What Does NAT Do For Gaming? (PS4/PS5/Xbox One/Xbox X/PC)


Gamers will often see the term NAT Type bandied around, but what exactly does this mean? In this article, we’ll provide a complete beginner’s guide on NAT Types for gaming – what is NAT, what purpose it serves for gaming, plus how to find and change your NAT Type.

Here is a quick answer on what NAT does for gaming:

NAT Type is a network protocol that translate public IP addresses to private, and decides how openly your gaming device can connect with other gaming devices online. Having a sufficiently open NAT Type is crucial to allow proper connections between gamers for lobbies and voice chats.

In other words, it is better for gamers to be on an Open NAT Type (Type 1), rather than a Strict NAT Type (Type 3). Moderate NAT (Type 2) is somewhere in the middle and can generally work well but with occasional problems. We’ll cover the NAT Types in more detail below, but if you are stuck on Strict NAT, you’ll very commonly find you have problems connecting to other gamers online, for lobbies and party chats and other things.

Finding your NAT Type is easy, and there are several methods of changing it, which we’ll also cover. Let’s start off with some more theory on the function of NAT, before moving onto practical steps to find and change your NAT Type if needed.

The Purpose of NAT For Gaming

NAT stands for Network Address Translation and is a protocol that is used by any device (not just games consoles) that uses the IPv4 mode of connectivity (IPv6 does not need to use NAT).

The need for NAT arises from the fact that under the older IPv4 addressing scheme (the common IP address format you see like 88.172.56.76), there are actually not nearly enough unique IP addresses (unique identifiers for devices) for every single device on the planet.

Remember that with a world population of 7-8 billion, there are tens of billions of devices worldwide. With the IPv4 addressing format (x.x.x.x, where each x can be a number from 1-254), this only comes in at potentially 4.3 billion unique IP addresses – nowhere near enough in the modern world for every device to have a unique public IP address.

Network Address Translation solves this problem by splitting IP addresses into public and private IP addresses. Public IP’s are assigned to a router or household, whilst private IPs are assigned to individual devices within a home and run along the familiar addressing scheme you may have seen of 192.168.0.x (or something similar), where x is a different number from 1-254 that is given to each device in the home.

NAT effectively bridges this gap between public and private IP addresses by translating the public IP address used by a single household into this private address range, and vice versa. This means there are now enough IP addresses for all devices, because there are two different ranges that are used. The public IPs only need to be assigned to each residence, not each device, so there’s now (just) enough to go around, although even these are running into short supply now.

See the diagram below for a good depiction of how NAT works:

How NAT works

NAT type resolves the issue of there not being enough unique IPv4 addresses in the world by converting a a public IP address (82.10.250.19) into a private IP address and range (192.168.0.1-255) so it can then dish out the private (local network) IP addresses you see in the image to each device on the home network (Image credit – Milesjpool – Wikimedia Commons).

An indirect consequence of NAT though, is that it decides how much restriction is placed on a device’s ability to connect with other devices online. There are different NAT Types that offer differing levels of openness vs restrictiveness for a device’s ability to “talk to” other devices. Let’s cover this in the next section.

Finding Your Current NAT Type

Is it always very easy to find your current NAT Type for games consoles. You simply need to go to the Connection Settings/Status menu of your console, or perform a connection test, and the NAT Type will be displayed.

On the PS4/PS5, you simply need to go to Settings….Network…..Test Internet Connection, and your NAT Type will be displayed on the screen:

It’s exactly the same with the Xbox One/Xbox X consoles – just check your current Connection/Network settings or perform a speed test, and there is even a specific option on these consoles to check your NAT Type.

NAT Type is also sometimes displayed within the settings of certain games, although be aware this isn’t always accurate.

The Best And Worst NAT Types For Gaming

We have already covered this extensively in our full article on the best NAT Type for Gaming, but let’s go over it again briefly here.

There are 3 NAT Types a games console or any other device can be on – Open, Moderate and Strict:

  • Open NAT (Type 1) – The best NAT Type, offering the most free, open, unrestricted access to other devices online. This is the NAT Type you ideally need to be on for games consoles (PCs are probably better on NAT Type 2, for reasons we’ll explain later on). Open NAT can communicate with all other NAT Types.
  • Moderate NAT Type (Type 2) – The second best NAT Type to be on, offering reasonable connectivity to other games, with perhaps some restrictions. NAT Type 2 is perfectly fine for some gamers, but does present problems for other gamers. Can be mixed. Moderate NAT can communicate with devices on Moderate and Open NAT Types.
  • Strict NAT Type (Type 3) – The worst NAT Type to be on, as it offers the most restricted access to other gamers, Lobby and voice chat issues will be common if you are using this NAT Type, as it restricts the ability of your games console to “talk” freely with other games consoles online. A device on Strict NAT can only communicate with devices on Open NAT.

Most devices and networks will assign NAT Type 2 (Moderate) as the default one, but occasionally the network settings may be a little stricter on security and place you on NAT 3 (Strict) as the default. This is where gamers can often run into problems with their NAT restricting connectivity.

See the table below for visual demonstration of the connectivity between NAT Types:

Console 1
NAT TypeOpen (Type 1)Moderate (Type 2)Strict (Type 3)
Open (Type 1)YesYesYes
Console 2Moderate (Type 2)YesYesNo
Strict (Type 3)YesNoNo

Open NAT type is best as it can communicate with devices on all other NAT types; Moderate is OK as it can communicate with devices on Open and Moderate type; Strict is worst as it can only talk to Open NAT type devices

Therefore you can see how NAT Type 1 (Open NAT) is the best type to be on, as it allows your console to connect and communicate freely with all other devices online without restrictions.

If you are on a Strict NAT Type (Type 3), you’ll likely run into connection issues with other gamers, such as the following:

  • Unable to join online lobbies
  • Disconnection from online lobbies
  • Unable to join party chats or can’t hear certain players within parties
  • High latency or ping for multiplayer games
  • May take a long time searching for lobbies and matches as NAT type is limiting the number of players you can connect to

You may also experience some of these problems sometimes when on NAT Type 2, although they will be much less frequent. Some gamers actually do perfectly fine on NAT Type 2, and never even have to learn about NAT Types because it’s never an issue. Others can struggle even on Moderate NAT; networking is unfortunately very complex and variable, so experiences will differ.

Nevertheless, it’s definitely better for console gamers especially to be on Open NAT if possible. Let’s cover how you can do this if you are not on NAT Type 1 already.

Method #1 – UPnP Settings For Open NAT

Probably the easiest way to get open NAT for a games console is simply to enable Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) settings on your router. This should automatically open all ports and give you an Open NAT.

Just login to your router using it’s IP address (often 192.168.0.1 or 192.168.1.1 or 192.168.1.254), plus the admin/password on the sticker on the back, and find and enable UPnP settings are they aren’t already turned on.

Then retest your connection and you should be on Open NAT (Type 1).

Method #2 – Opening Ports For Open NAT Type (Major Consoles)

This is a more manual and long winded way of opening ports, but first requires you assign a static IP address for your console, which acts as a constant reference point which you instruct your router to automatically forward all ports to without firewall restrictions.

Here are the general steps for doing this:

  • Set a static IP address for your games console – see our articles on how to do this for the PS4/PS5 consoles and the Xbox One/X consoles.
  • Login to your router using it’s IP (often 192.168.0.1 or 192.168.1.1) and admin/password
  • Find Port Forwarding settings if available.
  • Enter the static IP you’ve set for your games console.
  • Enter the specific ports listed below for your particular console in the TCP/UDP range.
  • Some routers only handle both TCP/UDP together as Both
  • Save settings and exit router.
  • You should now have open ports and Open NAT (Type 1) for your games console. Try a connection test to see.

Ports to open for the PS4/PS5 consoles:

  • TCP Ports – 1935, 3478-3480
  • UDP Ports – 3074, 3478-3479
  • Both – 1935, 3074, 3478-3480

Ports to open for the XBox consoles:

  • Xbox One Console:
      • TCP Ports – 53, 80, 3074
      • UDP Ports – 53, 88, 500, 3074, 3544, 4500
  • Xbox X Console:
      • TCP Ports – 3074
      • UDP Ports – 88, 500, 3074, 3544, 4500
  • Xbox Live (PC):
      • TCP Ports – 3074
      • UDP Ports – 88, 3074
For opening ports for specific games, see the definitive portforward.com resource for TCP/UDP ports to open for all games and all consoles. This is not actually our preferred method as it’s too cumbersome and time consuming; however it’s always open to gamers if they want to be precise with how they open ports.

Method #3 – Using DMZ Settings For Open NAT

This is a more general way of again opening up all ports for your games console, without having to do the long winded method of manual port forwarding we covered in the above section.

Placing your games console into the DMZ section of your router basically achieves the same result, removing all firewall filtering and placing your console on Open NAT for the best connectivity to the wider internet and other gamers.

Using DMZ settings again requires logging into your router; here are the general steps:

  •  Prep – Log into your router using it’s IP address (often 192.168.0.1 or 192.168.1.1) plus admin/password found on the back or online. Find DMZ settings and check whether it asks for an IP address or MAC address to configure. MAC address is easier option. If it requires IP address then follow the steps in the video to set a static IP address.
  • Find and note down your console’s IP and/or MAC address in the Connection Status/Settings menu depending on what the router needs entering. These settings are easy to find within the menus of all games consoles.
  • If required make the current IP address fixed or static by re-configuring your connection manually with the IP address as described in this video. We also have an article on how to do it here. If the router only requires a MAC address entering in DMZ then you don’t need to do this step.
  •  Log into your router using it’s IP address and password, found on the back or on Google. 192.168.0.1 or 1.1 is most common for the IP address. Type this into your browser’s address bar and enter the router password.
  •  Go to DMZ settings, usually under “Security” or “Advanced” or similar.
  •  Enter in your console’s static IP address you just configured if needed, or MAC address depending on what it asks for. If it asks for just the MAC address the whole process is easy; some routers ask for an IP address which requires we configure a static IP as detailed above.
  •  Save settings and exit router. You have now placed your console in the DMZ for fully open ports and Open NAT type.

See our full article on using DMZ for more detailed steps, plus videos.

NAT Types and Safety For Gaming

This is another issue we should cover about using Open NAT especially, as there are sometimes concerns about using DMZ/Open NAT to completely open up devices to the internet, with no firewall restrictions at all. Is it safe to do this?

Let’s break the answer down into PC and console gamers, as the answers are different.

Console gamers – It IS safe to place console like the PS4/PS5/Xbox One/Xbox X on Open NAT, as they cannot catch viruses in the way that other devices can because their ability to connect to the internet is carefully controlled and restricted. The browsers on games consoles are very basic and can’t download anything, so you can’t catch viruses using them.

PC gamers – It is NOT recommended to place gaming PCs on Open NAT or use DMZ settings, as this can leave such devices open to security vulnerabilities since the user has more freedom to download things and catch viruses when firewall filtering is removed. PC gamers are probably better staying on Moderate NAT (Type 2).

See our full article on the safety of DMZ for gaming for more on this issue.

Oliver

Online gamer and general home networking enthusiast. I like to create articles to help people solve common home networking problems.

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