One of the biggest and most anticipated games of the year, Grand Theft Auto IV, was released last week. From Rockstar Games this is the sequel to the hugely successful Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and has been released on both Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. Rumoured to have cost around $100m to develop with over 1,000 people working on it at some point it is the most expensive game ever.
Initial figures suggest it has sold a record breaking 926,000 copies in the first week alone in the UK. That's somewhere around 5% of all homes in the country.
Our usage data shows that the day after release had the two busiest ever hours for gaming.
It looks like a number of people stayed up very late into the morning on Wednesday playing it. Games and releases like this can have big impacts on usage for a short period as lots of people do the same thing at the same time.
At PlusNet we've had this release on our radar for some time; we've been expecting big sales and because it can be played online we've been expecting an increase in usage from people playing it. We also ensured that it was correctly identified within our traffic management database before release so that it would work correctly when people bought it. Details of how we do this were posted in our How To on Prioritised Gaming. We also maintain a list of defined games in our traffic management systems in our forums (note: some games will be defined but not listed because the traffic signatures match against another game (for example the different Unreal Tournament games), because they use a standard set of ports (like DirectX games) or, in most cases consoles games (some console games needed seperate entries making but most will be picked up by the standard Xbox/Playstation signatures).Often with big game releases we'll see a spike in usage the first few days the game is out as everyone plays at the same time and then level off quite quickly as people play the game at different times, or stop playing it.
Grand Theft Auto IV was released on 29th April, looking at our reports, gaming traffic on the 29th was roughly in line with the previous Tuesday; there was no noticeable increase in traffic. This may well be because a lot of people bought it online and didn't receive it until the following day or those that did get it decided to play it offline rather than online that first evening.
Wednesday 30th April was a different story. The actual number of people gaming was about the same as the previous Wednesday; we saw a peak of around 90,000 customers with usage tagged as gaming (note: that number will include all gaming traffic as well as small amounts of background noise such as pings and port scans which get detected as gaming so doesn't necessarily mean that 90,000 customers were actually gaming) which is about normal for an hour in the middle of the week. However, we did see a fairly large increase in the amount of usage.
The first graph here shows the total traffic in our Titanium queue which includes all VoIP and gaming traffic on all accounts apart from Broadband Your Way option 1. The green lines represent downloads and the blue uploads (the darker shades are the maxium amount of traffic, the lighter are the average).
The second graph shows a partial split of gaming traffic, we split different types of gaming up to make it easier to report on and manage, traffic below the red line is downloads and above the red line uploads. The different colours represent traffic from each of our Ellacoya switches which identify the types of traffic.
The early hours of Wednesday morning (4am to 7am) saw an increase in gaming traffic of between 15% and 35% compared with the Wednesday before. Wednesday morning saw the biggest increase in usage with up to 65% more gaming traffic per hour than the previous week. Usage during the rest of the day saw an increase of around 30 to 40%.
Comparing that instead to Tuesday and usage across most of Wednesday was up to 50% higher.
The busiest hour for gaming was 8pm to 9pm on 30th April, followed closely by 9pm to 10pm. In fact the 8 to 9pm hour was actually the busiest hour for gaming in the past 6 months (and 9 to 10pm the second busiest) in terms of usage and very probably the busiest hour we've ever seen for gaming. The previous highest hour was 9 to 10pm on 4th November 2007, 8 to 9pm on 30th April beat that by almost 30%.
To add a bit more perspective, gaming accounted for approximately 7.6% of all downloads between 8pm to 9pm on 30th April, we'd normally expect to see between 3.5% and 5% be gaming around that time of day. (It was about 7.1% for 9 to 10pm).
Now we can't be 100% certain that all the increase in traffic was down to Grand Theft Auto IV because we don't report on usage in that level of detail, but based on the date it's a very reasonable assumption to make.
PlusNet Product Team