By Jack Robert Stacey | Technology Editor
As the console war between Microsoft and Sony’s highly-anticipated next-gen consoles approaches its conclusion this November, the tech giants have been making grand steps towards significantly reducing the environmental impact of their technology.
In response to increasing concerns over the sustainability of the video games industry, a 2019 study published in The Computer Games Journal observed that U.S. gamers were responsible for producing up to 24 billion kilograms of carbon dioxide annually. The study enlightened that, in contrast to PC gaming and media streaming devices, the carbon emissions from console gaming was responsible for 66% of the industry’s total carbon output.
Earlier this year, Jim Ryan, the CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment, announced the company’s new alliance and support of the newly established ‘Playing for the Planet’ initiative.
Created by the United Nations Environment Committee (UNEC), the alliance intends “to take action on the climate crisis” by encouraging key industry figures to adopt and formally commit to environmental sustainability goals. Alongside other alliance members (including Ubisoft, Twitch, and Google’s Stadia), Sony has prepared an extensive carbon footprint assessment of its gaming services which, in the near future, will structure the company’s endeavours towards ecologically friendly practices.
As outlined in his PlayStation blog post, Ryan contended that the ‘Playing for the Planet’ alliance represented a “undeniable opportunity for leaders in the games industry to take a stand and support the UN Environment team”. Speaking further about PlayStation’s continued efforts in aid of the environment, Ryan highlighted that, as an educative and emotional communication tool “games have the power to ignite social change” and, in the near future, could be used to “raise awareness of climate issues and climate experts”.
According to an announcement by Sony Interactive Entertainment in early 2019, the PlayStation 5 will boast the ability for players to suspend gameplay while the console considerably lowers its power consumption to an estimated 0.5 W. In addition to this feature, Sony is working closely with the development of environmentally-themed video games and will provide useful information from climate experts– Such games include the indie titles Abzû, Endling, and Beyond Blue which all feature a central message of sustainability.
Microsoft, the chief competitor to Sony’s new PlayStation 5, has also partnered with other figures in the video games industry as part of the UN’s ‘Playing for the Planet’ and, with the assistance of third-party sustainability assessments, has made regular improvements to its manufacturing processes and gaming hardware.
Specifically, Microsoft has made a commitment to create 825,000 carbon-neutral certified versions of its current-gen console, the Xbox One, which will reduce the industry’s carbon-dioxide output by approximately 616 million kilograms.
Furthermore, as outlined in Microsoft’s extensive 2018 ‘eco profile’, 99% of the Xbox One (including the hardware components, casing, and electronics) can be recycled for future use in the company’s future video game consoles and other tech devices.
In the next ten years, the tech giant intends to cut the carbon emissions created from its supply chain by 55% which, as it previously announced, will contribute to the company’s commitment to achieving a carbon-neutral status by 2050.
Phil Spencer, the Executive Vice President of Gaming at Microsoft, spoke on the challenge that climate change presented to worldwide industries and reaffirmed Microsoft’s belief that “technology can play a critical role in enabling and empowering the response” to the current crisis.
A key figure in Microsoft’s work alongside the ‘Playing for the Planet’ alliance, Spencer said that climate-conscious initiatives “provide a great opportunity to tap into Microsoft’s technology sustainability and gaming community to make a difference.”
Although they remain to be key competitors in the upcoming console-war, Microsoft and Sony’s next-gen consoles are taking significant steps towards reducing the environmental impacts of their console and are using their influence to raise awareness of the importance of ecologically sustainable industry practices.Science and Technology Jack Robert Stacey