Green Gaming and Its Impact on Video Game Companies

Eco-friendly consciousness is seeping into every crack of modern life. Finally, it is reaching the gaming industry as well. Companies like Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft have been slammed for energy-wasteful practices and the use of hazardous materials. Gaming companies are now making the significant changes necessary to be more sustainable and to work toward green gaming. 

Typically, gaming consoles consume about 16 billion kilowatt-hours of energy per year. That is enough power to serve the entire city of San Diego. Gaming console plastic is another big issue. Production of over 100 million consoles per year equals the greenhouse gas emissions of more than 9000 cars.

Older and some current console models consume energy even when not in use. If users unplugged consoles when not in use, it would save about $1 billion in energy costs and 7 million tons of carbon emissions per year. Sony’s PlayStation 3 is the worst offender. Most game consoles consume as much energy as a large refrigerator. Major manufactures of gaming components are aware of the waste and damage and are now addressing the problem.

What Are Gaming Companies Doing?

Some gaming companies are starting to use cardboard in their packaging and finding ways to reduce power consumption in their consoles. Hewlett-Packard is even making gaming computers that are smaller and more energy-efficient.

Sony has added an “energy-saver” mode to their PS4 model. The latest version of Xbox One is touted as being 90 percent energy efficient now. Microsoft has instituted a company-wide “carbon-neutral” standard for all their products, including computers and gaming equipment. They are looking at power supply vendors whose aim is efficient power consumption. The goal is to achieve 92-94 percent efficiency.

Green Gaming - HeadStuff.org
A land blighted by video game company negligence. Source.

Another way gaming vendors hope to green their products is to offer them as a streaming option through TV consoles and services. Sony is operating off their “Road to Zero” plan by optimizing their high-powered components for better energy consumption and cooler operation during game play.

Some PC game vendors are swapping power-hungry games that use high-resolution video for streaming HD instead. Casino games like blackjack and baccarat are easy to transition, but game companies are having to work harder to make graphics-hungry games like World of Warcraft or Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds more energy-efficient.

A Brief History of Sustainability

What might surprise some people is that the idea of tech in sustainability began in 1970. Due to increasing evidence of the depletion of natural resources and damage to the environment, the Clean Air Act was signed into law and the first Earth Day took place. In 1972, the first recycling plant opened in Pennsylvania. With a growing population, regular sustainability practices are now more important than ever for both companies and individuals. 

From 2005-2009, Americans became much more aware of the problem and initiatives like tax deductions for green vehicles and appliances became more common. Car manufacturers got on board in a big way with eco-friendly cars and recycled materials.

The past decade has hit all-time highs for businesses and individuals making greener choices. Manufacturing is finding ways to reduce emissions and drastically cut waste, and consumers are choosing products like gaming consoles that improve our situation rather than add to the problem.

Towards A Greener Planet

The more technology drives our planet the more we have to be diligent about how to produce goods and deliver services in an environmentally-friendly way. The Industrial Revolution spawned the dependence upon very eco-damaging fuel sources like coal, gas, oil, and nuclear energy.

As our power consumption needs grow, so must our solutions. Historically we have relied upon fossil fuels and energy sources that pollute the atmosphere and cause other detrimental effects to our planet. 

In some parts of the country and overseas, governments are using modern, more sustainable fuel sources to power cities. Hydropower, wind power, solar power, and geothermal energy sources are safe, renewable, and efficient. These alternative power sources have a lesser long-term impact on the natural environment and don’t cause stress on our natural resources.

Traditional automobiles that use fossil fuels produce 30 percent of all the damaging air pollutants in the air today. Car manufacturers are finding ways to make cars more fuel efficient, they are swapping out fossil fuels for safer bio-fuel, and using electricity to power hybrid vehicles. These small changes reduce emissions by about 90 percent.

Social media has had a profoundly positive effect on sustainability. Getting the word out and sharing warnings and stats has never been easier. In 2010 Starbucks used a BetaCup Challenge to find a better solution for disposable cups. Greenpeace stopped Nestle from damaging palm oil sourcing through the use of social media.

Gaming Goes Green

The problem of climate change was once seen as quite an impossible to fix. Individuals and companies found it hard to believe that their contribution could make a difference, but as a whole, things are starting to improve. The more companies like Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony take ownership of their part and make sustainable changes, everything improves.

Instead of waiting for the government’s climate change report to come out, companies are taking the reins and making change happen. Walmart initiated the Green Gaming Summit in 2008 bringing together big gaming companies like Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo with the National Resources Defense Council to find solutions to help make the gaming industry more eco-friendly. Green gaming has rapidly become a catch-all term. 

In 2014, landfills absorbed more than 42m tonnes of discarded gaming consoles, disks and other technology items that will never break down. As a result, Nintendo has committed to making their game equipment easy to disassemble for proper recycling. Sony is now making their components PVC and BFR free; two hazardous chemicals that have been singled out as anti-green agents.

Complaints from Greenpeace and social media blasting has put companies in the spotlight and forced the decision to change. Regardless of the reasons, gaming companies are making better choices to satisfy the needs of their consumers while also balancing the effects their products have on our environment. Everyone agrees, it is about time for green gaming.


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