Xbox and PlayStation could be worse for the environment

Xbox and PS5 recently release their new consoles, cloud gaming and VR. But now video games may have a greater impact on the environment than ever before.

The video game industry cannot escape it, either, but it has been slow to take definitive action in addressing the realities of climate change. It’s one thing to depict the effects of climate change in games, another altogether for developers, manufacturers, publishers and the world’s largest video game companies to address the environmental impacts.

Sony has announced that it will join the UN’s efforts to fight climate change through the United Nations “Playing for the Planet” initiative. The initiative appears designed to support the development of games that encourage players to think about the impact of climate change and work to preserve or document the natural world, as well as encouraging developers and hardware manufacturers to adopt more sustainable methods of manufacturing, use renewable power for manufacturing, and reduce e-waste by making consoles and other gaming hardware 100% recyclable.

“I don’t think it occurred to many people in the games industry to ask what sort of climate impact came directly from making and playing games,” says Clark Stacey, CEO of Utah-based games studio WildWorks.

According to cnet, Video games are enamoured of numbers. Role-playing games, like Final Fantasy, are bursting with digits denoting health and magic. Here’s an important real-world one: 400.

In 2013, the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached 400 parts per million for the first time in over 3 million years. The year 2013 also saw the release of Microsoft’s Xbox One and Sony’s PlayStation 4. Since that time, carbon dioxide levels have continued to grow, recently reaching 413 ppm.

Consoles alone didn’t drive CO2 levels to those heights, of course, but they contribute a notable chunk to the carbon budget through production and product use each year.

A breakdown of the PS4 by The Verge suggests assembly of the 100 million PlayStation 4 units sold since 2013 has generated approximately 9.8 million tons of carbon dioxide. If you slot those contributions into the global picture, it puts the console in 108th place for emissions in 2016, outranking countries like Costa Rica and Moldova. Factoring in energy, that figure doubles, reaching almost 22 million tons.

Microsoft will start a pilot program to create 825,000 carbon neutral Xbox consoles, the company said in a press release Sunday. It said these will be the first video game consoles to achieve that goal. Sony will focus on the upcoming PlayStation 5’s energy consumption. The Japanese company will improve the next console’s low-power suspend mode to make it more efficient than the PlayStation 4. Sony said if 1 million users make use of the PS5’s energy-saving feature, it’ll save the equivalent of the average electricity use of 1,000 US homes.

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