be sufficient.
Use an Ethernet cable rather than Wi-Fi. It is never a great idea to connect a gaming console or PC to the internet via Wi-Fi, as not only will this reduce you’re the amount of bandwidth available, but you will also be susceptible to black spots in the home and unexpected dropout, which could ruin your gaming session. (There is nothing more frustrating than being in the middle of a frantic Deathmatch online and have your game suddenly throw you back to the title screen along with an error message). To counteract this, connect your console or PC directly to your router via the use of an Ethernet cable, which will give you speeds that are over ten times faster than what you would get via Wi-Fi. These types of cables are who can get shot hundredsincredibly cheap and can be bought in a large variety of lengths, so even if your setup is really far away from where you keep your router, with a bit of clever cable maneuvering, you can still connect. After all, you can always remove it and gather up the cable once the gaming session is over. Keep the Wi-Fi for your general day-to-day use, and keep an Ethernet cable handy for those hardcore online gaming sessions.
Protect your Wi-Fi. If for any reason you can’t use an Ethernet cable, then you need to ensure that your Wi-Fi connection is protected. It might go without saying, but an open and available wireless network will not only make you susceptible to hacking and other security breaches, but it also means that people in your local area can piggyback off your paid for internet connection, draining your bandwidth whilst they enjoy your service for free. This isn’t a huge issue if it only happens from time to time, but they will destroy your bandwidth if they start downloading, uploading or gaming online using your connection. All you need to do is choose a strong password that only you and the people in your home know, which will keep the freeloaders at bay.
Optimise other programs for better speeds. If you are using a PC, there might be other applications that are running, which are draining your bandwidth. Services such as security and virus scanners, chat applications, and automatic updates can all eat into your internet speed and end up reducing your gaming capacity. If you postpone these or switch them off whilst you are gaming, you are much more likely to get a better experience. For consoles, make sure that there aren’t any downloads or updates running, or other game programs running. (With the latter this isn’t usually a problem as the console will only let you play one game at a time.) Also, make sure that you aren’t allowing someone to game share with you at the time you’re playing unless that is specifically what you want as that can also slow down speeds dramatically.
One of the very best UK fibre broadband packages available for gamers to really get the most out of their online experience is Virgin Media’s Vivid 200 Gamer, which offers an insanely high download speed of up to 200Mbps, along with an incredible upload speed of 20Mbps. Right now it is quite simply the fastest internet package available and an absolute essential for anyone serious about gaming. The connection is completely unlimited, so there will be absolutely no capping on the level of downloading, and the fair user policy is non-existent, meaning that you can game away to your heart’s content. Gregor McNeil, managing director of Virgin Media explained with tongue in cheek how with Vivid 200 the gamer “takes our leading ultrafast broadband to boss-mode levels.” He went on to explain how lag and unexpected disconnections along with bandwidth issues can be very infuriating to gamers, so they “wanted to design a tier that builds on our superior connectivity to give gamers and streamers what they need.”
So what exactly do you get for your money? Below is a list of benefits that you’ll get with the Virgin Media VIVID 200 Gamer package:
• Up to 200Mbps download speeds as well as up to 20Mbps upload speeds.
• A free phone that includes weekend and evening calls
• No traffic management, which means that your access will never be restricted, no matter when you go online.
• Made for gamers – allowing you to play online, stream gameplay and chat all at the same time without any disruption to speed or high latency.
• Faster uploads, giving you lots of extra bandwidth for getting your content online.
• Unlimited broadband, meaning that you can have as much data as you need without fear of being capped or slapped on the wrists under the fair user policy.
How much does it cost?
• The VIVID Gamer 200 package is £50 a month for the first 12 months
• Prince increases to £58 a month thereafter
• There is also a £14.99 activation fee.
If you think this package might be one that would suit your gaming needs, then it is worth speaking to Virgin and asking them if there is some wiggle room on what they can offer – such as knocking off the setup cost, or giving you a slight discount on the monthly cost. Whilst there is no real alternative on the market at the moment, don’t be afraid to mention good prices from other competitors. Companies like Virgin are businesses after all and they want your custom, meaning that they might try and sweeten the deal a little to get you on board. It is always worth asking the question rather than not – after all you won’t know unless you try. One other important thing to note is that in the UK fibre isn’t currently available in all areas. The coverage is getting much better and increasing daily, but if you find that it currently isn’t near you (which you can check via an online postcode scanner on ISP providers like Virgin Media’s website), it might be worth taking a shorter term broadband package with someone else and returning once it has become available to you.
The internet is an absolute haven for gamers who are increasingly turning online for all of their video gaming needs. With amazing connectivity to other gamers, the ability to share and play games with friends and family, streaming them directly from servers without worrying about performance issues, uploading recording gameplay to popular community websites, and being able to download digital games in a matter of hours, there simply hasn’t been a better time in history to be a gamer. If you’re looking into becoming a gamer yourself, then all you need to do is choose either a modern game console or PC that you like the look of, and a couple of games you think you would like to play online. After that, all you need to do is get yourself a really high performing fibre broadband package, like Virgin Medias VIVID 200 Gamer tier, and then you can just sit down and enjoy everything that the thriving gaming world has to offer.
FInd out what fibre broadband packages are available to you by using the broadband postcode checker on our homepage.