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Games & The Killing of Net Neutrality Could Have Huge Impact

by William Schwartz

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With a new administration in place the rules to keep the internet a free and open service for all to use is an idea that is under siege.  The Federal Communications Commission recently revealed a plan to kill Net Neutrality.  What it means for internet service providers is that they will be able to block or throttle traffic from particular sources.  Once this happens, the internet will be ruled by the Service Providers.

These new key holders will now be able to both charge certain companies higher prices to serve their content and may also be able to charge their paying customers more money in return.  The result?  Since companies will pass on these extra charges to their consumers, the consumer will be footing the bill on both ends in terms of higher subscription rates, for both their internet bill and subscription services they have.

So how does this impact gaming?  There are numerous scenarios that can play out, but we don’t know what actions will be taken.  It’s not hard to imagine an ISP charging those who need gaming, streaming, and other high bandwidth activities a higher price out of the gate.  Sticking with the previous example, that same ISP could be charging Microsoft, Sony, or others a premium for faster speeds as well.  Of course, those companies would only pass on their fees in terms of increases in the price of hardware, software, or services.

Other potential problems lay in wait as well.  With many ISPs being large media conglomerates, there’s nothing stopping them from trying to move in on the digital distribution of games through streaming or downloading which would put them in monopolistic situation.

Right now gamers are already feeling the sting of the high resolution trend.  Games are constantly increasing in size and where the average game was 7-8GB just years ago, today’s it’s incredibly common for big games to come in at nearly 10x that.  Some who live in areas or have services from companies that enforce a data cap are already dealing with this problem, but under these new rules it could get much worse.

While big game companies will be able to weather the storm, smaller developers and publishers will ultimately feel the worst sting.  Competitive multiplayer games that require tons of bandwidth from smaller developers could be a thing of the past.  Games with smaller budgets or Early Access titles that rely on engaging multiplayer experiences are already in tough position when competing against the bigger publishers, but what if they weren’t on a level playing field when it comes to bandwith and quality.

It also impacts YOU directly if you like multiplayer games.  Those that are willing to pay for “better” internet will always have the upper hand in competitive games.  As we all know, “lag” has and always will be a thing in games.  With the killing of net neutrality, you could have to pay extra for internet just to be able to play competitive multiplayer.  It also impacts YOU directly if you like to stream games, make videos, or even if you just like to watch them.

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