Carbon-Cutting Games Consoles Revealed

With many video game releases ending up delayed until this year – including Elden Ring and Warhammer 3 – it’s a huge year for gamers. But as with any major sector, the focus is on limiting the environmental impact of gaming. From video game companies to social media titans, the tech industry is working on lowering its carbon footprint, with 21 gaming giants having pledged to reduce their emissions by a combined 30 million tonnes by 2030.

Most recently, video game developer Sumo Group joined the Playing for the Planet Alliance, which showcases the achievements of gaming companies’ collaborations towards lowering carbon emissions. But how can gamers make a difference to support these brands’ efforts?

Carbon-Cutting Consoles reveals the CO2 emissions associated with popular platforms, based on official specifications, to reveal the most and least polluting platforms – as well as the most impactful video game titles.

Most Polluting Gaming Platforms

Of the consoles analysed in the study – which were those released since 2004 – the results show it’s gaming laptops that prove the most polluting, as they’re responsible for an estimated 25.6 kg of CO2 each year. This is based on the average gaming laptop’s kWh of 0.25 – although some can go as high as 0.5 kWh (about six times that of an average laptop) – and the time gamers spent playing in 2021, which was a massive 442 hours.

The most polluting games console provider came out as PlayStation (Sony), so it’s no surprise that they’ve pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions not just in operations, but throughout product life cycles. Most recently, Sony announced that they’ve accelerated their target year for carbon neutrality from 2050 to 2040, which is the timeline they’re aiming to produce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) of virtually zero.

On the other end of the scale, the most eco-friendly console came out as the original PlayStation – which is surprising, given the more recent platforms are the most polluting. This isn’t massively helpful, however, given that the PS5’s backwards compatibility only extends to the majority of PS4 games, and you can’t play any new PlayStation games on the older platforms.

Most Popular Video Games

We know that gaming platforms have a significant carbon footprint – particularly those from PlayStation – but what about video games themselves? With games differing wildly when it comes to runtime and popularity, the study also looked at the completion time associated with the most popular games of this year so far, to reveal what the potential environmental impact of your favourite video game franchises could be. The stats are based on the average kWh of all gaming devices (which came out as 0.09 kWh).

The data revealed that Minecraft has the highest carbon footprint – largely due to its huge playing time as an open-world game. Surprisingly, Minecraft’s emissions per-player are due to driving 63.5 miles in a gas-powered car, or consuming 2.5 gallons of diesel, according to the EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator. This also doesn’t take into account the number of people playing Minecraft at any given time, or the fact that the majority will be playing it on gaming laptops – which will increase the estimated footprint exponentially.

Eco-Friendly Gaming Habits

So, how have gamers’ perception of playing video games changed over the last year, particularly in relation to the environment? A survey conducted as part of the study found that over half of people (53%) would be willing to curb their gaming habits in order to reduce energy costs – suggesting brands need to focus on creating eco-friendly consoles or else risk losing a proportion of their audience due to cost concerns. The survey also found that almost two third of people (64%) aren’t aware of the impact associated with gaming, meaning they might be perpetuating the problem without meaning to do so.

It remains to be seen whether gaming organisations are able to mean their climate goals, but it’s encouraging to see that gamers are open to learning more about how they can help offset their carbon footprint whilst doing what they love.