As of Activision-Blizzard’s last earnings call in May, their massive online multiplayer game World of Warcraft has 8.3 million paying customers. Yes, this is down from its heyday of 12 million subscribers, and down even from 9.6 million in February of this year, but these numbers still put the fantasy role playing game leaps and bounds ahead of the competition. Or consider online console super-shooter Call of Duty: Black Ops II: according to its official website, players have logged on and shot down friends and enemies alike over 125 billion times since the game’s debut in November 2012. Despite the difference in genres — slaying Orcs with magic versus running and gunning enemy troops — these huge multiplayer experiences have something critical in common: speed is king.
Killed by the Lag Monster
Ask any online gamer what frustrates them about their favorite game, and be prepared for a long conversation. Ask about the single most irritating aspect of online gaming and they’ll likely say “lag.” The term is a catch-all for the slowdown experienced when either the game server or a user’s local Internet connection encounters a problem. This can mean the difference between victory and defeat.
A game like WoW, for example, has a fairly low bandwidth requirement. Gaming site WoW Insider talks about the game typically hovering around 2 kilobytes per second (KBps), and peaking around 30 KBps during massive fights or when zoning into a player city. COD, meanwhile, is typically a console gaming affair. According to Kotaku, the newly announced Xbox One is supposed to rely on cloud computing for its backend, but already there are concerns about what happens if the cloud has a hiccup. Do you miss a headshot as a result?
Time to Upgrade?
In some cases, the problem really is at the other end. If WoW’s servers have a blowout or Microsoft’s data center catches on fire, your gaming experience will suffer and there’s not much you can do except get a snack and maybe watch a movie on Netflix. Sometimes, though, the problem really is yours. The old “reboot the router” trick is a good place to start, but if you’ve exhausted all obvious options, it might time to see what kind of performance your Internet connection is actually delivering. Bandwidthplace.com offers a free test that you can use on any device for download and upload speeds, letting you see how well your current provider caters to gaming needs. The site works with desktops, consoles and mobile devices of all types, so you can make sure problems with gaming on a PC, for example, aren’t hardware related but indicative of a connection issue.
The solution for slow Internet is the same as doing more damage in WoW or becoming a better solider in COD: Level up. Every online multiplayer game is unforgiving when it comes to lag, external or internal. It’s worth your time to make sure your speed is up to snuff.