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YouTube will limit video quality worldwide for the next month

Players will default to standard, but high definition will still be an option

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YouTube sad face Image: YouTube
Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

YouTube will default all video streams around the world to standard definition for the next month, according to a statement provided to Polygon. This comes after an initial report by Bloomberg detailing the plan. A similar strategy has been employed in in Europe. The decision comes as global internet traffic has spiked due to social distancing measures being taken to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“We continue to work closely with governments and network operators around the globe to do our part to minimize stress on the system during this unprecedented situation,” Google said in a statement.

Users will still have the ability to watch high-definition feeds, but will have to manually adjust the quality in their player.

On Friday, the state of Illinois joined New York, California, and other states with large population centers in issuing so-called “shelter in place” orders. These measures are intended to halt the spread of COVID-19, for which there is no cure. These orders have resulted in increased traffic for many companies, including streaming giant Netflix and Amazon’s Twitch platform.

On Tuesday, Sony also announced that it would limit the speed of downloads to its PlayStation customers in light of increased demand.

Update: In an email, Google confirmed to Polygon that it would limit video quality to standard definition by default worldwide. We’ve updated our original article to reflect that.

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