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The truth about PlayStation's throttled download speeds

As we have seen multiple times over the past month or so, the coronavirus outbreak continues have unforeseen impacts on gaming. With more people staying indoors than ever before and attempting to curb the spread of COVID-19, some gaming companies are taking steps to do their part in easing the situation for everyone. Unfortunately, that means making a few sacrifices in the name of maintaining a balanced gaming ecosystem. 

With internet traffic become more and more congested, Sony has announced today that it will be slowing download speeds for PlayStation Network users in Europe. The new initiative was announced on the official PlayStation Blog, which included a message from Jim Ryan, President of Sony Interactive Entertainment, which explained the reasoning behind the move.

"Playing videogames enables players all over the world to connect with friends and family and enjoy much needed entertainment during these uncertain times. Sony Interactive Entertainment is working with internet service providers in Europe to manage download traffic to help preserve access for the entire internet community," read the statement.

"We believe it is important to do our part to address internet stability concerns as an unprecedented number of people are practicing social distancing and are becoming more reliant on internet access."

With more and more people staying indoors as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, it makes sense that some companies would have to make adjustments to properly accommodate the needs of a user base that's larger than usual.

In just the last week, Steam has shattered its record for most concurrent users not once, but twice. Just this past weekend, Steam's charts showed that the platform had over 22 million users logged in at the same time. While not all of those users were actively playing a game, it should give people a pretty clear idea of how much busier than usual video game services are going to be in general. The coming weeks may also see more areas going into lockdown, so these figures will likely continue to grow.

While slower download speeds aren't exactly an exciting development for many users, it does make sense that Sony would go this route. They want to make sure that everyone has a little more of a level experience. If more people are staying home than ever before, a slower download speed would certainly ease the strain on internet service providers, as well as folks who have found themselves working from home. This isn't a move purely designed to affect gamers, but the entire online ecosystem in Europe — hopefully in a positive way.

Ryan also makes sure to note that this slower download speed apparently should not affect regular play. The hope is that it will simply reduce bandwidth usage. In fact, gamers should still expect the same quality they've been experiencing when it comes to running games as they normally would.

"Players may experience somewhat slower or delayed game downloads but will still enjoy robust gameplay," reads Ryan's statement. "We appreciate the support and understanding from our community, and their doing their part, as we take these measures in an effort to preserve access for everyone."

Unfortunately for Sony Interactive Entertainment, many users are less than excited about this move. The most common joke among fans is that they feel like there won't be much of a difference between the service they're receiving now and Sony's supposedly slowed-down speeds.

"Download speeds are already crap on Playstation," tweeted one user

Game developer Martin van der Wolf weighed in with, "I had no idea Playstation could lower their download speeds even further." However, he later added, "Joke aside. Games isn't the biggest issue, Netflix and such is."

This is a salient point, considering how many PlayStation owners use Netflix and other streaming services on their consoles. Despite the fact that Netflix may see some effects in subscriber numbers and revenue during the outbreak, it's likely that many PlayStation users were planning to catch up on some of their favorite shows while self-isolating. Now that will be a bit trickier to manage for European users. In fact, Netflix has already lowered its download speeds in Europe for the very same reasons.

Some are already formulating conspiracy theories based around the slowed download speeds. One user seems to believe that SIE is simply using the quarantine as a convenient excuse to do something they've wanted to do for a while. As this person tweets, "Let [sic] take a wild guess and bet, that after the Corona pandemic is over they don't put them back up to normal speeds?"

There's no word yet on whether or not Sony plans to roll out a similar plan in North America, but we will definitely keep you posted.