In the past week, the issue of Net Neutrality surged to the masses when the Federal Communications Commission (FFC) announced that it may potentially remove the laws protecting Net Neutrality in a vote on December 12. The FFC chairman, Aijit Pai, proposed to repeal the laws the Obama Administration enacted and allow Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to become transparent in how they provide their services. However, the plan implies future repercussions for numerous businesses, including the gaming subsection. If Net Neutrality is repealed, gamers will have the option to purchase “premium” gaming plans from their internet providers, causing a distinct divide between those who can afford the best plan and those who can’t.
Prominent gaming companies already expressed their concerns with the removal of Net Neutrality. Jeremy Stieglitz (co-founder and co-creative director of Studio Wildcard) noted how independent games such as ARK would be affected, since ISPs can decide which packages they want to prioritize their bandwidths. This would create conflicts between startup companies and AAA corporations (i.e. Steam). Jeremy Dunham (VP of Publishing at Psyonix) mentioned how the monetization of “internet fast lanes” would give certain players exclusive access to faster connections with little gameplay latency in competitive multiplayer games.
To put it into perspective, in order to play most PS4 online multiplayer games, a PlayStation Plus account is needed, which can run around $60 dollars per year. However, in order to get lagless, responsive connections, players may need to invest in additional internet packages, since ISPs are allowed to split up their internet services to different packages. As a result, the price to play online with anyone, let alone friends, becomes an unfair financial investment.
If the laws protecting Net Neutrality are removed, achieving the most optimal gaming experience would become unfeasible. Online ranked matches in popular titles like Overwatch and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds would heavily favor people who invested in the better package compared to others who only have the bare minimum. Independent game makers would face issues competing with AAA companies, trying to sell their product on a slow provider contrasting a large corporation that has the funds to get the best service to handle their services. It is a dark possibility for the future, and it could come to fruition much sooner than we’ve expected.