video game energy usage
May 17, 2014

NRDC Report: Video Game Systems Use Over $1 Billion In Energy Each Year

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

The current generation of video game consoles are on pace to cost American consumers more than $1 billion annually in electricity bills, with $400 million of that coming when the systems are in standby mode, according to a new Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) report released Friday.

According to the NRDC, the combined energy usage of the Nintendo Wii U, the Sony PlayStation 4 and the Microsoft Xbox One consume two to three times more energy each year than the most recent models of their predecessors. Furthermore, the agency reported that the combined energy usage of the consoles is enough to power all of the homes in Houston, Texas – the fourth largest city in America.

NRDC researchers conducted extensive laboratory tests on all three systems, and found that the manufacturers have incorporated several energy efficiency features into their designs. Even so, the organization found that the PS4 and the Xbox One consume two to three times more energy than the PS3 and Xbox 360, respectively.

Nearly half of the Xbox One’s annual energy consumption takes place when it is in connected standby mode, as the system draws on over 15 watts of power while waiting for the user to power it up – even during the middle of the night or when no one is even home to play it. Unless this feature is changed, the NRDC said that it would be responsible for racking up roughly $400 million in electricity bills each year – equal to a 750-megawatt power plant.

However, the Xbox One requires less power to play games and video than the PS4, and both systems use far more energy than dedicated video players to stream programming. They require 30 to 45 times more power to stream a movie than Apple TV, Google Chromecast or Amazon Fire TV, according to the NRDC’s Pierre Delforge.

On the other hand, the Wii U was found to be more energy efficient than the Wii, despite the addition of higher definition graphics and processing capacity. This is attributed largely to the unit’s low power consumption when it is in standby mode. The agency used launch units with system updates through mid-April 2014 for testing, meaning that any performance changes resulting from patches released since then were not reflected in the report.

“We just heard from Sony that new PS4s sold with the 1.70 software version released on April 30, 2014, reduce the default auto-power down time from two hours to one, and include a TV screen-dimming feature. We applaud Sony for these energy-saving improvements,” the NRDC said.

However, they also offered some other recommendations for Sony and Microsoft, including reducing the Xbox One power draw while in connected standby mode with voice command enabled, and cutting PS4 power draw while in standby when USB ports are live and no device is charging.

They also suggested cutting the Xbox One TV-mode power, giving users of the console the option to watch TV with the console off or in a low-powered state, and bringing video-streaming power levels closer to those used by dedicated video players. Finally, the NRDC said that Microsoft should allow Xbox owners to opt out of “Instant On” and voice-command features in the device’s out-of-the-box set-up menu.

“Gamers shouldn’t be locked into higher electric bills for the lifetime of their consoles just because manufacturers haven’t optimized the performance of their products,” Delforge, the NRDC’s director of high-tech energy efficiency, said in a statement. “This wastes energy and money, and causes unnecessary pollution from power plants.”

“But if Microsoft and Sony follow NRDC’s recommendations, they could cut the new consoles’ electricity use by one-fourth beyond current projections through software and hardware optimizations, saving U.S. consumers $250 million on their annual utility bills and enough energy to power all the households in San Jose, America’s 10th-largest city,” he added.