In brief

  • Servers run by Nintendo and Microsoft go down.
  • More employees are working from home across the world.
  • During the coronavirus pandemic, decentralized networks might get their time in the sun.

Servers for gaming console Nintendo Switch and Microsoft teams went down today, a major upset as the wider world begins to work from home en masse due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Currently, network services are not available. We're sorry for the inconvenience, but please wait for a while until recovery,” wrote Nintendo today on the Japanese version of its website. 

Microsoft Teams briefly went down today for European users, who rely on the tech giant’s communication platform for work. Microsoft determined it to be a “a caching issue within a component of our infrastructure.” Though it claimed to have resolved the issue, some users still reported outages: 

Many of the world’s most developed nations have entered lockdowns due to the coronavirus. Italy, Spain and France have shut down almost completely, and other countries are implementing similar practices.

The virus is reaching over 200,000 confirmed cases, and there are now more deaths outside of China—the country where the virus originated—than within it. Many governments are either recommending or enforcing school and business closures, and are encouraging people to work from home.

An increased reliance on web infrastructure has created additional stress. The foremost gaming platform for PC gamers, Steam, for instance, this weekend hit its all-time daily peak for concurrent users, likely due to coronavirus lockdowns. 

Of course, the promise of using decentralized technology is that the entire network does not go down in the event that a centralized party collapses. There are decentralized alternatives to gaming and communication platforms, even if they’re at early stages.

Session, a decentralized messenger application, uses the blockchain to obscure users’ identity and to ensure that the network can’t go down should a single node fail. It’s currently in beta.

Similarly, God’s Unchained, a decentralized game similar to Hearthstone, became incredibly popular when Hearthstone developer Blizzard sparked controversy during the Hong Kong protests. In November 2019, Blizzard took prize money from Konger Chung Ng Wai, aka Blitzchung, after he had expressed support for the Hong Kong protests. 

Still, should a blockchain network become overloaded, it can clog up in the same way, becoming prohibitively expensive to use. Perhaps there’s no easy answer.