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Report: lack of net neutrality laws will hurt gamers the most

November 20, 2006

A newly published piece on the website of technology research and consultancy firm Ramp^Rate describes their belief that if some cogent form of net neutrality is not enacted, the biggest losers will online gamers.

"What will be murdered with no fallback or replacement is the nascent market of interactive entertainment – particularly online gaming," authors Tony Greenberg and Alex Veytsel  write in their piece entitled "A New Take On Net Neutrality."   

"Companies like Blizzard Entertainment, Electronic Arts, Sony Online Entertainment, and countless others, have built a business on the fundamental assumption of relatively low latency bandwidth being available to large numbers of consumers," the authors add. "Furthermore, a large — even overwhelming — portion of the value of these offerings comes from their “network effects” — the tendency for the game to become more enjoyable and valuable as larger number of players joins the gaming network.

But that's just for starters. With net neutrality swept aside, the authors envision the following chamber of horrors:

  • One or more mainstream ISPs will introduce excessive lag that will effectively prohibit their users from participating in online games. The move will not be aimed at restricting usage per se, but rather to extract a fee from the game operator. However, as the Cablevision and YES dispute of 2002 showed us4, a fee disagreement between a cable company and content provider can effectively lock out the use of a popular service for over a year;
  • As online gaming guilds, clans, and partners disappear into the rifts created in the Internet fabric, players that derive value from the community of the game rather than the playing experience per se will drop off. This vicious cycle of scarcity of users will lead to diminished enjoyment for existing users which will lead to still fewer users, until more games follow Asheron’s Call to oblivion5;
  • Hardcore users will write strongly worded messages to their ISPs, who will classify them as unreasonable malcontents using more than their share of bandwidth.

Readers, are you afraid?

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