Microsoft asks Xbox game makers to release fewer updates to reduce strain on internet during coronavirus crisis

MICROSOFT has asked games studios to release fewer updates for its Xbox consoles in a bid to stop the data-heavy downloads from overwhelming the internet.

The US firm said the move was in response to the "unprecedented times" faced by gamers and internet service providers as millions of people are locked indoors amid the coronavirus crisis.

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The news comes via an internal email seen by the New York Times.

Game-makers regularly release updates for their titles as a way to fix bugs and tweak gameplay.

However, they're often hefty downloads several gigabytes n size, which are instantly downloaded by thousands of gamers.

Microsoft said: "Microsoft is actively monitoring performance and usage trends to ensure we're optimising service for our customers worldwide, and accommodating new growth and demand.

"At the same time, these are unprecedented times, and we're also taking proactive steps to plan for these high-usage periods."

Microsoft's move makes it the latest company to respond to an EU call to stave off internet gridlock as millions work from home.

Facebook and Instagram, as well as video giants Disney, Netflix and YouTube, have all responded to the call by reducing the video quality on their platforms.

Sony – Microsoft's biggest competitor – announced on Wednesday that it would slow down game downloads for the foreseeable future.

EU industry chief Thierry Breton has urged streaming platforms to free up bandwidth for healthcare and distance learning for thousands of children sent home by closing schools.

While European telecoms operators say their networks have been able to cope with the data traffic rise so far, there are fears of congestion as more and more people work at home.

It's not clear how Microsoft's self-imposed restrictions will remain in place.

Facebook and Instagram's video quality downgrade is indefinite, while both Netflix and YouTube have said they will cut their picture quality for 30 days.

Disney said it would lower its overall bandwidth utilisation by at least 25 per cent in all of the European countries launching its new streaming service Disney+ this week.

Britain's internet traffic has jumped 20 per cent in recent weeks following a surge in the number of people working from home and avoiding outside activities, according to BT's OpenResearch.

Internet service providers in the UK have insisted they are "ready" to handle extra broadband demand from people at home during the pandemic.

Last week, Andrew Glover, chair of the Internet Services Providers' Association (ISPA), which represents the industry, said: "ISPs are ready to handle any potential extra bandwidth and consistently assess the demands that are being put on their networks."

However, one analyst warned last week that it's possible surging demand for home broadband is already affecting people's web speeds.

"The more people that connect to a network at the same time will inevitably put a strain on it and thus reduce the speed," Paolo Pescatore, of PP Foresight, told The Sun.

"This is akin to a motorway; increasing the number of lanes means more cars. However, the more cars on the road will lead everyone to slow down."

"Telcos clearly need to brace themselves for an explosion of traffic over their networks," he added. "More needs to be done to stabilise the network."

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In other news, your internet may be getting slower as the coronavirus outbreak causes a huge surge in web traffic.

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