Next-gen gaming goes green

Video gaming is increasingly immersive, to the point where you can leave the real world behind. But that doesn’t mean console manufacturers aren’t working hard to protect the physical world.

In fact, the next generation of games consoles that are being unveiled in 2020 will be the greenest we have ever seen. This means you can dive into a virtual world, safe in the knowledge that an effort has been made to protect our planet.

The global video game industry is booming, with a current value of $159 billion. By 2023, it will continue to grow, with a projected value of $200 billion by 2023. All of these billions of dollars add up, and some video game brands are leading the way by reinvesting profits into some of the most-eco friendly consoles that have ever existed.

The shift towards digital gaming

Older readers may remember the good old days of the first PlayStation – graphics which may seem crude by today’s standards, yet which seemed cutting edge for their time. Even 20 years ago, computing power had accelerated to such a degree that the games consoles in our homes were more advanced than the computers which were used to land the first men on the Moon in 1969.

However, it’s hard to deny that gaming has had a massive impact on the planet. Gaming has always had a large physical aspect to its impact, from the disks used for each of the millions of games sold to the plastic required to make each console and its controllers – gaming has been a resource-intensive industry.

Did you know that a physical copy of a video game emits 0.39kg of CO2 during its manufacture? Compare that to a digital download, which would cut those emissions to just 0.017kg of CO2. This means that, just by switching from an in-store purchase of a physical copy to buying a downloaded version of a game, you cut the carbon footprint of your gaming by 95.6 per cent.

According to the Entertainment Retailers Association, 80 per cent of UK video game sales were digital in 2018. Digital sales were equivalent to £3.09 billion, compared to just £770 million for physical purchases. This seismic shift in buying behaviour means British consumers have already allowed for a significant reduction in their gaming carbon footprint to take place.

PlayStation 5 is greenest console yet

Gaming fans will no doubt be waiting impatiently for the new PS5 to arrive on their doorsteps in the coming weeks. The latest iteration of the console from Sony includes up to 825GB worth of storage, up to 448GB/s in memory bandwidth and a host of other features, including a disk-drive that can handle 4K/Ultra HD Blu-ray disks.

Sony published an article outlining its dedication towards ensuring that its latest PlayStation consoles would be more eco-friendly. For example, they revealed that the PS5 will be equipped to use far less power the PS4 model while placed on standby. Games consoles typically consume most of the energy they need to power their Graphics Processing Units (GPUs).

Fortunately for Sony, PS5 has been christened the most eco-friendly console, according to a study titled Console Carbon Footprint. In the study, conducted by Slots Online Canada, a North American online betting portal, the PS5 outpaces the nearest rival, the Xbox Series X thanks to a more efficient GPU.

As measured in performance-per-watt, the PS5’s GPU operates 1.5 times more efficiently, meaning the console emits 68.6 per cent less carbon than the Xbox Series X.

HOW TO BE AN ECO-GAMER:

It might not seem like much of an adventure sitting in your gaming chair or on your sofa, but you could become something of a gaming eco-warrior. The secret to becoming one is right at your fingertips.

Go digital – as already explained, you bring your gaming carbon footprint down significantly, just downloading by a game rather than buying a physical copy in-store.

Use power sparingly – newer consoles might be better at reducing the amount of power they consume while sitting idle, but that doesn’t mean you can’t play your part. To reduce energy consumption, only leave the console running when you plan to use it.

Make more informed purchases – the likes of Sega are increasingly selling PC games in recycled packaging. It pays to search for brands that are more eco-friendly in the way they distribute their gaming products.

Video games can have varied impacts

Consoles are just part of the picture, when it comes to the environmental impact of gaming – the actual games themselves are a significant driver of carbon emissions, but no two games are alike in their emissions potential.

Computing power is an obvious factor which influences this, owing to the energy requirements placed on a console’s GPU. However, the length of time it takes to complete a game can also be a determining factor in calculating how much carbon a game can emit over time. Energy comparison site Save on Energy calculated that Minecraft was one of the worst offenders when it came to games with the largest carbon footprints.

Between 2016-20, Minecraft is estimated to have sold 200 million units globally, and is one of the games with the highest lengths of immersion at present. Given 120 hours to ‘complete’ the game, Minecraft users emit a total of 600 million kilograms of CO2 collectively, or as much as 3kg per player.

In contrast, shorter games such as Call of Duty: Ghosts take just six hours to complete, causing gamers to emit just 0.15kg of CO2 as a result. The Call of Duty franchise isn’t what many would consider small fry, so the fact that even big-hitting games can keep emissions low is a sign of what’s possible, if game developers set their minds to it.

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