How much data does online gaming use? Not as much as you think

How much data does online gaming use?

You might think online gaming uses a lot of data, but actually, your Netflix streams use more.

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Online gaming is often blamed for using up a lot of data, and slowing down everyone else's connection because of how much speed it needs. In reality, though, online gaming uses much less Internet than an HD Netflix stream.

Online gaming doesn't use that much

The exact amount of data will vary depending on the game, but playing a game online uses less data than many other common activities. The most data-heavy games use somewhere in the realm of 300MB per hour, but many other games use 100MB per hour or less.

To put this in perspective, here's how an hour of data-intensive gaming compares to other online activities:

ActivityData use
Streaming music~100MB/hr
Online gaming300MB/hr
Group video conferencing800MB/hr
Streaming HD Netflix3GB/hr

So you won't be able to get as many hours of gaming out of your data as you would if you were streaming tunes, but it's really not a huge amount of data comparatively. Keep in mind that 300MB/hr figure is on the heavier end of the scale - most games won't even come close to using this much.

How much data does online gaming use per hour?

While it depends on the game, here are some approximate data figures for a few popular games:

GameData use
Fortnite50MB/hr
Overwatch100MB/hr
Team Fortress 280MB/hr
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare80MB/hr
League of Legends50MB/hr
Counter Strike: Global Offensive250MB/hr
DotA 2120MB/hr

Gaming downloads eat up your data

In contrast to playing a game, the actual process of installing a game – downloading it, patching it and installing extra content – can use up an extraordinary amount of data. Some game files can reach 90GB or more in size, though this is hardly the norm. The vast majority will be smaller if you play on consoles like the Nintendo Switch (most less than 10GB).

Here's the file size of some common games on PC:

  • Fortnite: 26GB
  • League of Legends: 8.2GB
  • Destiny 2: 105GB
  • Overwatch: 30GB
  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare: 200+GB

Thankfully, nearly all NBN plans these days come with unlimited data so you shouldn't have to worry about how much data you're consuming from your online gaming.

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What uses more data: Gaming or streaming?

Gaming itself uses very little data when you're actually playing, somewhere between 20-100MB/hr in most cases.

Streaming, on the other hand, can chew through loads and loads of data, all the way up to about 7GB at 4K resolution. This depends on a number of factors including:

  • Bitrate. Bitrate is a measure of how much data is being processed every second. A higher bitrate means higher image quality, but also higher data usage.
  • Resolution. The better your resolution, the crisper your stream will look. Higher resolutions will consume more data, assuming the picture quality remains unchanged.
  • Compression. Many streaming sites, such as Twitch, will automatically compress your stream data so that it doesn't need as much data. Uncompressed video can be several times more data-intensive than the same video, compressed.

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