With the release of the PS4 and Xbox One now behind us, I’ve been receiving many tweets from people with and without FTTP explaining their experiences. From what I can gather, we’re seeing a massive increase in data use from these new high(er) powered beasts.
From the start, we can just look at the media these consoles are using for their physically distributed games. We’ve gone from DVD sized games, mainly limited by the Xbox 360′s DVD rather than Blu-Ray as in the PS3, to Blu-Ray sized games. In essence we’ve gone from an approximate 8GB cap in game size*, to an 128GB cap in game size^.
*Yes, GTA V and many PS3 exclusive titles were above 8GB, but the norm was sub-8GB for Xbox360, PS3, and PC released games.
^128GB is the current size of the largest BDXL discs, 100GB is likely to be the cap for games.
With the next generation consoles showing stronger support for online delivery methods, and Steam almost cornering the PC market for digital delivery, we’re starting to see a shift from physical media to digital delivery. This presents an immense problem in an already huge, but still growing, market.
To use Grand Theft Auto V (GTA V) as an example of the market power of gaming, it is rumoured that within 24 hours of release the game had grossed over $800 million, within three days that was over $1 billion. After a month, approximately 29 million copies had been sold, in just patches to fix bugs in the game this amounts to petabytes of data, if it was wholly digitally distributed, we’re talking exabytes!
Current launch titles for the PS4 and Xbox One seem to sit around the 40GB mark, not exactly something I would look forward to downloading even on 50Mbps VDSL2, let alone 25Mbps. We’re truly seeing a massive shift toward huge digitally distributed games. For good reason too: it’s cheaper & quicker to market. Valve & Apple has been making a killing doing it for years via Steam & the AppStore respectively, why should the big names in consoles not get in on the act too?
‘So what does this have to do with the NBN?’ I hear you ask. Well, it goes like this:
The average age of gamers is starting to rise in our society (creeping toward 40 as quickly as I am), with gaming becoming as vital a part of our culture as cinema, music, and visual art. When we look at how fast we’re developing new ways to process larger amounts of data to render visually immersive environments, we have to realise the size of the data we process (textures, physics, and polygons) will also become larger.
With the rise of digital distribution, we will see large strains on infrastructure. Knowing how rough launches can be for digitally aligned games, whether through distribution or purely due to being a multi-player game, one of the biggest problems is end-user speeds.
A majority of companies have moved to utilising bittorrent as the underlying framework for delivering patches, meaning they can take the strain off their servers and utilise distributed nodes to mirror the patch with each other. This makes great sense if connection upload speeds were both fast and did not affect the user’s upload speed. So, in other words: fibre to the premises (Active or Passive), or Ethernet (not used much due to massive costs). DSL of any variety just doesn’t perform well when uploading.
Currently, on my 5Mbps ADSL2 connection, if I want to patch a game that uses bittorrent as the basis for the patching system, I have to stop watching Netflix and the speed drops to under 1Mbps both ways. Most of the time I wait until I go to bed to patch something or download a game. This is not a problem on GPON, even though just like VDSL2 it is asymmetrical in speed (25/5, 100/40, 78/5, etc), due to fibre’s inherently wider bandwidth.
Essentially with DSL, whatever your upload speed is, your download speed will slow to. Watching streamed media with the wife and your kid decides to upload photos to ? I hope you like buffering counters! It’s going to be a blast from the past.
With Ziggy all but admitting that a 25Mbps floor will be impossible to achieve with VDSL2, I’m left wondering: why even bother in the first place if you can’t have a minimum above ADSL2+’s maximum?