Microsoft and Sony have both announced plans to do something about the environmental impact of their games console businesses, the former by making its Xbox business carbon-neutral and the latter by dramatically reducing standby power draw in the next-generation PlayStation 5.
On the occasion of the United Nations Climate Summit, both Microsoft and Sony have indicated that they are willing to shift their business and technology practices in order to reduce their impact on the environment. For both, this includes their console gaming divisions - although the two are taking somewhat different tacks to reach their goals.
'Microsoft’s business operations have operated carbon neutral since 2012. Today we are beginning the journey of extending that to our products and devices with a pilot to make 825,000 Xbox consoles carbon neutral,' Microsoft chief environmental officer Lucas Joppa announced earlier this week. 'These are the first gaming consoles to be carbon neutral. While just a pilot, we’re already looking at what we can do to further reduce and neutralise carbon across devices in the future.'
The company's commitments extend beyond games consoles, too: Microsoft has confirmed it is working to extend its carbon reduction efforts into its supply chain, is working towa5rds a 1.5°C climate scenario, and is expanding its AI for Earth programme.
Sony, meanwhile, has confirmed that its next-generation PlayStation 5 console will dramatically reduce its power draw when in a standby state compared to the PlayStation 4. 'I am [...] very pleased to announce the next generation PlayStation console will include the possibility to suspend gameplay with much lower power consumption than PS4 (which we estimate can be achieved at around 0.5 W),' announced Sony Interactive Entertainment president and chief executive Jim Ryan. 'If just one million users enable this [optional] feature, it would save equivalent to the average electricity use of 1,000 US homes.' Ryan did not offer comment on why the feature is opt-in, nor what functionality will be disabled should users choose to do so - though it seems clear that remote gaming and the ability to trigger downloads without being physically located at the console will be sacrificed to keep the power draw down.
As with Microsoft, Sony has also committed to a full carbon footprint assessment of its gaming services, reports on energy efficiency measures taken at its data centres, and partnerships within the gaming industry to 'develop reference information for use by game developers that wish to include sustainability themes in games' for both traditional and virtual reality titles.
Both companies have also announced their membership of the Playing 4 the Planet Alliance. 'The video games industry has the ability to engage, inspire and captivate the imaginations of billions of people across the world. This makes them a hugely important partner in addressing the climate emergency,' says Inger Andersen, executive director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) behind the Alliance. 'We are encouraged by the commitment of these gaming companies, which shows recognition that we all must play our role in the global effort to lower carbon emissions and effect real change towards sustainability.'
February 24 2020 | 12:00