PS4 game downloads throttled due to coronavirus-related demand

PS4 games
(Image credit: Sony)

Were you thinking about downloading some hit PS4 games to help pass the time while you’re stuck at home? Well, you can — just be prepared to wait a while. 

Sony has throttled PS4 game download times in the U.S., after instituting similar restrictions in Europe earlier this week. The company didn’t say exactly how much slower games would download, but did mention that this measure was in place, at least partially, to safeguard reliable online play.

The information comes from a Sony blog post, in which Jim Ryan, president and CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment, explains that the stresses on Sony’s servers have increased lately. Simply put, a lot more people are staying home than usual, and many of them have been buying new games during this time — or playing ones they already own online.

“We believe it is important to do our part to address internet stability concerns as an unprecedented number of people are practicing social distancing are (sic) becoming more reliant on internet access,” Ryan wrote.

The good news is that Ryan promised “robust gameplay,” suggesting that while Sony is throttling download speeds, it’s running multiplayer servers at full capacity — or as close as it can get. Naturally, some games are going to be more popular than others.

As for how long games will take to download, it’s hard to say. Download speeds under normal circumstances depend on a variety of factors, including your Internet setup at home, your location, the time of day and the number of people on Sony’s servers. All of those same factors come into play; the maximum download speed will simply be lower.

Some European users in the comments observed download speeds of up to 10 hours for games like Nioh 2 (36 GB); others simply complained that download speeds were intolerably slow. It’s hard to estimate exactly how slowly a game might download in the U.S., but the bottom line is that if you want to play a game in the evening, it might not be a bad idea to purchase it in the morning.

How to optimize your PS4 downloads

There are things you can do to mitigate these speeds, of course. The PS4 can download games while it’s in a low-powered Rest Mode. As such, downloading games overnight is one idea. Another potential plan is to make use of the PS4’s Download Queue. I explained how in our Final Fantasy VII Remake Demo article.

Briefly, though, if your PS4 is powered on or in Rest Mode, you can visit the PSN Store on a web browser and command your console to start downloading and installing a game right away. This could be useful if you have enough time to instigate a download from a computer, but not enough to physically sit in front of your PS4 and buy a game.

PS4 downloads are hardly the first entertainment service to get throttled; the same thing has happened to Netflix, Amazon, Disney+ and other streaming platforms. So far, Microsoft seems to be offering Xbox downloads at full speed, but that could change as more and more people opt (or are required) to stay home.

Marshall Honorof

Marshall Honorof is a senior editor for Tom's Guide, overseeing the site's coverage of gaming hardware and software. He comes from a science writing background, having studied paleomammalogy, biological anthropology, and the history of science and technology. After hours, you can find him practicing taekwondo or doing deep dives on classic sci-fi.