How much data does online gaming on the Nintendo Switch use?

Fortnite Switch
Fortnite Switch (Image credit: iMore)

Online gaming can be a fun way to pass time, especially on a portable system like the Nintendo Switch. But data caps are an unfortunate reality for mobile — and even some home — Internet plans. That doesn't mean you can't game if you have a data cap, but it's good to do some research before having to pay a fee because you went over your month's data.

Fortunately, there are tools available to help you find out just how much data online gaming uses. Even better, we've done the tests on the most popular game today — Fortnite. Read on to find out how much data online gaming uses!

How we tested

If you want to verify our results — or just test this with your favorite game — the setup is simple:

  1. Download Wireshark for Windows or macOS. Wireshark is a free network monitoring tool that shows how much data each device on your network is using.
  2. Make sure your Nintendo Switch is connected to the same network as the computer running Wireshark.
  3. While this isn't a necessity, it doesn't hurt to unplug or disconnect other devices that would be using the same network as the Switch. It won't hurt anything to have those devices on, but less devices means less results to sort through.
  4. Find your Switch's IP address by going to System Settings > Internet. Scroll down until you see the IP address.
  5. With Wireshark open, start using the Switch. You should see a little bit of network traffic from the Switch's IP address as the system checks for system and game updates.
  6. Open Fortnite — or your game of choice — and start playing.

For this test, we played for an hour and recorded the data usage every 20 minutes. This didn't include downloading the game from the Nintendo eShop or setting up our Epic account. Keep this in mind if you've never played Fortnite before.

How much data does online gaming on the Switch use?

With the hows out of the way, it's time to get down to business and defeat the Huns play some games. I set my timer for 20 minutes to make sure I captured how much data I'd use for my games. Here were the results:

  • After the first 20 minutes, I use 17 megabytes of data.
  • After the next 20 minutes, I used 33 megabytes of data.
  • After the last 20 minutes, I used 52 megabytes of data.

I used 52 megabytes of data for the one-hour session, which is much less than I was anticipating. This won't add any stress for home users with a one terabyte cap, and it should even work well for mobile users. Most mobile "unlimited" plans have a soft cap of 22 gigabytes, meaning if you'd have to play 423 hours of Fortnite to hit that limit. Even if you have a smaller plan — two gigabytes in this example — you can play 38 hours of Fortnite in a month from your mobile plan. That's alongside using your phone for streaming music or navigation, but it's still a great amount of game time.

What say you?

How much data do you spend on your online games? Let us know down below!

Tom Westrick