Broadband is essential for modern games consoles and PCs. For both serious and casual gamers, getting the best possible broadband for gaming is a must.
While it’s obvious that you need a good broadband connection for multiplayer gaming, such as Battlefield or Call of Duty, some people may not realise that some single player games benefit hugely from a stable online connection. Other online players on PS4 exclusive Bloodborne can leave notes to help (or hinder) your progress and the Witcher 3 has a solid stream of additional content that enhances your experience. You'll also need to be online to download the latest patch for Fallout 4 (those bugs won't fix themselves!).
Our guide will take you through some of the jargon around online gaming as well as help you to optimise your home network to make the best of your connection. Unfortunately, it won’t make you any better at Battlefront, FIFA or anything else!
When someone casually mentions ‘download speed’ in relation to broadband, they sometimes may not know exactly what that entails. When you view any information through a browser, you have downloaded that information. A lot of people think download speeds just affect the speed at which you can download files, like songs from iTunes, but it actually affects your entire experience of using the web.
A high download speed will actually let you do everything faster, from checking your emails and reading the news to downloading music. For games, a high download speed is most useful for downloading files faster, making a big patch or brand new digital game take not as long to download.
Download speed is actually not all that important for online multiplayer gaming. That brings us to our next category…
Download speeds help information you receive from a web browser get to you quicker and upload speeds to the information you send. So, for example, a fast upload speed would mean you could post a YouTube clip faster.
Because upload speed is a factor in how fast you can send information over the web, it is a critical factor in online gaming. If you play a multiplayer shooter such as Star Wars: Battlefront, a fast upload speed would help you to shoot your weapon quicker than your opposition. Which could be an obvious advantage!
Most games have systems where the advantage of fast upload speed is somewhat diminished, but it is still there. A fast upload speed would also help you to use a service like PlayStation Now more effectively, as the instructions you’re sending out from your console would reach the server much quicker.
In short, fast upload speeds are very desirable if you play a lot of fast-paced multiplayer games like COD or FIFA.
Although the PlayStation 4 does not need a broadband connection to function, the truth is that if you don’t have a stable broadband connection you are getting a diminished experience. That does not mean that you need to have superfast broadband, but it does mean that you’ll have more fun with a PS4 if you have a stable internet connection and home network.
When you buy a PlayStation 4, the first thing you will have to do after setting it up is download a fairly large system update. If you have slow broadband this could obviously be a fairly frustrating experience.
Virtually every game that’s released these days also needs performance fixing patches. Rightly or wrongly, big software patches are a fact of life for anyone who owns a next-generation gaming console or PC. Again, these patches can take a long time to load on a slower connection.
PlayStation Plus is an online subscription service that gives you access to some premium features on Sony gaming platforms such as the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3 and the PlayStation Vita.
Controversially, with the launch of the PlayStation 4, PlayStation Plus membership became a requirement for multiplayer online gaming, in the same way as Gold membership required for gaming on Xbox Live. This means that if you have a PlayStation 4, you have to have PlayStation Plus to play with or against your friends online. However, online gaming remains free on PS3 and PS Vita.
The big benefit of PlayStation Plus is the monthly selection of free games. Every month across the three Sony platforms, PlayStation Plus members receive several free games for their system. So if you own a PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3 and a Vita, you could feasibly get 9 free games (the number can vary).
There is no minimum broadband speed requirement for PlayStation Plus, but as one of the features is free games it’s best to have a broadband connection over 4mbps so the games don’t take forever to download. You’ll also need a 2-4mbps connection to make use of features like Share Play, which lets you hand over control of one of your games to a friend if you happen to get stuck.
PlayStation Now is Sony’s brand new game streaming and rental service. It’s currently in open beta in the UK.
PlayStation Now essentially lets you stream and play PS3 games on your PS4. It’s a clever service that works surprisingly well and it offers a glimpse into the future of gaming.
Sony recommends a broadband connection of at least 5mbps to use PlayStation Now. The reality is that, although the service will function on a 5Mbps connection, you will not have a particularly good experience. We’d suggest that you need a minimum of 8-10mbps to have a more seamless experience.
As it’s a rental service, paying money to rent a game for two days that you can’t play due to a slow connection is not ideal, so think carefully before you buy.
Before the release of the Xbox One, there was a lot of talk about how the Xbox One would need an ‘always on’ connection to function correctly. Thankfully by the time the console was released, Microsoft reconsidered this deeply unpopular policy.
Like the PlayStation 4, to complete the initial Xbox One set-up you will need a broadband connection. This giant software update can take a little while to download and install if you have a relatively slow connection. Once that initial set-up has been completed, you do not need to have an ‘always on’ connection to use the Xbox One.
In the same way as the PlayStation 4, if you choose to use the Xbox One offline after set-up, you are really missing out. Although it doesn’t need an ‘always on’ connection, a steady internet connection will enhance your experience.
Xbox Live is an online service for the Xbox 360 and Xbox One. When you connect your Xbox to the internet via broadband you can use Xbox Live to play games with friends, stream your gameplay to Twitch and purchase digital games, music and films.
It is free to have an Xbox Live account but most of the best features of Xbox Live require a Gold subscription. If you want to play online games with your friends or use party chat functionality on Xbox One, you’ll need a Gold account.
A recent addition to Xbox Live is the ‘Games with Gold’ scheme that gives Xbox Live Gold members free games every month. Gold members also get exclusive, time-limited discounts.
Xbox Live Gold has different prices depending on how long you sign up for. You can buy 12-month cards that cost around £35, 3-month cards that cost around £15 and 1-month cards that cost around £5. If you’re a big online gamer, it’s best to go for the 12-month option and if you shop around you can get 1 year live cards for as little as £20.
To use Xbox Live you’ll need at least a 4 Mbps broadband connection. However, if you are using a connection of that speed on Xbox One, bear in mind that downloading patches and digital games will take quite a long time. Thankfully ADSL speeds up and down the UK are increasing on average all the time so most people should have a good enough connection to use Xbox Live.
The Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 both feature streaming media options. The PlayStation 4 even has a button on its controller marked ‘share’, so if you’re a fan of Let’s Play videos on YouTube, you can start making your own!
Uploading and live streaming video to Twitch and YouTube can be a very data intensive activity, so if your broadband connection is not up to it, a video upload can take a long time and a live stream can die out for your viewers.
As with online games, upload speed is more important when you are streaming out video from a games console or a PC. A stable connection environment in your home is probably more important in this instance than download speed.
Bear in mind that traffic management can come in to play here. If your ISP decides to throttle your connection or uses traffic management to cope with demand, your stream may suffer. You can get around this by avoiding live streaming at peak times.
If you have better upload speed it’s possible to stream in higher definition, but other than that, speed requirements for live streaming to Twitch or UStream are not very high.
Gaming on the PC has exploded in popularity over the last 10 years and is now bigger than ever. This is partly down to the fact that PCs are now much easier to use. For example, having to trawl around looking for a specific sound driver is now largely a thing of the past. Another factor is the rise of Valve’s digital distribution and gaming platform, Steam.
Steam, after a troublesome start (which people often forget), makes downloading digital games a seamless experience that is only slowed down by your broadband speed. Games on Steam also tend to be much cheaper than their console counterparts, which does help to offset the higher cost of a decent gaming PC machine.
Speed requirements for online PC gaming tend to be much the same as consoles. However, PC gamers tend to be at the very cutting edge of gaming tech, so it’s likely that your opponents will use superfast broadband connections and home networks optimised for gaming.
Broadband requirements for portable games are nowhere near as high as they are for home game consoles and PCs. This is because they are designed to be used on the go, so they may have to utilise public WiFi networks mobile internet such as 3G and 4G.
Gaming on a tablet or a phone can still involve downloading large files, as games on mobile now are currently very close to PS3/Xbox 360 levels of graphical fidelity. Plus they are improving every year. We’d always recommend installing your games and updates at home, it’s more secure and likely to be much quicker.
For dedicated gaming handhelds, such as the Nintendo 3DS and PS Vita, connection requirements can vary. The 3DS can only access WiFI and some models of the Vita have a SIM card slot so you can add 3G connectivity. Again we would suggest downloading your files at home rather than using public WiFi networks.
NAT type stands for Network Address Translation and having different types of NAT can impact your online gaming. Network Address Translation maps one IP address space into another and it’s used as a tool in conserving global IP address space as networks don’t have to renumber every host with a new IP. To put it more simply, your NAT type dictates how easy it is for your console or PC to talk to other devices all over the internet.
There are three NAT types and each one has different effects on your connectivity to various services.
NAT Type 1 or Open NAT
This is the ideal state for online gaming on consoles. A large number of routers will enable NAT type one or open NAT out of the box.
NAT Type 2 or Moderate NAT
With this NAT type you shouldn’t run into any issues and your console is connected to the internet. Some routers, such as Netgear routers, usually have this setting out of the box. You shouldn’t need to change it.
NAT Type 3 or Strict NAT
Strict NAT is not ideal for online gaming. On consoles such as the PS4 or Xbox One you may have difficulty finding matches, hosting/joining chat parties and getting other features to work as intended. However, you will be able to download files and updates, so if you aren’t an online gamer having this setting is fine.
Changing your NAT type is a slightly complex procedure and it’s different for different devices. It can also go very wrong so we wouldn’t recommend it unless you are very comfortable with making network changes and you know what you are doing. This is also true for things such as port forwarding, which is a very delicate procedure that can makes things a lot worse if you get it wrong.
The vast majority of off the shelf routers and routers from ISPs work absolutely fine for online gaming out of the box, so you shouldn’t have to worry too much about NAT types, but it’s best to be prepared just in case.
It depends. For online gaming, upload is more important, but for downloading digital games and updates, having a fast download speed makes things a lot quicker.
Yes, you can but ideally, you shouldn’t. You will have quicker upload and download speeds by using a wired Ethernet connection and plugging straight into your router. But it’s fine to game over WiFi if you have no alternative.
Yes, you should always be concerned about security. You should obviously never give your personal, email or password details out over Xbox Live, Steam or PlayStation Network. But there are other security measures you can take. We would suggest using prepay cards to pay for digital products and subscriptions and only purchase these cards from vendors with a good reputation.
Also, if you come across any abusive behaviour when gaming online you should take the time to report it. Steam, Xbox Live and PlayStation Network all have different mechanisms for this.
If you are playing games on a console over Xbox Live or PlayStation Network, the chances of any sort of virus are negligible.
However, the new generation of consoles do have web browser support, so it’s theoretically possible that an Xbox One or a PlayStation 4 could get infected with a virus. However, the chances of it happening are very remote. If you do use the web browser functionality on your Xbox One or PlayStation 4, stick to well-trusted authoritative sites and you should be fine. There is no need to purchase any ‘anti-virus’ applications that say they can cover consoles.
If you are gaming on a PC, then your standard anti-virus software should be more than enough to protect you. Obviously, there are more virus threats present on PC so you should be more aware of threats generally, but gaming specifically does not present a significant risk of infection.