• Hey, guest user. Hope you're enjoying NeoGAF! Have you considered registering for an account? Come join us and add your take to the daily discourse.

Next-Gen Gaming Is an Environmental Nightmare. :: Guess the source

Who wrote this article


  • Total voters
    196
  • Poll closed .

Kdad

Member
Sep 20, 2018
1,344
2,556
450
Next-Gen Gaming Is an Environmental Nightmare
Console waste plus energy-hungry cloud gaming equals the worst of both worlds for sustainability.
Old gaming electronics in a landfill
The impending release of new Xbox and PlayStation consoles—and a broader push toward cloud gaming—has environmentalists anxious.

It’s a sad truth that escapist pursuits are not truly separate from real life, and some even have a nasty tendency to exacerbate real-life problems. And while gaming offers a reprieve from thinking about dooms both personal and global, it threatens to bring at least one of them—climate disaster—closer to reality.

What with plastic casing, mined-metal circuit boards, guzzled power, and e-waste, gaming has for decades been an industry unfriendly to the environment. Now, in line with more meta trends in tech, gaming’s technological underpinnings are becoming smaller and more invisible. Cloud gaming has arrived alongside digital consoles like the PlayStation 5 Digital Edition and Xbox Series S, where games are buttons on menu screens. You’re not going to see the equivalent of 700,000 Atari 2600 E.T. cartridges buried in the New Mexico desert.

But while many gamers will ditch the discs, experts say that less visible tech in no way equals less damage to the planet, and that the games industry as a whole is not on a path to reducing its carbon footprint. Right now, US gaming platforms represent 34 terawatt-hours a year in energy usage—more than the entire state of West Virginia—with associated carbon dioxide emissions equivalent to over 5 million cars. And it’s only going to get worse. “Total emissions are going up,” says Gary Cook, global climate campaigns director for Stand.Earth, an environmental nonprofit founded to challenge corporations’ climate practices. “There’s a real reckoning that needs to happen.”

Two features define next-gen consoles: digital services and big-daddy specs. You might pick up Microsoft’s $300 all-digital Xbox Series S and, downloading games off the cloud, live a life free of disc clutter. You might forgo a console entirely and sign up for Google Stadia, Xbox’s Game Pass Ultimate, or any number of smartphone-based cloud gaming services. Even if you do opt for a specced-out PlayStation 5, you’ll likely still be downloading very big video games from data centers in northern Virginia, Las Vegas, Chicago, and beyond.

In interviews with WIRED, Microsoft executives have described how the future of Xbox isn’t about taking away hardware altogether. Cloud gaming is additive. Microsoft wants to reach potential gamers where they are already, expanding its user base to everybody who might even passingly consider gaming. It envisions customers logging into Minecraft on their Galaxy S20, their Xbox Series S, and their PC, all contained within the Microsoft ecosystem. That’s a lot of hardware, and a lot of power.

“If people are going to choose to play games, we want to be as efficient as we possibly can in delivering that experience, either via a console or a data center in a streamed environment,” said Microsoft’s vice president of cloud gaming, Kareem Choudhry in a March interview with WIRED. “We’re working pretty hard on those issues, all within the envelope of the broader Microsoft carbon-neutral initiative.”

Microsoft has plans to be carbon-negative by 2030. But like Sony, which wants to achieve zero environmental footprint by 2050, Microsoft declined to answer WIRED’s specific questions about changes to its supply chain, console manufacturing techniques, and data centers to meet that goal. (Nintendo, which has not yet announced a next-gen console, has publicized some initiatives in recycling and nontoxic substances.) As the dual winds of big console performance and big demand for server-side computing meet, the gaming industry could be setting up for a worst-of-both-worlds situation.

“The worst-case scenario is still using relatively energy-intensive hardware on your side and then still using the cloud gaming platforms that have a lot going on the backend in terms of energy demand,” says Cook.

It’s no secret that consumer electronics are bad for the environment. Consoles comprise chips, circuit boards, fans, all wrapped up in plastic, all destined for a landfill when they’ve outworn their welcome. They require the use of conflict minerals like tin, tungsten, tantalum, and gold to manufacture. Historically, the mining of these minerals has led to human rights abuses, land degradation, chemical pollution, water contamination, and deforestation across countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Africa. Microsoft and Sony both vet their supply chains in pursuit of ethical sourcing, but Microsoft has managed significantly better transparency about where its so-called 3TG minerals come from.

"There’s a real reckoning that needs to happen."



The consoles and their components are generally manufactured in Chinese plants that lean hard on fossil fuel and coal energy. Millions of PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series S/X units are already in production. (Bloomberg has reported that Sony hopes to produce 15 million PlayStation 5 units before March 2021. Sony Interactive Entertainment CEO Jim Ryan told The Washington Post that the company plans to have more PlayStation 5s available at launch than it did for the PlayStation 4 launch in 2013.) A little counterintuitively, designing these new consoles’ increasingly tiny chips requires more energy. The hyper-controlled conditions in which these intricate chips are made, including air filtration and chemical treatments, guzzle huge amounts of electricity. Once everything is assembled, often by robots, there’s shipping, which Cook describes as “kind of invisible to the average consumer, but actually has a really big carbon footprint that we’re all a part of.” And finally, recycling. As specialty electronics, consoles are notoriously difficult to recycle. With parts soldered onto circuit boards, consumers can’t really upgrade them when their specs are out of vogue, like, say, when a new generation launches. So a lot of the time they end up in landfills, where their chemicals and plastics are introduced into the environment—the fate of single-use electronics.

Last generation’s PlayStation 4 and Xbox One used 137 and 112 watts, respectively, when running games. (PC gaming uses a tremendous amount of energy: globally, per year, the equivalent of 25 standard electric power plants.) The disc version of the PlayStation 5 has a maximum output of 350 watts, and Xbox Series X is at 315. (Real-world performance remains to be seen.) “We quadrupled the performance, but we did not quadruple the power,” Xbox’s head of gaming engineering, Liz Hamren, says about the new console. “We have a constant desire to drive down power consumption, but drive up performance.”

Gaming companies seem quite aware that these stats are abysmal. Sony has boasted of a new, optional “low-power mode” for the PlayStation 5. Jim Ryan has said that if “just 1 million users enable the feature, it would save equivalent to the average electricity use of 1,000 US homes.” And Hamren says the Xbox Series S and X will have a new, lower-power “connected standby” mode that “ratchets the power way down” when it’s not actively in use.

Consumers aren’t going to buy next-gen consoles that are less powerful than their predecessors. It’s a tension that retired Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory energy researcher Evan Mills says is at odds with necessary climate goals. In 2018, Mills gathered 26 gaming systems, including the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 4 Pro, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One, and gauged their wattage with a digital power meter. With that data, his team authored a groundbreaking report on gaming systems’ carbon emissions, noting that increased performance, more gamers, and more time gaming have “given rise to a perception of unavoidable trade-off between gaming user experience and energy efficiency.” Advances in technology—like lowering frames per second per watt—have helped, but “have not translated into reductions in energy use at the macro level.”

What surprised Mills wasn’t that PCs and consoles were guzzling refrigerators’ worth of power, though. Mills says the more impending threat is cloud gaming.

Cloud gaming shuttles input signals from a mobile gamer’s couch to a far-away data center equipped with top-of-the-line CPUs and GPUs, where a new game state is calculated and transmitted back. Because much of the processing happens remotely, so too does the bulk of the energy use. (Some, of course, still happens locally.) In addition to energy-intensive hardware demands, data centers depend on substantial ventilation and air cooling.

“You can think of the data center as a factory: Electricity and water go in, and data and heat go out,” says Aaron Wemhoff, director of Villanova University’s Center for Energy-Smart Electronic Systems. “While adding IT equipment adds to electricity consumption, the focus on energy efficiency is to minimize the extra electricity required to make up for cooling systems and electrical power losses.”

Cloud gaming uses more energy per hour of gameplay than local gaming, which means data centers are taxed regardless of the console people play on. Microsoft, which runs its own Azure data centers, is pushing hard to convert its facilities to renewable energy. Wemhoff says that while he is seeing more data center operators express interest in moving in that direction, progress has been slow. “Industry members have told me there is little financial incentive to drive this change,” he says.


Cloud gaming isn’t quite mainstream yet; gaming only accounts for 7 percent of global network demand, according to researchers at Lancaster University in England in a 2020 study. And content downloads account for 95 percent of that gaming total. But with Microsoft’s Project xCloud, Amazon’s Luna, Sony’s PlayStation Now, Nvidia’s Geforce Now, and other, smaller cloud gaming services pushing console-free gaming, it seems as though this growing trend may have real repercussions on the environment. If even 30 percent of gamers adopt cloud gaming, by 2030 that will mean a 30 percent boost in gaming’s carbon emissions, Polygon reported in a recent story on cloud gaming’s environmental toll.

Despite these grim stats, the most prominent group promoting environmentally friendly gaming practices appears optimistic. Playing for the Planet is a UN Environment Programme-facilitated alliance comprising top gaming companies like Microsoft, Sony, and Google (but not Nintendo). The organization said in a statement to WIRED that while increasing trends in use, graphics, and energy intensity contribute to higher network loads, cloud gaming is an opportunity to promote renewable energy. “There’s also systemic efforts to be considered, because as large and visible companies commit and invest in renewables at broad scale, low-carbon power becomes more accessible to everyone,” the organization said.


Playing for the Planet focuses a lot on consumers—educating them, getting them hyped about environmentalism, helping them modulate device settings, commissioning games about trees. They want to encourage players to protect nature and biodiversity, asking, "What if video games could also help us tackle the biggest environmental challenges of our time?"

Stand.Earth’s Cook says these companies need to stop passing the buck. Infrastructure needs to be the focus. Recyclable materials. Renewable energy. “Otherwise,” he says, “you're increasing emissions at a time where we’re in the last 10 years [before it's too late] on climate change. We must halve emissions by 2030, full stop. And is gaming taking us in the right direction, or is it the exact opposite?”

 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: Punkster88

GamesAreFun

Member
Jul 27, 2018
375
574
365
Wasn't aware the new consoles use 3x more power, that's a huge increase.

I don't disagree with the article, though globally the power consumption of consoles isn't that significant compared to computers in general. The Switch is probably the best option if one is concerned.
 

Stilton Disco

Member
Aug 22, 2014
6,705
6,840
780
England
Singling out gaming is daft, but we are as a species becoming ever more energy hungry, and we need more efficient, fully renewable, cheaper and less polluting means of energy production.

These technologies also mostly already exist. Nuclear, solar, hydro, wind, geothermal and hydrogen fuel should all be able to produce more power, while doing so safer, cheaper and more sustainably than with fossil fuels.

Sadly getting there is an initial investment in time, money and innovation that is sadly more than most people are going to be willing to deal with until they have to.

We will get there though. Humanity survives, adapts and thrives, no matter what the universe throws at us.
 
Last edited:

FunkMiller

Member
Aug 14, 2014
2,881
11,339
810
If at this stage you don't think we as a species need to treat the environment a bit better, you are a stone cold fucking moron. Making gaming more environmentally friendly would be no bad thing OP, and if we have articles the highlight this -or lack of effort thereof - then that's a good thing.
 
Last edited:

Soodanim

Member
Feb 24, 2012
5,903
1,033
915
Singling out gaming is daft, but we are as a species becoming ever more energy hungry, and we need more efficient, fully renewable, cheaper and less polluting means of energy production.

These technologies also mostly already exist. Nuclear, solar, hydro, wind, geothermal and hydrogen fuel should all be able to produce more power, safer, cheaper and more sustainably than with fossil fuels, but getting there is an initial investment in time, .only and innovation that is sadly more than most people are going to be willing to deal with until they have to.

We will get there though. Humanity survives, adapts and thrives, no matter what the universe throws at us.
This is it. The article is an interesting take about the effect of newly released hardware, but in the grand scheme of things it's no different to any other electricity powered device and it's up to the power and science industries to develop and implement efficient renewable sources so that this power draw is isn't having such a negative impact on the world.
 
  • Thoughtful
Reactions: Gandih42

CrysisFreak

Perfection. Erection.
Apr 9, 2020
2,086
5,237
605
Singling out gaming is daft, but we are as a species becoming ever more energy hungry, and we need more efficient, fully renewable, cheaper and less polluting means of energy production.

These technologies also mostly already exist. Nuclear, solar, hydro, wind, geothermal and hydrogen fuel should all be able to produce more power, safer, cheaper and more sustainably than with fossil fuels, but getting there is an initial investment in time, .only and innovation that is sadly more than most people are going to be willing to deal with until they have to.

We will get there though. Humanity survives, adapts and thrives, no matter what the universe throws at us.
Yeah except the majority of climate activists are mentally challenged maggots who believe nuclear energy is the devil, thus automatically disqualifying themselves from the conversation and literally preventing environmental progress. And in some shitholes like Germany people actually believe those cunts and vote for them because atoms are evil.

Not saying nuclear energy does not come with many considerations but that's the basic overview.
 

Nhranaghacon

Member
Sep 15, 2020
146
155
200
Last edited:
  • Triggered
Reactions: Griffon

Yoboman

Member
Sep 17, 2005
18,165
7,432
1,840
I honestly would support either manufacturer with my wallet if they made a concerted effort to make these consoles more recyclable and moved servers to a more sustainable green model

Good article, and good to put these things in perspective some times
 

SantaC

Member
Jun 11, 2004
20,670
2,491
1,995
Lol enviroment. It is all fake.

Just chop down some trees i dont care.

And i love flying. I would fly every day if i could just to spite Greta. Just dump it all yeah.
 
Last edited:

Yoboman

Member
Sep 17, 2005
18,165
7,432
1,840
Yeah except the majority of climate activists are mentally challenged maggots who believe nuclear energy is the devil, thus automatically disqualifying themselves from the conversation and literally preventing environmental progress. And in some shitholes like Germany people actually believe those cunts and vote for them because atoms are evil.

Not saying nuclear energy does not come with many considerations but that's the basic overview.
Yep

Nuclear has major problems, but its a far better solution when we can localise the waste issues of nuclear until we find a solution.

Unfortunately nuclear is a case of idiocy in basic marketing. Don't share a name with city destroying bombs

Let's not forget that oil, coal and gas propaganda worked overtime against nuclear too
 

Yoboman

Member
Sep 17, 2005
18,165
7,432
1,840
Nah, I won't be guilted for enjoying one of my few hobbies during the little bit of time I have on Earth while governments sanction and incentivise shit like fracking that does way more damage than I'll do in my lifetime.
Agreed. But don't fight against awareness and knowledge of these issues being spread. Lack of knowledge and the politicisation against green tech has become a major issue for it actually being developed and deployed in ways that don't affect you and I
 
  • Strength
Reactions: Dr.Morris79 and MrS

MrS

Member
Apr 6, 2014
8,556
5,557
710
North East, England
Agreed. But don't fight against awareness and knowledge of these issues being spread. Lack of knowledge and the politicisation against green tech has become a major issue for it actually being developed and deployed in ways that don't affect you and I
Yep, fair point. Respect you bro.
 
Nov 22, 2019
265
429
250
There are 38 million flights per year and I'm gonna care about the effect my gaming has on the environment? FOH.
Pretty much, wasn't there a study just recently that says the 1% richest people in the world are responsible for causing more environmental harm than the bottom 50% of the worlds population. It's all just a gas cloud to hide the actual perpetrators, lay the blame on everyone, let everyone point fingers at each other for just living their lives. Pay no attention to the minority of people doing massive amounts of damage.
 
Last edited:

angrod14

Member
Jun 18, 2020
61
157
220
"Lel". I'm no expert, but you only need common sense to know that when it comes to the causes of world wide pollution, these consoles should be the least of our concerns.



 
Last edited:

Boswollocks

Member
Apr 19, 2019
8,051
12,960
780
Mars
Do they mention Christmas, or Easter, or 'made-up-holiday-to-sell-cards' day?

No?

Then they can fuck themselves with a biodegradable fence post.
 

RedVIper

Member
Jun 13, 2017
2,574
3,365
460
Pretty much, wasn't there a study just recently that says the 1% richest people in the world are responsible for causing more environmental harm than the bottom 50% of the worlds population. It's all just a gas cloud to hide the actual perpetrators, lay the blame on everyone, let everyone point fingers at each other for just living their lives. Pay no attention to the minority of people doing massive amounts of damage.
Mate if you live in a first world country and are buying a gaming console you're probably part of that 1%.
 

bad guy

as bad as Danny Zuko in gym knickers
Nov 27, 2014
615
537
565
in my head
Getting both consoles which are about the same thing hardware-wise is an environmental nightmare if you ask me.
 

jigglet

Member
May 18, 2020
1,288
2,622
535
“Oh, so mother nature needs a favor? Well, maybe she should have thought of that when she was besetting us with droughts and floods.”
-M. Burns
 

the_master

Member
Aug 27, 2007
563
820
1,255
Barcelona, Spain, Europe.
Yeah except the majority of climate activists are mentally challenged maggots who believe nuclear energy is the devil, thus automatically disqualifying themselves from the conversation and literally preventing environmental progress. And in some shitholes like Germany people actually believe those cunts and vote for them because atoms are evil.

Not saying nuclear energy does not come with many considerations but that's the basic overview.
Do you know that Germany and other countries, have achieved some days (good conditions, not much use) to be powered only with renewable energies?
Maybe they are not mentaly challenged at all.

Some countries like Iceland and Paraguay run allways with 100% renewable energies, and others like Norway, Denmark, Brazil and Austria. Are getting there.

So it is possible indeed
 
  • Thoughtful
Reactions: Gandih42

Daymos

Member
Jul 26, 2013
475
335
530
Environmentalism is a tool for political parties. There's 270 million cars in the USA, I'm pretty sure they're bigger than game consoles.

I know! Let's all get rid of our old cars and buy 100 million NEW electric ones!! That will save the environment!!
AND build windmills and solar panels that last 20 years.. we'll give money to the oil companies to build them.
 
Last edited:

Portugeezer

Member
Dec 11, 2008
20,068
2,800
1,270
London
abload.de
Wasn't aware the new consoles use 3x more power, that's a huge increase.

I don't disagree with the article, though globally the power consumption of consoles isn't that significant compared to computers in general. The Switch is probably the best option if one is concerned.
You wasn't aware because it's not true; you don't use the full power, and it needs overhead for all the connections it can take.

Considering the comparison the article makes, it should have informed readers that the original PS4 had 250W power supply (IIRC).
 

Tschumi

Member
Jul 4, 2020
1,239
1,360
430
the article is not bad.
at some point people will have to learn to live with more respect of the environment and gaming could take a huge hit when that happens.
I'm with you.. problem is it'll never happen..

Smartphones are also insanely bad for the environment