Effects of net neutrality on the gaming industry
The gaming industry has made leaps and bounds to the open arms of the cloud in the past five years, but these developments stand to experience an enormous setback with the continual gathering of hostility around the net neutrality debate. As the legendary "fast lane" continues to bait the major companies who can afford and would benefit from a preferred internet connection, business and fan communities alike continue to make arguments for other sides
For the gaming community, this can produce a good deal of frustration – the slowing of the web would be especially damaging to an industry that is moving away from traditional discs in plastic cases to the cloud. What's more, the files that need to be downloaded to play games on emerging platforms like Xbox One and PlayStation 4 are growing larger as the industry develops more advanced technology as gaming elements like texture resolution, detail maps, and lighting improve. These elements can increase the file size of these downloads by up to four to six times the size of those produced for older systems, industry blog Kotaku reported in January as the net neutrality discussion reared its ugly head once more.
A later blog post from Kotaku writer Nathan Grayson also makes an argument for the other, humbler side of the gaming industry. Independent gaming companies have grown in popularity as the free internet grew in access and ease throughout the late 1990's and into the 2000's, and has given gamers beloved releases like Bastion and Super Meat Boy, both of which grew extremely successful. However, without the marketing support of a major company, an IGN report detailed that the only exposure these games could hope for was existing industry blogs and limited self-promotion. This phenomenon would not have been possible if the free internet did not exist, as gaming companies that did not receive large financial endowments from leading providers would be eliminated from the competition straight away. According to famous game developer Vlambeer Rami Ismail, it would mean the end of this niche industry.
"I might be too European, but the whole idea of allowing companies to pay for 'more internet' when it's 'commercially reasonable' sounds terrifying to me, especially with what can be considered 'commercially reasonable' under United States laws," he told Kotaku in May 2014. "Games are only a tiny part of that, because only a few games actually use the internet in such a way that we'd be impacted by something like this."
Like many other sectors of business, the gaming industry appears torn on the net neutrality debate – though they may appear to be more laid back than most businesses, they're a wildly lucrative industry that could also benefit from increased streaming speeds from major providers. Will loyal gamers be willing to make the compromise in favor of forsaking the independent game developers that account for over half a million jobs in the U.S. workforce, according to a 2013 report from CNN Money? Only time can tell.