Gaming is bigger than ever; it's no longer a niche hobby, but a mainstream pursuit backed by multi-million dollar budgets.
As games have evolved, online connectivity has become an unavoidable cornerstone, whether you're using it for multiplayer, buying new games, nabbing some DLC, or just downloading day one patches.
As such, a solid internet connection is a must for any gamer.
If you're in the market for a new broadband plan, there a couple of key factors you'll want to consider.
If you're buying more than a game a month, you'll want to make sure you have a decent monthly download allowance, especially if you're purchasing titles digitally. The majority of new "blockbuster" titles now measure in around the 50GB mark, at least when it comes to PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4.
Destiny 2 is a 30GB download, Project CARS 2 is 37GB, and Call of Duty: Infinite War will need as much as 130GB of storage space, if you're also installing the Modern Warfare remaster.
If you've got a 250GB quota, downloading a single game can burn through about 20% of your monthly allowance.
Even if you're buying games on disc, you'll still need to consider patches and updates. Destiny 2's recent patch was around 5GB, while Forza 7's day one update is an insane 50GB (which makes it a 95GB download all up if you're opting for digital).
If you're downloading more than a single game a month, it's worth considering an unlimited broadband plan, especially if you, your family, or housemates are also relying on your internet connection for streaming or other big downloads. Unlimited broadband options have become increasingly common over the last two years, and more affordable than you'd expect.
Of course, your download needs will vary depending on what kind of gamer you are. If you own a Nintendo Switch, most digital downloads are smaller than 10GB. Indie games and titles for iPhone, iPad and Android often measure in at under 1GB.
If you're the kind of person who just plays a single game non-stop - say Dota2 or Overwatch - you'll only have to worry about keeping one game up to date. Playing games online will use data too, but a comparatively small amount. In a title like Overwatch, you can expect to use less than 50MB in an hour. Others can however require a larger amount.
iiNet and Telstra both used to offer unmetered game downloads for Steam (and Xbox, in the case of iiNet), but these offers has been discontinued as a result of larger download allowances.
Here are a couple of broadband plans that offer an unlimited download allowance.
If you're a gamer, the biggest benefit of a faster internet connection is improved speeds when you're downloading or updating games; this is particular useful when you're staring down the barrel at a 50GB download. On an average ADSL2+ connection, you could be looking at 12 or so hours to download a 50GB game. On a 100Mbps NBN connection, this drops to just over an hour.
If you're patient and your ADSL connection is decent, you should still be able to download most games and updates in a day. If you have to have your game now, a top tier NBN connection is your best option.
Of course, this means you'll need to pay your ISP for a speed pack. In most cases, you're looking at spending at least an extra $20 per month if you want your cable or NBN to offer 100Mbps downloads. $10 more per month will typically take you halfway there to 50Mbps, which is still a big improvement over standard ADSL. These prices will vary depending on your provider.
While faster internet will often result in faster download speeds, it's worth noting that you can still face bottlenecks depending on where you're downloading from and how many other people are downloading a game at the same time. If you're trying to download a popular new release as soon as it goes live, there's a chance you won't max out your connection. Think of it like a digital traffic jam.
Here are a couple of broadband plans that offer 100Mbps download speeds.
That being said, you don't really need to worry about your download and upload speeds if you're planning to play games online; online gaming isn't really data intensive. As long as you have an okay connection, ping is the far more important metric.
Ping is the most important metric when it comes to online gaming performance. Ping refers to the network latency between your computer and the game server (or another player's computer, depending on the game). The lower your latency, the smoother your gameplay experience.
Unfortunately, ping is often largely out of your control. It will depend on your distance to your local exchange or node, where the server you're connecting to is based, how your ISP routes traffic around the world, and your ISP's international capacity.
Many games do however feature lag compensation to provide a more cohesive experience. Popular games often also have Australian servers, which results in a lower latency experience. Since you're connecting to another computer in Australia, you're able to do so faster than if you were trying to connect to a computer in the United States.
Upgrading to a faster internet connection will have a negligible effect on your ping. While it can mean a faster connection between your computer and your provider's network, you're then still relying on your provider's network for the connection to the game's server.
Your home network can also affect your gaming performance, but these problems tend to manifest as stability issues or drop-outs. If you've got an unstable internet connection, the problem can often be boiled down to one of three factors: a poor quality line connecting you to the exchange or node, a dodgy mode, or poor Wi-Fi.