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Akamai to slow video game downloads to minimize Internet congestion during coronavirus shutdown

The high demand for home-gaming is creating bottlenecks.

Akamai's headquarters in Kendall Square.
Akamai's headquarters in Kendall Square.Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff/file

Online video gaming just became the latest victim of COVID-19.

Akamai Technologies of Cambridge, the data delivery company that handles Internet traffic for many of the world’s biggest companies, said on Tuesday it will deliberately delay downloads of video games during peak hours because of bottlenecks from so many people playing from home during the coronavirus shutdown.

The slowdown will specifically affect downloads of games during daytime and evening hours, so that someone buying a downloadable copy of a new game such as “Doom Eternal” will have to wait a lot longer to start playing.

Akamai said it will continue to allow normal high-speed downloads late at night.


In a posting on the company’s blog Akamai chief executive Tom Leighton said the company is trying to ensure the demand for gaming downloads doesn’t overwhelm the system’s capacity to the point where other information is affected.

"This will help ensure health care workers and first responders working hard to contain the spread of COVID-19 have continual access to the vital digital services they need,” Leighton said.

The decision is the latest evidence that the dramatic change in Internet usage patterns caused by COVID-19 is putting unprecedented strain on the global network. On Tuesday, Bloomberg News reported that YouTube will begin streaming all videos around the world in lower-quality standard definition to save on bandwidth and prevent networks from being overwhelmed by housebound video viewers; users would have to select a higher-definition video instead of YouTube automatically streaming it.

That follows a request by regulators in the European Union to YouTube, Netflix, and other streaming video companies to voluntarily reduce the video quality of their streams from high definition to standard definition.

Leighton said Akamai is making the move in cooperation with major video game makers, including Sony and Microsoft.


“In regions where demand is creating bottlenecks for customers, we will be reducing gaming software downloads at peak times, completing the downloads at the normal fast speeds late at night," Leighton said. “This approach will help ensure every Internet user and consumer continues to have the high-quality experience they expect across all of their Internet services, and that gamers will still get the download they want, though it may take longer than usual during peak usage times.

However, Leighton said that despite the gaming slowdown, “Akamai fully expects to maintain the integrity and reliability of website and mobile application delivery, as well as security services, for all of our customers.”

Hiawatha Bray can be reached at hiawatha.bray@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeTechLab.