Gaming Latency vs. Engagement and Potential Impacts of Lower-Latency DOCSIS & Wi-Fi (2022)

By Stephen Froehlich, Jacob Malone; CableLabs

As the industry gives monitoring and optimizing latency more attention, there is an increasing interest in understanding the value created by that network investment. Gamers are often mentioned as a key user segment that would value such investment because of the improvements to their user experience when playing games online.

Using a dataset from Network Next that includes 10-second latency data for every session of a multiplayer, competitive game during the first 2 months after its launch, we estimate that a one standard deviation improvement in 99th percentile (abbreviated as “99%ile” for the remainder of the paper) latency results in an 8% increase in the number of unique days of game play on average (approximately 0.4 extra unique days).

In addition, when a 7ms ceiling is applied to users’ queuing delay, to estimate the impact of Low Latency DOCSIS® technology, we find that some cable operators could see up to a 50ms improvement in 99%ile latency, while the improvement for other operators is smaller due to variation in queuing delay across cable operators. However, the user experience of gamers on all cable broadband networks are likely to benefit from the greater consistency in observed latency.

Lastly, the Network Next data allows analysis of Wi-Fi performance by gaming platform (PS4, Xbox One, Switch, Windows) on a per operator basis. Wi-Fi connections are used by 68% of the players of this game. Given that Wi-Fi is one of the largest sources of latency on the network, any complete solution to improving latency must address home Wi-Fi networks.

One potential technology to improve Wi-Fi latency is Wi-Fi Multimedia (WMM) tagging. For this game, the Nintendo Switch uses WMM. We find that for the Nintendo Switch, Wi-Fi latency is 46% lower than that of a PlayStation 4 (PS4), a console that does not use WMM. We also find there is substantial variation in Wi-Fi performance across operators.

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