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Not to be confused with Cooling down.

Cooldown time is, in numerous video games, the minimum length of time that the player needs to wait after using an ability before they can use it again.

One can think of cooldown as the reload time and firing rate of weapons. For example, a machine gun has very fast firing rate, so it has a very low cooldown between shots. Comparatively, a shotgun has a long reload/cooldown time between each shots. Cooldown also can be used to 'balance' a weapon such as a turret-mounted machine gun having infinite ammunition, since it can only sustain continuous fire until reaching a threshold at which the weapon would have to cool down (hence the term) before it could be fired again.

In design terms, cooldown can also be thought of as an inverted 'casting time' where instead of requiring a wait time before using an ability, cooldown may replace casting time and put the wait after the ability is activated. This creates a new dimension to the balancing act of casting speed versus power: "lower cooldown, faster cast, but weaker strength" versus "higher cooldown, slower cast, but greater strength." This sort of mechanic is integral to such games as World of Warcraft, where cooldown management is key to higher-level play and various abilities deal with cooldown (for example, cooldown reduction or immediately finishing cooldown on certain abilities).

From the technical point of view, cooldown can also be used to assert control over frequency of cast (for spamming) in order to maintain a fluid frame rate and ping. For example, in the game Diablo II, cooldown was added in the form of a patch to several graphically and CPU intensive spells (blizzard, frozen orb, hydra, etc.) to solve the problem of extreme lag caused by players spamming these spells in multiplayer.

Moves and attacks in fighting games (like those from the Street Fighter series) have the amount of time each of them take to execute measured in "frames" (1/60th of a second per frame). Each move has a certain amount of frames in which it is considered to be "recovering" before another move can be executed, which is similar to cooldowns in concept. However, unlike the concept of the cooldown, where a move, spell or ability is considered to be cooling down before it can be used again but control over one's character/unit is still available, the recovery frames of a move in a fighting game do not allow the player to perform any other attacks or movement until the move has fully recovered. Because of this mechanic, strategic use of skills is necessary to make sure the opponent cannot immediately counter the player during the recovery phase of an attack, since it leaves the player wide open.