Viruses are the simplest replicating units, characterized by a limited number of coding genes and an exceptionally high rate of overlapping genes. We sought a unified explanation for the evolutionary constraints that govern genome sizes, gene overlapping and capsid properties. We performed an unbiased statistical analysis over the ~100 known viral families, and came to refute widespread assumptions regarding viral evolution. We found that the volume utilization of viral capsids is often low, and greatly varies among families. Most notably, we show that the total amount of gene overlapping is tightly bounded. Although viruses expand three orders of magnitude in genome length, their absolute amount of gene overlapping almost never exceeds 1500 nucleotides, and mostly confined to <4 significant overlapping instances. Our results argue against the common theory by which gene overlapping is driven by a necessity of viruses to compress their genome. Instead, we support the notion that overlapping has a role in gene novelty and evolution exploration.