The entire country of Italy is currently on lockdown as officials try to contain and halt the spread of coronavirus in what has so far been one of the worst outbreaks of the pandemic globally. That has involved shutting schools down indefinitely, and now there are unforeseen side effects occurring as a result of that.
When kids are home from school and essentially not allowed to leave the house, you should have little trouble guessing what many of them are going to turn to: video games. And that is having some very real effects on Italian internet providers with a bunch of house-bound kids (and adults) playing games like Fortnite and Call of Duty online every day, which use a lot of bandwidth.
“We reported an increase of more than 70% of Internet traffic over our landline network, with a big contribution from online gaming such as Fortnite,” Telecom Italia Chief Executive Officer Luigi Gubitosi said on a call this Wednesday with analysts (via Bloomberg).
The surge in internet traffic did lead to some temporary outages in Italy, but those have reportedly been brought under control, according to Telecom Italia.
This is likely to be a situation replicated in the United States very shortly. State after state has begun the process of closing down schools for anywhere from 2-3 weeks, but it could be more depending on how coronavirus continues to spread. And like Italian kids, American kids will also probably be playing online video games to pass the time indoors with no school, no homework, no sports and little else to do but play games and watch TV. We have already seen some US internet providers lift data caps in the wake of the pandemic, raising questions about the technical reasons given for the existence of those caps in the first place.
While Call of Duty wasn’t mentioned directly by Telecom Italia, Activision did launch the Warzone battle royale this week which drew 6 million players its first day, and it’s what a lot of people are playing at the moment. Many gamers are working their way through backlogs of old games, playing their usual favorites like League and CS:GO or starting new seasons of Destiny or The Division (that’s me!).
It’s easy to be skeptical of how US internet providers may handle the coming crisis when things get even worse. If Italy is a model, the infrastructure appears to be holding, but the US has far more people and a whole lot of internet problems even on a good day. As more schools close, expect similar surges in internet gaming traffic here, and we’ll see how that affects things overall as time goes on.