Would MMOs Wither Without Net Neutrality?
November 22nd, 2006 By: Rich Miller
Is Net neutrality critical to the rapid growth of MMORPG online games? Ramprate believes it is, and outlines its thinking in an article titled Every Time You Vote Against Net Neutrality, Your ISP Kills A Night Elf. The article’s premise – that ISPs who get no direct revenue from online gaming would handle MMO and FPS (game server) traffic in a fashion that would degrade latency – is being discussed on Slashdot.
While there’s a certain logic to some of the scenarios presented by Ramprate regarding phone companies and ISPs, bear in mind that the largest online games are actually hosted by a phone company. AT&T hosts World of Warcraft and Sony Online Entertainment’s major games. At this year’s E3, AT&T announced the expansion of its online gaming operation. Given the hosting fees coming in from Blizzard and Sony, it’s reasonable to conclude that AT&T/SBC has a vested interest in their success. Does the nation’s largest phone company have leverage in dealing with ISPs who might be tempted to mess with their customers’ MMO traffic? I suspect they do. I’d be interested in comments/feedback on the Ramprate scenario and whether AT&T’s hosting role supports or undermines it.
If Net Neutrality did squeeze online gaming, it might create an opportunity for someone like GameRail, a high speed network that directly connects online game players to the servers that host popular FPS titles. GameRail peers directly with ISPs, universities and game server providers (GSPs). The question is whether game server hosts see usefulness in that type of middleman. The answer to that question might change in some of the scenarios imagined by Ramprate.