What Starlink Users Have To Say About Gaming On Satellite Internet

SpaceX's Starlink satellite internet exists in a league of its own, far exceeding the capabilities of other traditional satellite internet services while also bypassing some of the issues that can plague cable and DSL alternatives, such as high costs and slow speeds. The service is beneficial for people who live in rural regions where high-speed internet service may not be available and where mobile coverage is minimal, leaving residents with no choice but to suffer from painfully slow downloads. 

Unlike older satellite internet services like HughesNet, Starlink uses satellites in low-Earth orbit (LEO), making it possible to deliver fast download and upload speeds and low latency, which is particularly important for gamers.

Given the relatively new nature of Starlink and its lack of actual competitors — as well as the bad reputation that follows the concept of satellite internet in general — it's understandable that many gamers are skeptical about whether it can meet their needs. Does Starlink internet provide the low latency that makes it possible to play fast-paced first-person shooter games, for example, or will delayed character movements and missed shots ruin your matches? Many Starlink users have offered details about their gaming experiences using Elon Musk's internet service, which are primarily favorable.

Many customers say Starlink is good for gaming, but not great

When reading reviews about Starlink, it's essential to keep in mind the kinds of games that are being played — "Animal Crossing" or "Stardew Valley" aren't affected by network conditions like FPS and racing games. Every review provides a snapshot of the service for customers with a console or gaming PC. So far, they're mostly positive: Starlink is good for gaming but not great, according to social media users.

Starlink customers shared their experiences in several social media posts and Reddit threads in 2022, including a few dozen responses in a Reddit post requesting users' "honest experiences" with the company. One user responded, "Occasional issues, but not nearly often enough for me to get upset over it. Good ping, very few disconnects." Many others shared similar sentiments, though a common theme continually popped up: the experiences weren't always stable, and while there were times when the gaming sessions over Starlink were stellar, users say there were other times when it would be nearly unplayable.

"When it's good it's [very] good. When it's bad it's horrid," another user explained. At least in gaming, common issues reported with Starlink are high ping and excessive packet loss. The good news is that multiple customers claimed that when these issues did "spike," they often resolved on their own within a minute or so. Of course, that may not be good enough for gamers who participate in competitive gameplay.

Gaming on Starlink will improve over time

The good news is that Starlink is still a work in progress, and gaming experiences using the service will continue to improve over time. In a blog post published in June 2022, Ookla — the company that you may know for its popular internet speed test — said that Starlink speeds in the United States jumped 38% year-over-year, and improvements in Canada were even more drastic at close to 58%. However, the latency speeds worsened ever so slightly during that same period, and the company's data showed that the media latency for Starlink in the U.S. was higher than that of "all providers combined" at 43ms versus 14ms.

The latency figures may make Starlink somewhat less appealing for competitive gamers compared to their local fiber or cable alternative, assuming they have a better option available in the city where they live. 

Another potential frustration gamers should know about when deciding which internet service option is best for them: Starlink will implement a daytime data cap in the first half of 2023. Though big game downloads can be paused until nighttime hours, some gamers without access to traditional internet service may find the truly unlimited 5G home internet plans currently offered by Verizon and T-Mobile more appealing — though the quality of that connectivity option likewise varies considerably based on location.