Last week’s Call of Duty: Warzone Season 2 update fuelled Virgin Media’s biggest download day on record.
Virgin Media said the battle royale’s update, which launched on 25th February, contributed to a 24-hour period in which the average user downloaded more than 20GB of data. That’s nearly 3.5GB more than the already record-breaking daily average of 2020.
The Season 2 download weighed in at around 17GB. This was the update that came alongside a warning from Activision that those who own a standard PlayStation 4 with a default hard-drive of 500GB may need to make room if they have the full versions of Modern Warfare, Warzone and Black Ops Cold War with all modes and packs installed.
Exacerbating the problem on PlayStation consoles at least, the Warzone Season 2 update required over 100GB of clear space before the 17GB download would start. In my case, this forced me to delete games installed on my PlayStation 5 SSD, which I subsequently re-downloaded after the Warzone update installed. Redownloading PS5 games (currently there’s no way to move PS5 games of the SSD, remember) en masse will have contributed to Virgin Media’s spike in traffic.
Call of Duty has for a couple of years now updated the shooter with monstrous downloads. Activision has said it’s working to mitigate this, and it does make hefty updates available to “pre-download” to spread the load, but this feature is not available on all platforms.
Virgin Media said that for the first time ever, the weekday peak for upstream traffic is now 2-4pm. During this period, upstream traffic has increased three-fold on pre-pandemic levels and is up 35 per cent since the first lockdown, suggesting households across the country are better set up to embrace flexible working and home learning this time round. Customers also downloaded 3.1GB more data per day in lockdown three compared to the first lockdown.
Virgin Media said it’s committed to keeping up with demand.
Warzone is immensely popular, of course. As of December 2020, the game had more than 85 million players worldwide. So any significant update causes a spike in traffic.
Back in August 2020, Virgin Media told Eurogamer Warzone’s Season 5 update sparked a 60 per cent uplift in traffic on its service on the Wednesday it came out compared to the previous Wednesday. This was the one that added a train and blew the roof off the stadium.
During peak time on that Wednesday (8pm to 10pm), there was a 20 per cent uplift in traffic, which was the highest for four weeks. Even on the Tuesday, when the pre-download went live on PS4, Virgin Media saw a 10 per cent uplift in peak time traffic compared to the last four Tuesdays. Overall, an additional 22 petabytes of data was downloaded compared to Monday to Friday the previous week, with Northern Ireland and Wales seeing the largest uplift. At the peak of recorded traffic, the equivalent of more than 52 PS4 Warzone patches worth of data was downloaded each second.
That Wednesday in August 2020 was Virgin Media’s busiest spike in peak time traffic since… can you guess? The Call of Duty: Warzone mid-season 4 update on Tuesday 30th June.