One of the great things about video games today is the ability to properly try a game before buying. Until recently, developers released game demos, but only after the game was already out, in an effort to drive sales.
Luckily, due to the recent surge online gaming and the need to cope with consumer demand, developers have now realised the need for large-scale beta testing prior to releasing a game. This is awesome news for fans eager to try a new game as well as developers receiving valuable community feedback on their work.
Unfortunately these don’t always launch worldwide straight the way often “soft launching” in territories such as the Philippines, Australia, and New Zealand.
One example of geo-restrictions in gaming is the summer 2016 release of the Pokémon GO. At launch, Pokémon GO was only available in Australia and New Zealand, which caused quite an uproar with millions of Pokémon fans around the world. Jail broken phones, custom (and filled with malware!) APK files, and numerous other “hacks” were used by gamers trying to play the wildly popular mobile game.
While Pokémon GO is now available in every country and was recently named the most downloaded iPhone app in 2016, the issue of geo-restrictions on beta tests and gaming will inevitably pop up again.
Another example was with Ubisoft’s For Honor which held several betas before its launch. On January 26-29 players could sign up to a closed beta, however for most it was a waiting game. Players in the UK on the other hand had an easier way of getting a code, causing many outside of the UK to use VPNs to claim their own codes ahead of the beta weekend.
Use a VPN to take part in geo-restricted game betas
So, are you unable to play a long-awaited game due to the beta not being available in your country? Don’t worry, this is where I explain to you how a VPN can solve this annoying and ridiculous problem!
A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, acts as a secure tunnel between your device and the VPN server you select. By encrypting your connection, it makes it nearly impossible for an online service to identify your real identity and location.
For instance, choosing a server in a different country or region will make it appear that you are actually in that geographic location. This is where a VPN helps you access game betas or other online, geo-restricted content such as Netflix or YouTube.
Simply installing and connecting to a VPN in a country where the beta isn’t blocked should be enough to give you access! Depending on the online capabilities of the game or beta, you might have to keep the VPN connection active when playing.
What other uses does a VPN have for gaming?
Other than encrypting all of the data sent between your device and the internet, a VPN also has many other practical, everyday uses.
If you are living on a school campus, certain games and services (like Skype or Facebook) might be blocked on the school’s network. You can use a VPN to potentially bypass network restrictions and unblock these services!
Another potential benefit of a VPN is saving money when buying certain games online. Certain regions come with different pricing, so using a VPN to shop around in different regions might save you a couple dollars. Experimenting with different currencies could also be beneficial depending on the game and publisher.
Another way a VPN can be suitable for gaming is by protecting your connection when playing online. Gamers in League of Legends, Counter-Strike, and the Call of Duty series have all been subject to DDOS attacks and hackers, and added levels of encryption from VPNs can greatly assist in keeping you secure when you game.
Unfortunately, it must be stated that using a VPN will almost always slow down your Internet connection. The extra encryption offered by a VPN along with connecting to a server that is far away from your actual location can cause lag and high latency, which can affect gameplay, and it’s a question of priority. Lag can be a significant issue, and gamers need every millisecond of advantage they can get, but other times, a hit on reaction times can be a valid tradeoff for security.
Naturally, the closer you are to the VPN server, the less speed loss and latency increase you will experience. While not an overwhelmingly huge issue, games that require a good connection with the game server (such as online shooters) will be difficult to play. This is why the most important feature to look for in a VPN for gaming is the speed of the network.
A quick word regarding legality
The legality behind using a VPN to unblock geo-restricted games is highly debatable. While some companies (such as Steam) explicitly ban the use of a VPN, other video game company giants like Blizzard and Electronic Arts are known to allow VPN use.
Additionally, the nature of a VPN (encrypting data and hiding your identity) also make it extremely tough for companies to detect who might be connected to a VPN.
Using a VPN to bypass geo-restrictions on games is a bit of a gray area, with most companies not explicitly forbidding the use. Nonetheless, take this is as a warning to proceed at your own risk!
With online gaming and professional eSports are continuing an upward rise, it is inevitable that geo-restrictions and VPNs will come into play in the near future! With multiple uses, it’s likely that the use of VPNs are going to rise significantly, and that VPNs will become increasingly more fit for gaming purpose as the audience, and usage grows. The speed of a VPN, the complexity, and computing demand for new games are likely to strive upwards together, as services meet the demand of the players.