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Steam making changes to reduce bandwidth usage during coronavirus outbreak

Auto-updates to be spread over several days.

Valve has made some adjustments to the way Steam currently deals with game downloads in order to reduce bandwidth usage during the coronavirus outbreak.

"We know a lot of you (like us here at Valve) are stuck at home right now trying to work or attend school remotely," the company wrote, "Or maybe you're just playing a bunch of great games on Steam. Whatever the case may be, we know that with so many people at home trying to get things done at the same time, it can put a stress on your home's internet bandwidth."

With that in mind, Steam will now prioritise and schedule game auto-updates slightly differently to normal for the foreseeable future.

Effective from today, only games that have been played in the last three days will be updated immediately. As was already the case, updates for less recently played games will be scheduled for local off-peak times, but will now be spread across several more days. Valve notes that updates can still be manually triggered when starting a game or by using the Download Manager, and that it's "also looking into additional solutions to help on our side."

The company also offered a number of tips for those looking to further preserve bandwidth in their home during peak usage times, including manually setting auto-update windows and self-throttling Steam's connection. "This might ease the load on your network connection, and may help ease bandwidth loads if network traffic in your area needs to be reduced," Valve says.

It also suggest disabling auto-updates for games players no longer play but wish to keep installed, and transferring infrequently played games from SSD to a larger capacity HDD, rather than deleting and re-downloading a title.

Valve's announcement follows last week's news that PlayStation downloads in the US and Europe would be "somewhat slower or delayed" as Sony works to manage internet usage while many homes are in lockdown. "We believe it is important to do our part to address internet stability concerns as an unprecedented number of people are practising social distancing and are becoming more reliant on Internet access," the company said.

The EU recently warned of broadband strain as millions of people began home-working as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, causing a twin spike of demand for video conferencing during work hours and video streaming in the evenings. Netflix, Amazon, and YouTube have all agreed to reduce video quality and bandwidth usage in response.

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