Surge in gaming behind internet usage spike during Covid-19 lockdown

A growing demand from gamers seeking escapism in virtual worlds during the coronavirus lockdown had led to a surge in internet usage in Scotland of more than 50 per cent.
Online gaming is one of the main drivers behind the surge in data use.Online gaming is one of the main drivers behind the surge in data use.
Online gaming is one of the main drivers behind the surge in data use.

Popular titles such as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Fortnite, and Minecraft are driving the major spike in data use, as people are urged to stay at home to help reduce the spread of the virus.

Approximately 86 petabytes of data was used across the country in the week leading up to 3 May, a spike of 51 per cent on the consumption rate before the widespread restrictions were put in place.

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That is the equivalent of the data that could be stored on around 129 million CD-ROM discs or, for those more familiar with older technology, a staggering 64 billion floppy discs.

The latest Call of Duty game, a free-to-play title called Warzone, has been downloaded by more than 60 million players since its launch in March, according to its publishers, Activision Blizzard.

Along with first-person shooter games such as Fortnite and Call of Duty, the football title Fifa 20 has also seen an increase in player numbers during the pandemic.

It is not just players logging on to play against one another that is contributing to the data surge. Downloads of extras for the games, as well as users streaming their gameplay and uploading videos, are also factors.

Figures published by Digital Information World, which monitors global internet and social media trends, show Call of Duty enjoyed a more than 60 per cent increase in video uploads on YouTube alone between March and April.

Uploads of gameplay recorded in Grand Theft Auto V, produced by Edinburgh-based developers, Rockstar North, increased 17 per cent over the same period, with videos captured in Minecraft and Fortnight both up six per cent and three per cent respectively.

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The jump in data consumption is revealed in figures compiled by Openreach, the network infrastructure company, which is part of BT.

Openreach, whose broadband network is used by service providers such as BT, Sky and TalkTalk, said there had also been a sizeable increase in video calls and conferencing.

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That ties in with research by the technology site, Sensor Tower, which points to a major jump in downloads of video messaging apps worldwide.

The Zoom app, which has become the market-leading video conferencing service since the outbreak began, was downloaded almost 131 million times last month on Apple’s App Store and the Google Play service.

Although its engineers do not work directly on the 5G network, Openreach said there had been more than 50 incidents where staff working outside were subjected to verbal abuse or intimidation linked to conspiracy theories about a link between 5G and coronavirus.

Brendan Dick, chairman of Openreach, added a small number of the incidents had taken place in Scotland.

He said: "It's deeply concerning and misjudged, as our engineers are playing a vital role in connecting crucial public services, vulnerable customers and millions of friends, families and businesses throughout the UK."

More than 94 per cent of Scottish households and businesses have access to a superfast broadband service of at least 30Mbps, and 10% can access gigabit-capable services, according to independent analysis from industry site Thinkbroadband.

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